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Physical Therapy to Help Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Posted on November 2, 2021

Pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) is the inability to relax and contract the pelvic floor muscles correctly in order to, support the pelvic organs and therefore imperative to proper bowel, bladder, and sexual functions. Common risk factors for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction include childbirth, age, and menopause.

The pelvic floor is best illustrated as a hammock that is constantly being put under stress during nearly all everyday activities. Common signs of pelvic floor dysfunction in women can include leakage of urine especially with sneezing or coughing, and heavy lifting. It may even lead to lower back pain, urinary frequency, constipation, difficulty emptying, pelvic pain and pain with intercourse may also occur. It is most commonly recognized in women; however, men can also be affected. They may experience pain with ejaculation or erectile dysfunction.

Pelvic floor dysfunction can be underlying cause for common problems such as incontinence, neuralgias, pelvic pain, back pain, and may eventually lead to pelvic organ prolapse. Unfortunately, PFD is largely underreported due to the sensitive nature of the topic, which leads to less people seeking treatment for the condition. There is a misconception that PFD is a ‘normal’ occurrence post-partum or in the aging process, but many studies are demonstrating that the is not the case. It is estimated to impact about 1 in 4 women while only about 17% of individuals seek medical attention. Left untreated it can often lead to a significantly reduced quality of life and that does not need to be the case.

Physical therapy can be an effective treatment for addressing the activation, coordination, and tone of the pelvic floor muscles along with the contributing lifestyle factors. Many studies support the effectiveness of physical therapy as a first line treatment over surgical interventions in a majority of individuals.

For most patients, a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor rehabilitation will be best suited to manage individuals with Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and several therapeutic techniques are available: manual therapy, biofeedback, exercises, postural re-training, and behavioral modifications. Pelvic floor therapy has been shown to effectively improve incontinence, prolapse, and sexual function.