The muscles, ligaments, and tissues of the pelvic floor support the bladder, rectum, and sexual organs. The pelvic floor can weaken due to numerous health conditions or advanced aging. A weakened pelvic floor causes organs to drop and results in a condition known as pelvic floor dysfunction. One in three women experiences pelvic floor dysfunction over their lifetime while every year, millions of men find themselves impacted by this common condition.

If you suspect pelvic floor dysfunction is the cause of your urinary incontinence, bowel problems, or increased urine frequency, the information in this guide can change your life. An embarrassing condition undoubtedly, yet one that demands immediate medical attention if ever you want to lead a normal life. Find out everything you should know in this guide to pelvic floor dysfunction.

What is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?

The muscles on the pelvic floor support other organs and their functions and provide them with cushioning by wrapping around the pelvic bones to form more stability.

The muscles on the pelvic floor naturally tighten and relax under normal circumstances. This allows us to easily urinate and have bowel movements.

Pelvic floor dysfunction occurs when muscles on the base of the pelvis fail to relax when they should, causing pain, leaking urine and fecal matter, and a series of symptoms, including:

  • Difficulty urinating, incomplete urine streams
  • Incomplete bowel movements
  • Difficulty releasing a bowel movement

What Causes Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?

Doctors aren’t exactly sure what causes pelvic floor dysfunction. They do know many of the risk factors that likely contribute to the condition, including:

  • Age: People of advanced age have double the risk of developing pelvic floor dysfunction.
  • Weight: Individuals who are overweight or obese are at an increased risk.
  • Pregnancy: Women who’ve given birth to one or more children suffer pelvic floor dysfunction more commonly than women who have not completed a pregnancy and delivery. Women often experience pelvic floor dysfunction following delivery.
  • Traumatic Injuries to the Pelvic Region: Injuries to the pelvic region are not uncommon. This can include injuries such as those sustained during a car accident.
  • Genetics
  • Overusing the pelvic muscles

Age and pregnancy are the two biggest contributing factors to Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. The more advanced in age, the greater the risk of developing symptoms of PFD. Childbirth can damage the pelvic floor area and cause issues like those we’ll discuss below.

Symptoms of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms differ according to the exact condition you experience. The symptoms can also differ between men and women.

If you suspect pelvic floor dysfunction is the cause of your urinary or bowel problems, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. A medical professional can provide the necessary exams to diagnose the condition or determine the cause of your symptoms.

Common symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction include:

  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Leaking urine and/or fecal matter
  • Constipation: People who experience long-term constipation are at an increased risk of developing pelvic dysfunction disorder.
  • Lower back pain
  • Unexplained, ongoing pain in the pelvic region, genitals, or rectum
  • Increased, frequent urination
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Erectile Dysfunction

Not only do symptoms differ from one patient to another, so does the severity and frequency of symptoms. Some people experience extremely debilitating symptoms while they’re much milder for other sufferers.

Men may experience Erectile Dysfunction (ED) as a symptom of PFD while women experience painful sexual intercourse.

Common Types of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Several types of pelvic floor dysfunction may occur. The most common types include:

  • Fecal Incontinence: Fecal incontinence causes the sufferer to experience sudden, uncontrollable urges to pass a bowel movement. The sufferer cannot control the urge and may unexpectedly expel fecal matter as a result.
  • Urinary Incontinence: Urinary incontinence causes the person to experience sudden, uncontrollable urges to urinate. These urges generally result in the loss of the bladder contents. Pads and bladder control products often help patients avoid some of the embarrassment that urinary incontinence may cause.
  • Obstructed Defecation: This type of pelvic floor dysfunction occurs when you have trouble passing bowel movements. The stool reaches the rectum but emerging it from there is difficult or impossible. Patients with this form of pelvic floor prolapse may feel the urge to have a bowel movement more often because they do not completely empty it the first time.
  • Rectocele: This condition affects women only. It’s pretty frightening because it causes the rectum to bulge into the vagina. It’s a form of Prolapse and can be very painful. This condition happens when stool gets caught inside an abdominal packet of the rectum. Patients suffering with Rectocele cannot completely pass stool.
  • Pelvic Floor Prolapse: Pelvic Floor Prolapse is the most commonly diagnosed form of pelvic floor dysfunction. It affects women more commonly than men. The pelvic floor consists of the vagina, rectum, and bladder. These muscles stretch as we age due to lack of collage. It can also occur after childbirth. When the pelvic floor is stretched, it may cause the organs to protrude through the rectum or vagina. This causes a bulge that the sufferer can feel.
  • Levator Syndrome: Abnormal spasms of the muscles of the pelvic floor cause a condition called Levator Syndrome. Spasms generally occur after a bowel movement. Sufferers usually feel extreme pressure on the rectum for prolonged periods.

