5 signs your pelvic floor is out of whack
The pelvic floor muscles – those that support the organs located in the pelvic region – need to be stronger than people think.
Even though we don’t see these muscles and often can’t feel them, they play an important role in helping us function every day. Strong pelvic floor muscles are necessary to maintain bladder and bowel control, prevent back pain, help people maintain good posture, help with sexual function and assist with child birth.
Not sure if your pelvic floor needs some attention? Here are five warning signs your pelvic floor is out of whack.
You pee. A lot.
The average adult makes six to eight trips to the bathroom each day. If a person drinks a healthy amount of water, that number can jump to 10 times per day. However, if you’re going to the bathroom more often than every two hours, need to rush to the bathroom, are not able to delay going to the bathroom or always need to use the restroom before you leave the house, Kimberly Vincent, a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor rehabilitation at the Outpatient Rehabilitation Services at Parkside Center at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., says it could mean you’re dealing with an overactive bladder.
“Overactive bladder occurs when the bladder muscle contracts more often or more strongly than is normal. When strong, the pelvic floor muscles can provide a reflex “quieting” of the bladder muscle. In other words, when you are able to perform a proper ‘Kegel’, the bladder urge stops, and you can make it to the bathroom,” says Vincent.
If you find you’re making more than the average amount of trips to the restroom daily, it could signal that you need to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
You “leak” when you laugh, sneeze or cough.
Despite what many women have heard, “leaking” when you laugh, sneeze or cough does not have to be a common occurrence. Leakage with cough or sneeze indicates that the pelvic floor muscles “kegel” is not working in coordination with the abdominal muscles in these instances.
“Even women who are strong in other core muscles or exercise regularly are at risk of the pelvic floor muscle contracting at the wrong time. Training through pelvic floor rehab can often help in these situations,” says Vincent.
Going to the bathroom is painful or a struggle.
Vincent says weak pelvic floor muscles can lead to decreased efficiency in evacuating stool.
“The pelvic floor muscles surround the anal canal and rectum, and strong pelvic floor muscles help hold the stool back in the rectum until the person is ready to use the restroom,” says Vincent. “Once the person is ready to have a bowel movement, the pelvic floor muscles first contract to initiate the movement and then relax to open up the anal canal and allow passage of the stool.”
Inability to control bowel movements and constipation could both be signs that pelvic floor muscles need to be addressed.
You’re experiencing back pain or tailbone pain.
We engage our pelvic floor muscles during all our daily activities. Because of where they are located, they are important for postural control. Pelvic floor muscles have attachments to the hips and abdominals, which in turn attach to the lower back. All these muscles provide support to the lower back. If they’re out of whack or weakened, back pain could result.
“When our pelvic floor muscles, abdominals and hip muscles are strong and work together, our back is supported during daily activities, and individuals generally experience less back pain during activities, but when they are weak, back pain can occur,” says Vincent.
Pelvic floor muscles also attach to the tailbone. Vincent says if there is muscle tension or spasm of the pelvic floor muscles, some individuals may experience tailbone pain.
You’re experiencing pelvic pain.
She says people can develop tension or muscle spasm in any muscle of the body, and the pelvic floor muscles are no exception.
“Tense pelvic floor muscles do not stretch as easily, and this can cause pain,” says Vincent.
Physical therapists focused on pelvic floor rehab have specialized techniques to help reduce the pain, including relaxation techniques, stretching for lower back, hips and pelvic floor, as well as perform a type of manual therapy known as myofascial release to help reduce tension in the pelvic floor.
About the Author
Colette A. Harris, health enews contributor, is the public affairs and marketing coordinator at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Il. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and has nearly a decade of experience writing about health and wellness, which are her passions. When she’s not writing, you can find her practicing yoga, cooking, reading, or traveling.