woman with pelvic pain holding between her legs
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5 Signs You Might Have Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

According to studies by the NIH (National Institutes of Health), nearly 24% of US women are affected by one or more pelvic floor disorders. The pelvic floor is the hammock of muscles that lay at the bottom of your pelvis. This hammock may seem “mysterious” because we can’t visualize these muscles easily like we can other muscles like our biceps or quadriceps. However, just like other muscle groups in the body, the pelvic floor requires strength, flexibility, and the ability to coordinate with other body parts. Vaginal childbirth also increases the likelihood of pelvic floor issues. Dysfunction arises when there’s interference with the pelvic floor’s ability to do its many jobs. Although men and children can suffer pelvic floor dysfunction, women are the primary population affected by it. Here are five signs of pelvic floor dysfunction.

two women in pelvic yoga

Pain/painful sex

The pelvic floor plays a major role in sexual functioning and pleasure. Sex should never be painful and may be due to a non-relaxing pelvic floor or hypersensitivity in the vulvar area. Some examples of conditions where pelvic pain/painful sex may be experienced include painful bladder syndrome, endometriosis, vaginismus, interstitial cystitis, dyspareunia, vulvodynia.  

Unresolved hip or back pain

If you’ve had persistent hip and/or back pain, the pelvic floor may be the missing link. The pelvic floor comprises part of our core abdominal system and is closely linked with hip function. Typical rehab for back/hip pain does not necessarily include a pelvic floor assessment. In the case of persistent back/hip pain, having your pelvic floor assessed for areas of weakness and/or hypertonicity is an essential component of your rehab program.

woman holds her thigh for pelvic pain

Bladder leakage

The pelvic floor is responsible for the continence of urine. Leaking with exercise or coughing, having to urinate when you’re asleep at night, and feelings of urge are common bladder complaints, especially if you’ve birthed babies. However, these symptoms are NOT normal. These bladder symptoms signify weakness and/or tightness in the pelvic floor muscles. 

Pelvic pressure/feelings of bulging

Another function of the pelvic floor is to support internal organs. After pregnancy and childbirth, the tissues of the vaginal walls are stretched.  This creates less support for organs such as the bladder, uterus, and rectum. Without proper support from the pelvic floor, internal organs may protrude into the vaginal canal towards the vaginal opening. This is known as pelvic organ prolapse.  

Constipation or fecal leakage

Our pelvic floors are also responsible for the continence of gas and feces. Trouble pooping, feelings of incomplete emptying, abdominal pain, fecal or gas leakage, are all indicators of pelvic floor issues. 

If you believe you have pelvic floor dysfunction, seek help. Pelvic Guru is a great global provider directory for locating a pelvic floor physical therapist near you.

Disclaimer: Navigating Parenthood does not offer medical advice. Please always consult your MD.

Headshot of physical therapist, Marina

Marina D. Castellanos, PT, is a physical therapist with 20 years of experience and a pelvic floor practice for women, teens, and children in Westchester, NY. Find her on Instagram and YouTube.

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