Common Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Myths

The plethora of myths surrounding pelvic floor dysfunction only worsen the embarrassment the condition causes for sufferers and may cause them to avoid seeking treatment. Without treatment, the symptoms only worsen and dramatically impact your life. Learn the myths surrounding the condition so they do not cause any misfortune in your life. Many myths exist, including some of the most common ones we’ll discuss below.

A myth is exactly that: a myth, an untruth that many people believe. Never allow a myth to prevent you from getting treatment for the condition when learning the truth is easy.

Some common myths surrounding PFD include:

  • Everyone experiences bowel strain. now and again: Bowel strain occurs when you push to release a bowel movement. If you experience bowel strain nearly every time you use the bathroom, it suggests a problem that needs medical attention. Even now and again, bowel strain is abnormal and a sign of a more serious problem.
  • Kegels takes care of PFD: If only this were true, but sadly, it’s a myth. Kegel exercises certainly improve muscle tightness but alone they cannot resolve pelvic floor dysfunction. In some patients, Kegels may worsen the condition. It is important to speak to a healthcare professional about the symptoms of PFD to ensure proper treatment.
  • Pain during sex is normal: If you experience pain during intercourse, there is almost always an underlying reason that should be addressed. Sex os meant to be enjoyed, not painful. While painful intercourse can be caused by several reasons, during intercourse, PFD is a common culprit.
  • Urine leak is normal: Again, a myth that proves you can’t believe everything you hear. Urine leaks aren’t normal under any circumstance, even if you’re of advanced age or have just given birth.

This list is not complete, and many other myths are out there. If anything you hear sounds unusual or questionable, ask a medical professional to tell you the truth. Plenty of information can be accessed online about Pelvic floor dysfunction as well.

Do Men Experience Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?

Thousands of men experience pelvic floor dysfunction every year. In men, the condition causes unique symptoms which include prostatitis, an infection of the prostate. Pelvic floor dysfunction may contribute to erectile dysfunction. Women experience PFD at higher rates than men, but the condition affects both genders.

How to Diagnose Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Since you are reading this, something leads you to suspect pelvic floor dysfunction is causing your current medical problems. While this guide offers helpful information that may further lead you to believe PFD affects you, only a healthcare professional can diagnose this or any other condition. If you experience signs and/or symptoms of PFD, schedule an appointment with your healthcare professional.

Your healthcare provider can perform a series of examinations that help diagnose PFD or other medical conditions that may cause the symptoms you currently experience.

First, the provider gathers your complete medical history. It is important to discuss your past medical diagnosis and concerns with the doctor, especially if you have a history of urinary tract infections or have birthed a child. Women double the risk of PFD after delivery.

Expect to answer a series of questions concerning the symptoms that brought you into the office.

Common questions medical professional asks during your appointment that can help them diagnose pelvic floor dysfunction include:

  • Do you experience pain during sexual intercourse? (Females only)
  • Do you have a history of interstitial cystitis?
  • Do you strain during bowel movements?
  • Do you have a history of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Expect a physical examination after the doctor asks about your medical history. The physical exam evaluates the pelvic floor muscles and how well you can control them. Your provider will also check for spasms and other signs of weakness in the pelvic area. An intrarectal exam may be necessary as part of the diagnostic visit.

Your healthcare provider can use any number of tests to help identify pelvic floor dysfunction and the problems that it creates, including:

  • Defecating proctogram: The Defecating proctogram measures rectal pelvic floor dysfunction. This test requires the patient to drink a liquid enema, then attempt to push out the enema as a video X-ray records the muscle movement.
  • Anorectal manometry: This test measures how well anal sphincters are working by measuring pressure, coordination, and muscle strength.
  • Uroflow test: The uroflow test helps doctors measure how well you can empty your bladder. If the healthcare provider determines that your urine flow is weak or if it stops/starts repeatedly, you may have pelvic floor dysfunction.
  • Surface electrodes: Surface electrodes are self-adhesive pads placed on the perineum or sacrum to test pelvic muscle control. Healthcare providers use this test on patients who do not want an internal exam. It is quick and pain-free.

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Treatment

Treating pelvic floor dysfunction takes time but eases the pain, urinary and bowel incontinence, and other associated symptoms. With the right treatments, PFD sufferers can lead a normal life free of the symptoms that debilitate them.

Your healthcare provider will discuss the different treatment options available and those best for your specific conditions.

