Updated: Mar 30, 2021
By Alyssa Brunt MScPT, BScKIN (HON)
Ladies, it’s time to shed some light on a pretty private topic…our pelvic floor!
As a pelvic floor physiotherapist, it is my personal mission to help women feel empowered to talk about their lady bits and all things vagina related. Discussing our ‘private’ parts can be an uncomfortable topic of conversation for most women because it makes us feel vulnerable. I will admit, even I was a bit shy to share things about my vajajay before I became a pelvic floor physiotherapist. However, in reality, this area of the body shouldn’t be private at all! The pelvic floor is responsible for many important functions and dysfunction in this area can cause some not-so-nice changes. Yes, I’m talking the peeing when you laugh/cough/jump/sneeze moments, the vaginal pressure you feel after a long day on your feet, the painful sex you have with your partner, and even the pubic bone pain you feel when pregnant. These are all signs of pelvic floor dysfunction!
Okay but what is our pelvic floor? Most of us just know that we can Kegel and somehow this helps us contract our vagina. But what are we actually working? The pelvic floor hides inside the body so it doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. However, I am confident that after reading this blog, you will feel more educated about this area of your body and how it operates.
It’s a basket of muscles, no different than other muscle group in the body
Skeletal muscle, like that in our quadriceps or biceps, can be stretched or tightened, strengthened or weakened. These muscles are controlled by signals from the brain and nervous system that tell us when to contract and relax and when to feel certain sensations on the skin. They can also be torn due to injury and can contain scar tissue, pressure points and knots. The pelvic floor muscles are no exception! Just like our other muscles, they can be damaged and repaired, strengthened and stretched. They contain both fast and slow twitch fibers like our leg and arm muscles in order to respond to all of our needs.
In fact, a lot of the dysfunction we see in the pelvic floor results from weakness, lack of muscular coordination, excessive tightness and decreased flexibility in the muscles. As a result, treatment in pelvic floor physiotherapy aims to improve the strength, flexibility, and supportive functions of these muscles.
Pretty cool, eh? If we realize that our pelvic floor is a group of muscles just like those in our arm or leg, then we can start to make more sense about this area of the body.
It has multiple functions
The pelvic floor does SO much, it’s quite hard to believe. Unlike our other muscles, the pelvic floor does more than just contract and relax. She’s an important girl! The pelvic floor is positioned in such a way that it forms a bowl or hammock that lines the bottom of our boney pelvis. This provides support to the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, rectum) that rest on top of it.
Lacking support? Without enough support, we start to have overstretching of the pelvic floor resulting in prolapse, incontinence, and other dysfunction. But wait, there’s more! Our pelvic floor provides stability to the lower back, sacroiliac joints and tailbone. Muscle tone in the pelvic floor creates sphincters that controls all things bladder and bowel related.
Additionally, it’s the second largest sump pump in the body outside the calf muscle, ensuring blood gets pumped back to the heart so it can be re-oxygenated and sent back out to the body. It makes sex feel great and helps us to achieve orgasm. Last time I checked, my hamstring muscle didn’t do all of that. So basically, our pelvic floor has super powers and let’s make sure we keep it that way.
It’s about more than just Kegel(s)
To Kegel or not to Kegel, that is the question. Honestly, Kegels are NOT for everyone. A Kegel is an exercise that contracts the muscles of the pelvic floor and is used for strengthening. That being said, not all pelvic floor dysfunction is a result of weakness.
For example, if you are someone who experiences pain with tampon use, tight clothing, intercourse (deeper or on insertion), or chronic constipation to name a few, these are conditions that relate to over tightness or increased tone in the muscles and we need to RELAX not strengthen.
Also, we don’t really know how to Kegel without biofeedback or an internal exam that grades the strength of the muscles contracting within the pelvis. To know whether Kegels are appropriate for you and if you’re doing them properly, you need to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist AKA me!
We should be aware of how our own pelvic floor muscles function
It is important for everyone to have a healthy and functional pelvic floor. Regardless of whether or not you’ve had a baby, had any type pelvic trauma or experienced symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, we should all have an idea of what’s going on with our pelvic floor. Understanding the mechanisms in our body provides us with confidence and control over our own health. Having an assessment to determine your strength, flexibility and coordination of the pelvic floor is an amazing way to prevent dysfunction later in life.
Yes, pelvic floor dysfunction is COMMON but that does NOT mean it is normal. The truth is, these are really our not-so-private parts and if we do feel like something might be off down below, we need to talk about it! You wouldn’t ignore your knee if you had pain every time you climbed the stairs, would you? What about lower back pain if it was keeping you up at night? So then why would you neglect to discuss the fact that we leak a bit of urine when we run or laugh? Or continue to have sex that is painful? It seems silly.
If you’re interested in learning more about your pelvic floor or think you may be experiencing signs/symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, come and see Alyssa today for an appointment and she will get you back to becoming your best self yet!
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