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What Is Pelvic Floor Therapy?

It’s easy for us as women to take pelvic health for granted.

We may not even think about important parts of our well-being like our pelvic floor, for instance, until something goes wrong.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a form of pelvic dysfunction, like stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse, then your treatment plan may include pelvic floor therapy.

What is pelvic floor therapy? Let’s explore how it can be part of a remedy for your pelvic disorder.   

Why Pelvic Health Matters

You might not give it a second thought, but your pelvic floor is a vital part of your anatomy. This hammock-like structure consists of a group of 26 muscles that make up the bottom of the pelvic region, serving four primary functions:

  1. Support your pelvic organs like your bladder, uterus, prostate and rectum.
  2. Support bowel and bladder control.
  3. Stabilize the pelvis and spine.
  4. Assist with sexual function.

When they’re working properly, you don’t think about them. But they are just like other muscles, and can get weak, stretched out, or be too tight. Weakness in the muscles can be a common cause of incontinence, or prolapse—which is when a pelvic organ drops—and tension can lead to pelvic pain.1

If you’ve got issues, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that one-quarter of women in the United States are affected with one or more pelvic floor disorders, and the frequency increases with age, affecting more than 40 percent of women from 60 to 79 years of age, and about 50 percent of women 80 and older.2

There is help in the form of various treatment options, including pelvic floor therapy. 

What Is Pelvic Floor Therapy?

Pelvic floor therapy encompasses a variety of treatment options, depending on your condition. A pelvic floor physical therapist will begin by performing a complete musculoskeletal assessment, including the pelvic floor muscles. A proper diagnosis will then lead to a treatment plan, which can include different forms of pelvic floor therapy.3

Here are a few examples of pelvic floor therapy:3

  • Electromyography (EMG) biofeedback: sensors gather information about your pelvic muscles, which then can be used to help you retrain your muscles with specific exercises.
  • Electrical stimulation: a mild electrical current stimulates a muscle to help strengthen it or normalize nerve activity.
  • Low-level laser therapy: the use of light (without the heat) to help muscles heal.
  • Myofascial release: a manual stimulation of trigger points in the pelvic floor muscles that radiate pain to other areas.

An exercise program for home may also be suggested. For instance, core strengthening with yoga and pilates can help with your posture and core strength, restoring pelvic floor tone.3

Another way to strengthen a weakened pelvic floor is pelvic floor muscles exercises—commonly known as Kegels. These have been known to treat stress urinary incontinence without the use of medications

Research has proven that pelvic floor exercises help keep pelvic floor muscles “fit,” and can be used as an effective treatment for women suffering with stress urinary incontinence. They may also help with overactive bladder or pelvic organ prolapse.

There are tools available to be sure you are performing Kegels properly. The INNOVO Urinary Incontinence Kit uses “smart shorts” that allow you to perform 180 precise Kegels per session, properly training your pelvic floor. Subscribe to the INNOVO newsletter to receive a $20 discount code for your purchase!

Depending on your condition, you may also seek the advice of a pelvic floor occupational therapist. There you may get ideas for environmental strategies like adjusting your toilet height or other bathroom modifications for those with incontinence problems. Behavioral strategies may be suggested like pain management, mindfulness, planning schedules for using the bathroom, or making lifestyle changes like the way you sit or how much coffee you drink.

If you have tight pelvic muscles, the pelvic floor therapy treatment plan will be different. After relaxation will be more important than strengthening, so techniques for relaxing and retraining your muscles may bring relief.

What Are The Benefits Of Pelvic Floor Therapy? 

A professional therapist can set you on a treatment plan, bringing these advantages:4

  1. Improved pelvic organ support: we can all benefit from pelvic health.
  2. Enhanced bowel and bladder control: a key role for our pelvic muscles.
  3. Alleviation of pelvic pain: the goal of any treatment plan.
  4. Restoration of sexual function: may help with arousal, sensation and orgasm.
  5. Pre and postnatal benefits: therapy can help prepare the pelvic floor for childbirth, and then help with rehabilitation after childbirth.

Ask Your Doctor 

To find out how pelvic floor therapy can help you, use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health. A proper diagnosis of your condition, paired with a treatment plan including pelvic floor therapy, can set you on a path to wellness.

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