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What Is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction? 8 Symptoms to Watch

December 14, 2021

Pelvic floor dysfunction is often associated with women, especially after childbirth. But pelvic floor dysfunction affects people of all genders and age.

Pelvic floor dysfunction occurs when you have difficulty relaxing or coordinating your pelvic floor muscles at the bottom of your torso. It includes different signs and symptoms related to bowel, bladder and sexual health.

“Pelvic floor dysfunction can affect people of all genders and ages including postpartum women, pregnant women, people who recently had pelvic or abdominal surgery that might affect their bowel, bladder or sexual health and people with pain in the pelvic or abdominal area, among others,” said physical therapist Michel DeVos of Hartford HealthCare’s Rehabilitation Network.

Some common symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Urinary leaking.
  • Urinary urgency/frequency.
  • Urinary retention or difficulty emptying the bladder.
  • Constipation or fecal urgency/leaking.
  • Genital pain.
  • Pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy.
  • Scar pain following labor.
  • Pelvic pressure.

Causes include:

  • Tears in the muscle following vaginal delivery.
  • Scar tissue from surgery.
  • Tightness in the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Weakness in the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Poor bladder/fluid habits.
  • Excessive straining to have a bowel movement.

Physical therapy is often the first line of defense for help with pelvic floor issues.

“Physical therapy can help by strengthening or stretching the muscles,” said DeVos. “We use techniques to help decrease pain. We will set up an exercise program to help retrain the bladder or bowel. We use multiple customized techniques to help with the symptoms that someone may have.”

The prognosis for patients with pelvic floor dysfunction depends on their current symptoms and other medical conditions. The patient has a higher chance of relief from symptoms if they are compliant with their home exercise program. Working closely with pelvic health physical therapist can greatly improve their symptoms.

Patients with pelvic floor dysfunction can now be seen at the Hartford HealthCare St. Vincent’s Medical Center Spine Wellness Center in Westport, part of the Ayer Neuroscience Institute.

Ayer Neuroscience Institute Spine Care