Pelvic floor dysfunction is a medical condition that affects the muscles in the bottom (floor) of the pelvis. These muscles are called the “levator ani” and stretch from the pubic bone in front to the tailbone in back. Also known as the pelvic floor muscles, they help maintain a slight amount of pressure within the urethra, which prevents urine leakage or urinary incontinence. When the muscles are weak, coughing, laughing or sneezing can cause leakage. Pelvic floor dysfunction results when the pelvic floor muscles become weak or excessively tight, or there are problems in the sacroiliac joint, low back, coccyx and/or hip joint. Pelvic floor dysfunction is relatively common in women.
Pregnancy is one of the most common causes of pelvic floor dysfunction. The process of labor can affect the supporting structures in the pelvis. In addition, many women lose abdominal tone during pregnancy as the muscles stretch to accommodate the expanding uterus. However, pelvic floor dysfunction may also result from the loss of muscle tone that may accompany aging or inactivity. Trauma like a fall — especially in which the low back or tailbone are injured — is another source of pelvic floor dysfunction. Undiagnosed urinary tract infections may also be a factor, as may chronic poor posture.
Pelvic floor rehabilitation is a physical therapy and treatment regimen designed to restore the muscles of the pelvic floor and treat pelvic pain. The physical therapist works with the patient to identify whether the problem is overly weak or too-tight muscles. Once the specific problems are identified, the therapist teaches the patient how to do exercises to correct the problem. The therapist will also massage trigger points that cause pain in the area of the thighs, buttocks and inside of the vagina to help muscles relax. Treatment may also include the use of technology like biofeedback, or electrical muscle stimulation.
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