BROCKTON – Have you ever been worried to cough, sneeze or laugh because you might leak urine?
You are not alone!
In fact, statistics show that one in four women, and one in nine men are incontinent in Canada. These statistical numbers increase with age, and incontinence happens to be the number one reason for nursing home admission. The good news is that information about the pelvic floor and how it functions is evolving daily, and there are plenty of things that can help improve symptoms that may not include surgery!
First off, let’s talk about what the pelvic floor is and how it functions. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles, nerves, tendons, blood vessels and connective tissue that are interwoven together within the pelvis. Our pelvic floor muscles create a sling of support from the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis, to the tailbone at the back, and span out to both sides of the pelvis at the ischial tuberosities (sits bones). These muscles form the base of a group of muscles called the ‘core’ and work synergistically together with the respiratory diaphragm (our breathing muscle), spinal muscles, and our deep abdominal (tummy) muscles.
Now that we know where our pelvic floor muscles are located, let’s dive into what they do and how they work. The pelvic floor muscles provide support and stability to the spine and pelvis, help to keep our pelvic organs (bladder, rectum, and uterus) in place, and help control urination and bowel movements. These muscles also function as a sump-pump by assisting with lymphatic drainage and blood flow, and they also play a role in sexual function and can contribute to pleasure or pain in both men and women. These muscles have a big job to do and if one or more of our core or pelvic floor muscles are not functioning optimally they may not be able to do their job properly, which can lead to a variety of symptoms or discomfort.
Some of the signs that your core or pelvic floor muscles may not be functioning optimally include:
– accidentally leaking urine when you laugh, cough, sneeze or exercise
– accidental loss of faeces or wind;
– rushing to get to the toilet and not always making it in time
– needing to use the toilet frequently
– difficulty fully emptying bladder or bowels
– pelvic pain
– pain during intercourse
– prolapse (may be felt as pressure, heaviness or as though something is falling out of vagina or anus)
All humans have a pelvic floor therefore everyone has the potential to develop pelvic floor problems at some point in life. However, there are some factors and characteristics that can increase the risk of developing pelvic floor problems including: pregnancy, childbirth, obstetrical trauma, menopause, gynecological surgeries (for example: hysterectomies), prostate surgeries in men, and elite athletes (for example: gymnasts, runners, etc). Other factors that may increase the risk of developing pelvic floor problems include frequent heavy lifting, frequent constipation or straining on the toilet, chronic coughing, obesity, trauma to the pelvis (for example: falls or injuries) or a history of ongoing low back pain. It is important to note that none of these risk factors automatically suggest that you are living with a pelvic floor problem, however if you have one or more of these risk factors along with one or more symptoms, it may be a sign that your pelvic floor is not functioning optimally.
If you are living with a pelvic floor problem, know that there are many treatments and strategies that can help alleviate your symptoms or discomfort. Pelvic floor muscle training can be a highly effective way to improve function and range of motion of your core and pelvic floor muscles and can help reduce symptoms related to pelvic floor dysfunction. Pelvic health physiotherapists can assess the function of your core and pelvic floor muscles, provide education, treatment, exercises, and strategies which can improve pelvic floor problems. If you are unable to see a pelvic health physiotherapist, speak with your healthcare provider or a registered kinesiologist for education, recommended strategies and exercises that can help improve your symptoms.
To find a pelvic health physiotherapist near you in Canada:
To learn more about pelvic floor health here are some online resources and articles:
– Pelvic Floor First: www.pelvicfloorfirst.org.au
– Pelvic Guru: https://pelvicguru.com/category/pelvic-exercises/
– Pelvic Health Solutions: www.pelvichealthsolutions.ca
– Vagina Coach: https://www.vaginacoach.com
– Girls Gone Strong: www.girlsgonestrong.com
If you have further questions or concerns, regarding your pelvic floor health, feel free to reach out by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about any of the free services offered by your local Family Health Team ask your doctor or nurse practitioner during your next visit, visit the website www.afhto.ca or google ‘family health team locations’.
-By Holly DeVisser, Registered Kinesiologist – Brockton and Area Family Health Team