I often get asked what I do for a living and my initial response is that of a physiotherapist. Once I elaborate that my passion is for pelvic floor physiotherapy, I get looks of confusion that is often followed by either giggles, gasps or awkward moments of silence. Once I explain my role as a pelvic floor physiotherapist, the floodgates usually open and in a very wonderful way, women start opening up about their own journeys with pelvic floor dysfunction.

The topic of pelvic floor dysfunction is still very much taboo in our society. The first step in getting people to talk about their pelvic floor issues is to raise awareness of the pelvic floor, its muscles and function.

Statistics demonstrate that one out of three women will suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction in their lifetime. In the US, 13 million women are affected by incontinence and one in eleven women will have pelvic floor surgery.

What is the pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor is made up of a group of muscles and connective tissue that forms a sling underneath the pelvic bones. A strong pelvic floor keeps you form leaking urine, holds your internal organs in place, supports your spine and is needed in sexual function.

What is pelvic floor dysfunction?

Pelvic floor problems can occur when the pelvic floor muscles are stretched, weakened or too tight. It is the inability to control these muscles.

What are some of the symptoms associated with pelvic floor dysfunction?

When it comes to pelvic floor dysfunction, the symptoms can range from slightly embarrassing to downright debilitating.

  • Chronic pain radiating to lower back, hip, abdomen.
  • Pain with sexual intercourse
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Strong urge to urinate
  • Inability to fully empty bladder
  • Pelvic heaviness and discomfort
  • Difficulty with defecation and constipation
  • Urinary frequency

How can a pelvic floor physiotherapist help?

The 2010 Cochrane Collaboration concluded that physiotherapists with specialized training in pelvic floor rehabilitation should be the first line of defence, before surgical consultation, for stress, urge and mixed incontinence in women.

We as pelvic floor therapists, are in the perfect position to educate patients on the role that pelvic floor muscles, fascia and organ mobility may play in their symptoms. The design of a good pelvic floor exercise program requires multiple factors to be considered. Components of therapy may include:

  • Strengthening exercises
  • Biofeedback training
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Stretching exercises
  • Behavior modification strategies

If you experience pelvic floor (or bladder or bowel) problems, it is advisable to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist to determine the cause of your symptoms and discuss the best treatment and management options to suit your needs.