Many muscles in the body need to contract and relax for normal muscle function. One of these muscles is the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is responsible for not just urinary control but also orgasming, sexual arousal, and bowel function. As such, any muscle that this broad group includes has a great deal of impact on your health. Below is a list of eight effects if pelvic floor muscles are improperly functioning.
Incontinence is the inability to control urine flow, or “urinary incontinence.” It can be due to damage to the pelvic floor, called detrusor instability or “sphincter incompetence.” It can also result from a pelvic or urinary tract infection. If you have ever experienced incontinence due to an accident, surgery, childbirth, or other cause, then you are familiar with this problem. However, that does not mean that it is easy to solve. As mentioned above, forces must travel up your body from your legs and arms to release urine. To do this, your pelvic floor must keep its tone and contract the appropriate muscles. If the muscles are too weak to do so, the bladder will not be able to respond to all of its contents during urination. The result is urine leakage of varying levels that can be embarrassing and uncomfortable.
2. Fecal Incontinence
This is a typical result of childbirth due to uterine stretching during birth or surgical intervention on the perineum or anal sphincter. The pelvic floor works with other muscles in your pelvis, including your rectal sphincter, to maintain standard control over bowel function. If you have fecal incontinence, your rectal muscles cannot keep the anus closed during bowel movements, and feces leak out of your body. This can cause embarrassing soiling of undergarments or bathroom floors and an increased risk of anal infections due to contact with stool.
3. Urinary Stress Incontinence
This is also another form of detrusor instability or sphincter incompetence. It is less common than other forms of urinary incontinence but can still affect women who have had a hysterectomy, especially an anterior (posterior) one. During an anterior hysterectomy, the ureters are detached from the bladder and cut short to keep them out of harm’s way during surgery; however, they cannot hold their tension and may be damaged. Such damage can cause urine leakage during coughing, sneezing, laughing, or other physical activity that puts pressure on your abdomen and bladder. Stress incontinence also tends to worsen over time, so it is vital to seek treatment if you are experiencing this problem.
4. Difficulty Controlling Bowel Movements
Elimination of feces is a very similar process to urination. The rectum contracts and relaxes with the pelvic floor muscles to push out the stool, and the anus releases at the right time. With weak pelvic floor muscles, you may experience difficulty fully emptying your bowels or difficulty controlling when you have bowel movements. This can cause a frustrating feeling of “not being finished” after using the bathroom and embarrassment from frequent sudden urges caused by over-active rectal muscles.
Chronic vulvar pain is a common symptom of pelvic floor dysfunction. Pain can be due to tension in the pelvic floor muscles or from nervous system issues related to your pelvic region. As with other symptoms, this can cause you to experience embarrassment or discomfort that interferes with your quality of life.
6. Sexual Difficulties
Muscles in the pelvis have a direct effect on sexual function, as well as arousal and orgasm response. Weak pelvic floor muscles result in difficulty achieving orgasm, reduced vaginal lubrication during intercourse, decreased clitoral sensation during arousal, and more friction during intercourse than necessary. Sexual dysfunction is a big concern for men and women alike, so it is crucial to find treatment if this is an issue for you.
7. Urinary Tract Infections
This is a common symptom of pelvic floor dysfunction; many people will experience urinary infections due to muscular weakness. The urethra is part of the urinary tract and is the body’s way of passing urine. When the muscle tone in the pelvic floor is poor, you may stop contracting the muscles around your bladder before you empty your kidneys, leaving bacteria to grow and travel up into your bladder. Left untreated, this can lead to an infection that worsens over time, causes severe pain in your lower abdomen, and increases the risk of kidney infections and gynecological cancers.
8. Chronic Back Pain
The pelvic floor and core muscles are designed to support your spine and keep your body in proper alignment. If these muscles are not functioning properly, they may unnaturally pull on the lower lumbar spine. The result is chronic pain that can range from mild to severe. Common causes of this pain include pregnancy and childbirth and chronic coughs or constipation that place unnatural tension on the pelvic floor.
What Are Some of the Causes of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
It is common for people to have weak pelvic floor muscles, especially after menopause. However, they can also result from various conditions, including:
- Loss of estrogen
- Weak pelvic floor muscles
- Emotional stress
What Are Some of the Possible Ways That Urogynecologist Can Treat the Disorder?
Physicians that specialize in Urogynecology in Richmond VA, recommend pelvic floor muscle rehabilitation (PT) and surgery as some of the most effective possible treatments.
1. Pelvic floor muscle rehabilitation (PT)
Sometimes these exercises can be done on your own or with the help of a therapist. If they are done by yourself, they may be part of an abdominal exercise program or with biofeedback methods to help you learn how to relax and contract the right muscles when needed.
This may include an anterior or lateral colporrhaphy to repair damage in your urinary tract, a vaginoplasty involving the insertion of a vaginal wall muscle sling, and other procedures that can help restore physiological function and pelvic floor strength.
In conclusion, creating awareness of the symptoms that may result from pelvic floor muscle dysfunction can increase your ability to find and treat the problem. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, take the time to talk to a physician specialist.