Problems DOWN THERE can happen to anyone: truths and myths behind pelvic floor problems
I was chatting with my mom the other day about a patient I had recently evaluated that had dysfunction in her pelvic floor causing constipation, urinary leakage, and painful intercourse. My mom assumed this woman had several children and said “That’s normal after babies”. When I told her this patient was 25 years old and hadn’t been pregnant yet, she was absolutely shocked. “What would cause those issues in someone so young without children?” she asked me.
After this conversation with my mom, I learned that most people have a lot of misconceptions about pelvic floor issues. So let’s debunk these misconceptions:
Myth #1: Pelvic floor issues only happen after you have babies.
THIS IS WRONG!
Truth: Pelvic floor dysfunctions can happen to ANYONE at ANY AGE.
The key is knowing what to do to prevent pelvic floor dysfunctions and ways to resolve pelvic floor conditions without resorting to medications and surgery.
Yes, sometimes these issues are exacerbated or begin during or after pregnancy, this is not the only time they start. Sometimes these issues begin for what appears like no apparent reason (during the evaluation, I usually find the actual reason, which helps ease your mind about what’s happening), which is likely due to a discoordination in the pelvic floor or around the hips and low back that has resulted in the muscles being unable to support the area.
When there is a dysfunction in these muscles and they aren’t working properly, then problems begin to arise in the pelvic region. Think pain, prolapse, leakage, constipation… not fun stuff, that’s for sure. But having a baby isn’t the only reason why these occur.
Myth #2: These issues only happen as you age.
Truth: as stated in the first myth, issues in the pelvic floor can happy to anyone at any age. The body doesn’t decide to stop functioning when you turn a certain age.
As we age, we typically become more sedentary and spend less time engaging all of our muscles in our body. We tend to take very shallow breaths, leading to decreased respiratory diaphragm muscle control. This results in decreased pelvic floor contraction because the respiratory diaphragm muscle and pelvic floor are buddies and work together. If one isn’t working well, then the other stops working well.
So while these issues tend to occur more as you age, aging itself is not a cause of pelvic floor problems.
Myth #3: Nothing can be done if I start peeing myself.
Once again, WRONG.
Truth: Urinary leakage happens when there is a discoordination in the pelvic floor causing the muscles to improperly work, which can be resolved when the coordination returns.
That’s where Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy comes in. Most people have NO idea how much Pelvic Floor PT can impact their lives and help with the conditions they have, such as leakage.
A lot of the time, people seek out their primary care doctor or OBGYN to discuss the issues they’re having down there. These providers often discuss surgical options or medications with people experiencing pelvic floor disorders instead of sending them to Pelvic Floor PT. More often than not, they will tell you it’s a part of aging and can’t be fixed. WRONG!
When you see a Pelvic Floor PT specialist, they’ll teach you several techniques to reduce and eliminate the leakage you’re experiencing. I’ve seen individuals who use 6-7 pads a day or have full bladder emptying improve so much that they no longer need pads and have returned to full activities without medication!
Myth #4: Kegels are the only exercise to strengthen the pelvic floor.
Let me tell you, this is my BIGGEST pet peeve as a Pelvic Floor PT.
Truth: Kegels are SO outdated as the only way to strengthen the pelvic floor. Most times, the pelvic floor muscles don’t even need strength, they need relaxation.
The respiratory diaphragm, transverse abdominal, adductor, and glute muscles need to be considered when looking at the pelvic floor. Beyond that, posture throughout the entire body also needs to be looked at.
Think about if you had an issue with your knee. Would you only do squats to get it better? Absolutely not! So why do people think Kegels are the only exercise for strengthening the pelvic floor?
Seems a little silly to only perform one exercise when you think about the pelvic floor as an area that has muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints just like any other part of the body, right? So stop doing that.
Myth #5: Pelvic floor issues only happen in women.
Do you think only women have a pelvis or something? WRONG!
Truth: Both men and women experience pelvic pain, leakage, and constipation.
More times than not, women seek out treatment for pelvic conditions before or after having a baby, which is where the misconception comes from that Pelvic Floor PT is only for women. IT’S NOT!
While the contents of the pelvic floor area differ between men and women, both can experience a variety of issues and should seek out the help from a Pelvic Floor PT to reduce and eliminate these issues.
I hope debunking these myths about Pelvic Floor PT have helped to answer some questions you may have.