The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles that support the pelvic viscera in both men and women. In simple terms, these are the bowel, bladder – and uterus (in women). The muscles attach from the tail bone at the back to the pubic bone at the front and from the base of the pelvis. If you can imagine it as a circular mini-trampoline formed of firm muscle tissue which can move up and down.
Within the pelvic floor muscles there are holes which allow for the passage of the urethra, anus – and vagina (in women). The muscles are normally firmly wrapped around these passages to help to assist the body with continence. The anus and urethra have an extra circular muscle (the sphincter) to assist in this function. It assists in maintaining the ideal pressure in the abdomen and also plays an important role in the navigation of the foetus – guiding it and helping it to rotate forwards through the pelvic girdle.
Problems within the pelvic floor muscles are far more common in women. However, it is important to mention that they are not uncommon in men and can cause similar symptoms.
These are the most common causes of weakness in the pelvic floor muscles:
- persistent heavy lifting
- being overweight
- excessive coughing – causing repetitive straining
- constipation (excessive straining to empty your bowel)
- childbirth – particularly following delivery of a large baby or prolonged pushing during delivery
- growing older
- changes in hormonal levels during menopause
Like any other group of muscles in the body the pelvic floor muscles need regular exercise to maintain their strength to work optimally. This in turn can reduce the chances of developing a weakness within the muscles, saving you the possibility of an embarrassing moment in public.
- During coughing, sneezing and a situation that involves exertion – such as climbing stairs may cause a leakage or urine and occasionally faeces.
- Women can experience a ‘heaviness’ feeling in the vaginal region which can be caused by a uterine prolapse.
Improving the strength of the pelvic floor muscles can help to reduce pain levels experienced by patients suffering with lower back, coccyx and pubic symphysis pain, as well as assisting in sacroiliac instability, reducing pain experienced during intercourse and can help to restore bladder control after treatments for prostate cancer.
An osteopath can help to assist you in regaining strength and control of these muscles, giving you back a degree of confidence you may have lost.