Some of the most common pelvic floor dysfunction treatment options include:

  • Biofeedback: A physical therapist works with the patient to retrain their muscles during Biofeedback treatment. This treatment is the most commonly used of all, and provides the fastest results. The physical therapist utilizes many tools to help conduct Biofeedback treatment, including video monitors to record as you clench/relax the muscles and special sensors.
  • Pelvic floor physical therapy: Physical therapy coupled with Biofeedback provides patients with the most effective results. Although using both treatments together isn’t necessary, it’s often performed in such a manner. After the therapist determines which muscles are right, they help you perform different exercises that stretch the muscles to improve tightness.
  • Medication: Daily medications help keep bowel movements soft and can help control bladder leakage. Most treatment plans include at least one medication. Some medications are available over the counter while other medications require a prescription.
  • Relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques may also help improve symptoms related to pelvic floor dysfunction. Meditation, yoga, and acupuncture are three common types of relaxation techniques your healthcare provider may recommend.

It generally takes weeks or months of treatment before improvement occurs. This can be frustrating but it is important to remember that change will come if you do not give up. Take medications as directed, keep all scheduled appointments with your healthcare providers, and above all else, maintain a positive attitude.

You can also improve symptoms of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction by making a few lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Nutritious foods rich in vitamins and minerals support the organs in your body and their various functions. Consume plenty of lean meats and poultry, fresh fruits, vegetables. These foods improve your overall well-being as well as potential medical problems that can debilitate your life.
  • Fiber-rich foods and supplements can actually exacerbate pain and make it much worse for some people dealing with this condition. For others, it can ease constipation and make passing bowel movements easier. Avoid eating foods high in fiber and certainly do not take an added fiber supplement if they increase your pain. Otherwise, ensure plenty of fiber-rich foods make it onto your plate each day.
  • Drink plenty of water every day. Experts recommend drinking at least eight, 8-oz glasses of water per day. Our body is made up almost entirely of water. It is needed to keep the bones, muscles, and organs properly functioning. Aim to drink more water if you do not consume 64-oz of water per day.
  • Pelvic floor exercises are extremely beneficial for patients experiencing dysfunction problems. Both men and women can do pelvic floor exercises to strengthen and tighten the muscles to reduce symptoms. Your healthcare professional will recommend the best pelvic floor exercises for your particular condition and needs.

Shockwave Therapy for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

There is another treatment option that shows promising results against Pelvic Floor Disorder. Shockwave therapy has been around for decades and used to treat a range of medical conditions. Now, it is approved as a treatment for PFD. What you don’t know about Shockwave Therapy could hurt you. Let’s change that today.

Shockwave Therapy uses a small, portable device to transmit energy to the affected area. The results are immediate and long-lasting. Plenty of scientific research has shown Shockwave Therapy as an effective remedy for Pelvic Floor Disorder. It’s a therapy that is chocked-full of benefits for patients.

Many patients battling pelvic floor dysfunction experience urinary incontinence as a main symptom. Bladder and urinary incontinence can make life difficult as it causes small to large leaks at random times and often without warning.

Research suggests patients using Shockwave Therapy experience a significant reduction in bladder leakage and loss of urinary continence. Evidence also suggest that Shockwave Therapy improves Erectile Dysfunction (ED) in men.

Pain accompanies Pelvic Floor Dysfunction severely enough that it debilates many patients. The pain can make it difficult for patients to sit down, exercise, or perform other activities. A 2020 study showed a significant reduction in pain after a four-week course of shockwave therapy.

This treatment works by stimulating blood flow and circulation in scarred and injured tissues. The regenerative process occurs after circulation is stimulated, creating new blood cells that ease pain and other symptoms. Patients also experience immediate pain relief to its analgesic effects that dull nerve pain.

Although more research is needed, some studies indicate that Shockwave Therapy can benefit people suffering with muscle spasticity by reducing their occurrence. Muscle spasms can significantly reduce quality of life. This benefit of Shockwave Therapy in Denver is very promising.

Shockwave Therapy is safe and highly effective non-invasive treatment suitable for most patients. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, suffer from a blood clotting disorder, or take anticoagulants, this form of therapy may not be right for you.

Is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Treatable?

Symptoms of PFD do not go away on their own. Without treatment, symptoms worsen and can debilitate you in many ways. Luckily, Pelvic floor dysfunction is treatable when you find the right course of treatment. There is no reason to live with the condition another day.

The right treatment differs for each patient, so it’s imperative that you schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to learn more about the choices to find what works for you. The right treatment can make PFD a thing of the past and ease or eliminate the pain, discomfort, and conditions associated with the condition.

If you are ready to find out why Shockwave Therapy is hailed as one of the best treatments for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, call Denver Colorado Chiropractic today at 303.455.2225 to learn more about this therapy or to schedule an appointment.