Pelvic floor dysfunction is a common issue where you can’t control your pelvic floor muscles properly.
What is pelvic floor dysfunction?
Your pelvic floor is the name for the muscles and ligaments in your pelvic area. The pelvic floor helps to keep the organs in your pelvis supported, including your bladder, rectum, uterus and prostate.
If you have pelvic floor dysfunction, when you’re supposed to relax your muscles, you instead contract them.
What are the symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction?
Symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction include:
- Pain and / or pressure in your pelvic area
- Lower back pain
- Pelvic muscle spasms
- Problems urinating, such as discomfort when urinating or urges to urinate
What causes pelvic floor dysfunction?
Although it’s not clear what causes pelvic floor dysfunction, there are certain causes and risk factors that make you more likely to develop it, including:
- Straining the pelvic muscles – by going to the bathroom too frequently / straining when you go to the bathroom
- Having injuries involving the pelvis – for example, from a car accident
- Having surgery around the pelvis
- Being obese
- Ageing – you are more likely to develop it as you age
- Your genes – it can run in your family
How is pelvic floor dysfunction diagnosed?
If you think you have pelvic floor dysfunction, see your doctor. To make a diagnosis, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms as well as where and when you feel pain. They will make a physical examination, checking for muscle weakness and spasms.
Your doctor might also perform an internal examination by putting a small device called a perineometer into your rectum. Or they may place external electrodes on your perineium (the area between the testicles and rectum).
You might also be given an anorectal manometry, uroflow test or defecating proctogram.
How is pelvic floor dysfunction treated?
In a lot of cases, pelvic floor dysfunction is easy to treat. Your doctor may recommend some (or all) of the following:
- Biofeedback – the most common treatment, this is painless and involves a physical therapist helping you to retrain your pelvic floor muscles through the use of sensors
- Physical therapy – this is usually done in conjunction with biofeedback and involves you learning exercises to learn to stretch the pelvic muscles
- Lifestyle changes and alternative therapies – such as meditation, yoga, other exercises, acupuncture, taking warm baths – to help relax the pelvic muscles
- Muscle relaxant and / or stool softener medications
In some cases, you may need surgery (for example, if your pelvic floor dysfunction is because of a rectal prolapse) and your doctor can advise you on the surgery that’s right for you.
If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.