What is Pelvic Health and Why Does It Matter?
Pelvic health is often a difficult topic because our culture has made it weird and taboo to talk about our “private parts.” It seems easy and normal to discuss a runny nose or a sore knee with your doctor, but bringing up the words pee, poop, or sex can feel really intimidating.
Ignoring your pelvic health is dangerous. Your hips and everything between them are responsible for a lot of functions that are tied to your whole health. If something in your pelvic region isn't functioning properly, it’s crucial you’re able to take care of it before it causes more problems.
What and where is your pelvic floor?
Your pelvic floor includes all of the muscles, connective tissues, and organs in your pelvis.
Your pelvis consists of your...
- Hip bones and sitz bones on either side
- Sacrum at the base of your spine
- Coccyx (tailbone)
- Pubic bone in the front of your pelvis
This structure helps protect the organs inside your pelvis including your…
- Reproductive organs
The muscles and connective tissue around your pelvis are responsible for…
- Supporting your pelvic floor organs and keeping them from falling out
- Protecting your organs from damage
- Allowing your organs to function well
What does your pelvic floor do?
The pelvic floor has five main functions: stabilization, sump pump, sex, support, and sphincteric. A strong pelvic floor allows you to hold your organs in, promotes proper blood flow, allows waste to flush out of your body, keeps you from peeing your pants, and allows for healthy sex functionality and pleasurable orgasms.
Stabilization: Keeps your core, hips, and low back stable while your arms and legs move.
Sump pump: Aids in belly breathing, pumps blood and lymphatic fluid throughout the body.
Sex: Allows for penetration and contracts for orgasms.
Support: Holds the bladder, rectum, and uterus AGAINST gravity so they don’t fall out.
Sphincteric: Opens and closes the bladder and rectum and is responsible for preventing leakage.
Many people are walking around with weak pelvic floor muscles and they don’t even know it. Common symptoms of a weak pelvic floor include leaking/incontinence, low back or hip pain, pain with sex, inability to orgasm, organs falling out, bad posture, and much more.
The key to improving your pelvic health, and the primary goal of pelvic floor physical therapy, is to strengthen your pelvic floor. We do this by correcting your breathing patterns, learning to relax and contract your muscles properly, practicing healthy bathroom habits, and training your pelvic floor to do its many jobs.
What affects your pelvic health or causes it to change?
Your pelvis is central to your entire body. Everything is connected to your pelvis in some way! Your pelvic health will change over time based on a number of variables.
Poor posture: Sitting, walking, or moving incorrectly.
Straining to lift/poor pressure management: Breathing incorrectly when you lift or move something heavy.
Pregnancy: All of your organs move and shift throughout pregnancy.
Childbirth: This is a major medical event that will alter your pelvic floor.
Menopause: Your body is going through a number of changes.
Hormonal changes: These could be related to your cycle, your diet, or a number of other factors.
Trauma or surgery to your pelvis or abdomen: This includes sexual trauma, c-sections, endometriosis treatment, hip surgery/replacements, etc.
Injuries to the hips, low back, or tailbone: You would be surprised how much falling on your tailbone can affect the entirety of your pelvic health.
When should you see a pelvic floor physical therapist?
Symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction can vary based on your anatomy, your health history, your hormones, and a variety of other factors. If you struggle with any of the following symptoms or have faced one of these major life events, it might be time to see a pelvic floor physical therapist and work on strengthening and/or healing your pelvic floor.
- Leaking urine/incontinence/lack of bladder control
- Leaking stool
- Low back, hip, or pelvic pain
- Vulval/vaginal pain
- Pain with sex
- Inability to orgasm
- Painful periods
- Heaviness/prolapse - feeling like your organs are “falling out”
- Chronic infections
- Postpartum healing (vaginal birth or cesarean section)
- Post prostatectomy or hysterectomy support
- Recovering from abdominal or pelvic surgery
- Major hormonal changes
If you’re experiencing any symptoms or have gone through a life event that affected your pelvic floor, we highly recommend seeking help and guidance from a medical professional. You don’t have to live with painful or inconvenient symptoms. There are ways to heal and strengthen your pelvic floor so it can get back to serving you in all the ways it's supposed to.