Chronic urinary tract infections? Bowel trouble? Pelvic pain? Painful sex? Urinary incontinence?
I know what you are thinking… my pelvic floor muscles control all of those things? Absolutley! Unfortunately, their dysfunction often goes undiagnosed and can lead to improper and ineffective treatments of these conditions. All while millions of people are suffering without being aware the cause is from pelvic floor dysfunction.
So what is pelvic floor dysfunction? The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that line the floor of our pelvis and run to the tailbone, just like it sounds. (see images below) They act as a sling and help control our urinary and bowel functions, sexual activity and posture or core strength. Their dysfunction is their inability to function properly, therefore causing us issues in those areas. Ahhhh… it is all starting to sound familar huh.
What causes Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
Now pelvic floor dysfunction can be caused by a mulitude of things including trauma, infection, exercise, surgery, pregnancy,
birth and poor posture to name a few.
Pelvic floor dysfunction can then lead to chronic pelvic pain that is falsely diagnosed and treated often times without success as other conditions. It can lead to conditions like bladder disorders, IBS, constipation, abdominal bloating or pressure, prostatitis, sexual dysfunction, painful intercourse, urinary incontinence, pelvic inflammatory disorder, erectile dysfunction.
So how do we fix this problem?
Well we have all heard of Kegel exercises. This is the exercise most commonly taught to women to help control bladder incontinence. We have been taught that we should do these often, or as often as possible to prevent bladder leakage. But that actually may not necessarily be the case. Often times the dysfunction comes overactivity or overuse of these muscles. This leads the muscles to be engaged too often and therefore stiffen up and not able to relax properly. So tightening those muscles too repetitively may actually worsen the problem instead of help the issue. Sometimes the problem needs to be fixed by either learning to tighten certain muscle groups correctly or by learning to relax certain muscle groups correctly.
Often times patients suffer from these conditions and repeatedly fail treatments without proper diagnosis.
HELP!! WHAT DO I DO NOW?
So how do you know if this is something you are suffering from? Mention this to your primary care provider and they can refer you to a physical therapist. A physical therapist… say what? Thats right, after all they are muscles. One specialty type of physical therapy is pelvic floor treatments. They will assess and evaluate your symptoms and muscles and develop a treatment plan.
The treatment includes physical therapy of the muscles in many diffent ways. Don’t be scared to ask questions and see what options there are in treatment. Not everyone needs to go have a bladder sling surgery performed to fix their incontinence.
Do not suffer any longer. Talk to you primary care provider and see if this is something that might be the culprit your issues. Dont worry, many people are living with this, and your provider will not be offended or embarrassed to discuss the issue with you.
If you need a healthcare provider simply call our office for an appointment at 417-332-3639. We would be happy to help you in any way we can.
-Mariah Schmidt, NP-C-
Mariah Schmidt is a Family Nurse Practitioner at Tri-Lakes Family Care. She is currently accepting new patients.