What is Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy?
And How Does it Help?
PELVIC FLOOR PHYSICAL THERAPY
The pelvic floor is always involved in pelvic pain and symptoms. Sometimes it's the primary cause, or it may be the result of another issue; either way, addressing the pelvic floor component of your condition can significantly reduce pain and improve other symptoms.
The purpose of pelvic floor physical therapy is simply to find and eliminate knots, tension, and strain in the pelvic muscles that are creating pain and other pelvic symptoms.
PELVIC HEALTH SYMPTOMS
Pelvic floor physical therapy is focused on restoring normal, pain-free function to the pelvic floor. Common pelvic symptoms include:
TOP-DOWN VIEW OF THE PELVIC FLOOR
In this view of the female pelvic floor, you can see how these complex muscles interconnect. They all connect in some way to the tailbone (at the top of the picture), and many can only be accessed internally.
WHAT IS THE PELVIC FLOOR?
The pelvic floor is a shorthand term for all the muscles, ligaments, nerves, and connective tissue that stretch across the pelvis. It's not just a clever name; the pelvic floor is actually the floor of your pelvis. Muscles there wrap from the tailbone and across the bony pelvis. It's an incredibly important area, connecting the upper and lower body, and has four major functions; you might not have ever thought about it before, but your pelvic floor is critical to your daily life.
Sphincteric - The pelvic floor is what allows you to control when you use the bathroom. Throughout the day, your pelvic floor is squeezing to keep you continent, and must consciously relax in order to allow you to use the restroom.
Supportive - It physically supports all of the organs in your pelvic cavity; you can think of the pelvic floor as a hammock for your bladder, vagina, uterus, prostate, and rectum. If these organs aren't supported they don't function properly, and can actually start to slide down into a pelvic organ prolapse.
Stabilizing - The pelvic floor provides additional support for your lower back and pelvis. With nearly 80% of people having lower back problems, the pelvic floor has to come to the rescue, which puts more strain on the pelvis than it was designed for and causes dysfunction and pain.
Sexual - Finally, the pelvic floor is responsible for sexual arousal, functioning, and orgasm in both genders. In women, the pelvic floor must expand to allow penetration of the vagina, and these muscles also assist with the positioning of the clitoris against the pubic bone to provide additional stimulation and to aid in female orgasm. In men, the pelvic floor helps to maintain erections and to bring about ejaculation during orgasm. The pelvic floor plays an important part in the complex mechanism of sexual pleasure and function in both genders.
"I love PelvicSanity! They have helped me live pain-free, and taught me techniques to manage my pain at home. I don't feel hopeless in pain anymore!"
HOW DOES PELVIC FLOOR PHYSICAL THERAPY HELP?
Pelvic floor PT works to restore the normal muscle tone and function of the pelvic floor muscles.
TRIGGER POINT RELEASE
Trigger points are tight areas where a muscle is knotted, painful, and inflamed. These trigger points are tender to the touch, but they can also be referring pain throughout the pelvic region - just like a tense muscle in the neck can cause a headache.
Often these trigger points within the pelvic floor are the cause of diverse symptoms, including bladder, hip, back, or tailbone pain. By releasing these trigger points - whether they are found on external muscles like the inner thighs, hamstrings, glutes, or abdomen, or whether they can only be reached internally within the pelvic floor - physical therapy eliminates these trigger points as a cause of pain and symptoms.
Fascial tension occurs when the fascia - the thin layer of connective tissue between the skin and muscles beneath - becomes tender and inflamed. The muscles and skin are supposed to be able to easily glide by each other, but fascial tension causes them to be stuck together, causing pain, tenderness, and dysfunction,
Pelvic floor physical therapy uses myofascial release techniques to clear out this fascial tension, allowing blood flow to return and clearing out inflammation.
RESTORING BALANCE TO THE PELVIS
Torque on the pelvic floor is another underlying source of pain and dysfunction. The pelvis is like Rome - all muscles lead to it. If some of these muscles are overly tight and strained, while others are weak, it can put a twisting force on the pelvis that throws the entire region out of alignment.
Many patients with pelvic floor dysfunction actually have one hip that is visibly higher than the other. Loosening the tight muscles, while creating a customized exercise program that focuses on the weak muscles, can restore balance to the pelvic floor.
BEYOND THE PELVIC FLOOR
While the pelvic floor is critical, it does not exist in isolation. Many of the biggest muscles in the body - the quads, the glutes, the hamstrings, the lower back muscles, the abdominals - connect or strongly influence the pelvic floor. Things that may seem unrelated, like how you walk or your posture, can actually be causing or exacerbating pelvic symptoms.
At PelvicSanity, we specialize in taking a full-body approach to treating the pelvis - that's why we need a full hour appointment. If you are only addressing the internal pelvic floor muscles at each visit, you're missing the whole picture; if you're only addressing the external, the pelvic floor can remain tight and knotted. By combining the internal and external physical therapy, you can see meaningful, sustainable progress.