This piece has been medically reviewed by Aleece Fosnight, MPAS, PA-C, CSC-S, CSE, NCMP, IF, Medical Advisor to Aeroflow Urology.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nearly 24% of women in the United States are affected by one or more pelvic floor disorders. 1 in 4 women you know are living with a pelvic floor disorder! So why don’t we talk about the pelvic floor more often? The pelvic floor is an incredibly important part of the human body. The muscles that make up the pelvic floor are responsible for multiple functions in both men and women, yet the importance of maintaining these muscles can often be overlooked.
What Is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is a cohesive group of muscles that control a variety of different functions, including urination, defecation, and sexual function. When thinking about the pelvic floor, we recommend visualizing a hammock. For those with female anatomy, the pelvic floor muscles attach to the pubic bone and wrap around to the urethra and the vagina. The muscles continue to wrap around to the rectum and attach to the coccyx (the tailbone). The pelvic floor muscles fan out to the sides of the hips and attach to the pelvis, as well as the abductor and adductor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles are integral to the function of all of the pelvis.
The pelvic floor muscles hold all of the pelvic organs safely in place, like a hammock supports the person laying on it. Although most people can agree that the pelvic floor is an important component of women's health, something that is often ignored is how important pelvic floor muscle training can be in men's health.
How Does Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Relate to Incontinence?
There are many factors that can cause issues with the pelvic floor that can lead to incontinence. A few factors that can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction are childbirth, lack of exercise, or even increased types of certain exercises. Remember, the pelvic floor muscles are like a hammock. When you first set up a hammock, it’s nice and taught. It easily supports the weight of what is set on top of it. A healthy pelvic floor will do the same for the pelvic organs.
However, once you lay on a hammock for an extended period of time, the fabric can start to sag. The pelvic floor muscles are the same way. The muscles can sag over time, which can lead to stress incontinence and a lack of support on the bladder. Stress incontinence symptoms can be triggered by daily activities such as laughing, sneezing, or heavy lifting. Weakened pelvic floor muscles can also lead to various pelvic floor disorders such as pelvic organ prolapse, fecal incontinence, pelvic pain, or increased pressure or heaviness in the genitals and lower abdomen.
Conversely, when the muscles are too tight, the bladder can’t expand like it needs to and this can cause urinary urgency and frequency, or urge incontinence. Both tight pelvic floor muscles and weak pelvic floor muscles can be managed with the help of a pelvic floor physical therapist. It is important to remember that these muscles need to be consistently worked and managed, like any other muscle, in order to stay at 100%.
It is important to note that if an individual is experiencing any leakage due to a tight pelvic floor, repeated pelvic floor muscle exercises can exacerbate symptoms further. Because of this, we recommend discussing any urinary incontinence symptoms with your healthcare provider. Most insurance providers do not require a direct referral in order to receive pelvic floor physical therapy, and the American Physical Therapist Association is a great resource when looking for a pelvic floor PT near you.
Bladder Control Products Through Medicaid
Did you know you could be eligible to receive bladder control products through your state Medicaid plan? Your quality of life could drastically increase with the freedom to live your life without the fear of leakage. Simply fill out our 2-step form to check your eligibility for bladder control products at no cost through your insurance. One of our Continence Care Specialists will contact you to discuss your coverage options in 1-2 business days.
Information provided on the Aeroflow Urology blog is not intended as a substitute to medical advice or care from a healthcare professional. Aeroflow recommends consulting your healthcare provider if you are experiencing medical issues relating to incontinence.