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Understanding Pelvic Floor Dysfunction: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Home News & Videos JAG Physical Therapy Blog Understanding Pelvic Floor Dysfunction: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

The muscles and ligaments of the pelvic floor form a complex anatomical structure that is linked to multiple major organ systems. This means that issues with the pelvic floor – caused by physical trauma, weakness of the muscles and connective tissue, muscular tightness, or disease – can have consequences for the digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems.

While pelvic floor dysfunction is associated with a multitude of health problems, the good news is that pelvic floor physical therapy is an effective treatment that can be helpful for many of these conditions. JAG PT’s pelvic health specialization focuses on each patient’s individual needs, combining advanced therapeutic modalities to create a custom plan that works for their condition and their lifestyle. Our expert, specially trained PT staff treats everyone with compassion and skill. Read more on pelvic floor dysfunction below, find your nearest JAG PT location in New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania, or schedule an appointment today.

What is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?

Pelvic floor dysfunction is a general term referring to disorders that arise from the impairment of pelvic muscles and ligaments. In pelvic floor dysfunction, one of two general patterns of physical signs can be seen. In cases of pelvic floor laxity, or more of the organs in the pelvic region herniate, or bulge, through the weakened area of tissue. On the other hand, overly short and tight muscles in the pelvic floor area can result in stiffness and spasms.

Disorders related to pelvic floor dysfunction primarily affect women, and according to Cochrane Library, as many as 50% of women who have given birth may be affected by pelvic floor dysfunction at some point in their lives. According to the Indian Journal of Urology, approximately 16% of men will experience these conditions as well.

This dysfunction has many potential causes: hereditary deficiencies in collagen production or in specific muscles of the pelvic floor, having given birth, menopause, advanced age, and treatment for gynecological cancers. It can be a side effect of medications including muscle relaxants, antihistamines, and anticholinergics such as certain smoking cessation aids and antidepressants. Lifestyle factors can also lead to pelvic floor dysfunction, such as persistently holding back from urination or defecation for too long, overweightness, and participating in sports that have high impact on the spine and pelvis, such as gymnastics and high jump.

What Are Symptoms of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?

Pelvic floor dysfunction can lead to aching or sharp pain, either in the exact area of herniation or spasm or referred elsewhere in the pelvis. Many people with pelvic floor dysfunction also report a sensation of uncomfortable pressure within the pelvic region. Other symptoms can include sexual dysfunction, pain during sex, urinary or bowel incontinence, constipation and incomplete bowel emptying during defecation, overactive bladder, pain in the muscles and connective tissue, and organ prolapse, which can be indicated by a visible and palpable lump or protrusion.

How is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Diagnosed?

If a patient presents symptoms like these and their physician suspects pelvic floor dysfunction, the diagnostic process will use some combination of medical history, physical examination, and imaging. For women, their obstetric history, including the number of times they have given birth and any past complications during delivery, is especially relevant to determining pelvic floor dysfunction.

Manual examination of the pelvic floor is usually required, as well as fluoroscopy, cystography (bladder imaging), or MRI. If there has been organ prolapse resulting from the dysfunction, it will be measured and graded according to severity.

How can Physical Therapy Relieve Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?

JAG PT’s pelvic health specialization uses a variety of techniques to help people bolster their pelvic muscle functioning, improve their reproductive and digestive health, and manage or eliminate chronic pelvic pain. Physical therapy methods that can help with pelvic floor dysfunction include biofeedback to improve awareness and conscious control of the pelvic floor, strengthening exercises to increase muscle functionality and flexibility, manual therapy targeting the problem area to relieve symptoms at the source, and more.

If you’re suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction, don’t delay in getting relief for your symptoms – JAG Physical Therapy has convenient locations throughout NY, NJ, and PA, and you can book an appointment online to start increasing your pelvic health right away.

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