By: Taylor Paganini, LMT, O.T
According to a National Institute of health study, almost 25 % of women are faced with pelvic floor dysfunction. While pelvic floor dysfunction has become more common as we age, pelvic issues need not to be categorized as acceptable and untreatable discomforts you must simply learn to live with. With the right information and a proper treatment plan, you may no longer have to suffer in silence.
So let us go on to talk about what exactly pelvic floor dysfunction is, the causes of the condition and ways we can treat it.
Your pelvic floor is the group of muscles, tissue, and ligaments in your pelvic region that acts like a sling in order to support your pelvic organs such as the bladder, rectum, and uterus or prostate. Contracting and relaxing these muscles allow you to control your bowel movements, urination, and for women particularly, sexual intercourse.
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction or (PFD) refers to a wide range of disorders that occur when the muscles of the pelvic floor become weak, tight or torn. It causes the inability to control these muscles, forcing you to contract your muscles rather than relax them. Over time, with continued stress and contraction to your pelvic floor, the muscles become weak and damaged, leaving your floor unable to provide the support your organs need to continue to work efficiently. As the structure weakens, normal functioning of the bowel, bladder, rectum and sexual organs can be affected.
Symptoms & Causes of PFD
Although this condition predominately affects females, 16% of males also suffer from PFD. Due to the severity of this muscular dysfunction, there are a wide range of symptoms and conditions that are known to correlate with this condition. For example, women with PFD can experience symptoms such as chronic pelvic pain that radiates in the groin, abdomen and back, painful sexual intercourse, strong or frequent urge to urinate, burning during urination, urinary incontinence, vaginal burning, painful menstruation, muscle spasms, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The tissues surrounding the pelvic organs may also have increased or decreased sensitivity as a result. While there are many different factors that can contribute to PFD, in many cases an underlying cause cannot be discovered and so today are still being researched. Unlike most other muscle control issues, pelvic floor dysfunction does not seem to be related to any neurological disorders, and can be looked at as a blessing in disguise. Some doctors have found certain conditions that can be linked to the damage and weakening of the pelvic floor muscles and connective tissue. Those conditions from most common to least are child birth, trauma to the pelvic region, Interstitial Cystitis, nerve damage, pelvic surgery and obesity. It has been found that over 50% of women who have given birth are affected by some form of pelvic floor dysfunction.
Mental Health and PFD
While this disorder is not only very physical and very real, it is also very emotional and psychological. In my experience both personally and professionally, emotions are almost always at the root of pelvic pain. Understanding the connection between emotions and pelvic pain is an important step to healing. Even if they are not entirely responsible for the symptoms, they are contributing to them, or making it impossible to relieve them in some way. And just to be clear, that does not mean that your pelvic pain is in any way your fault! We live in a culture that encourages everyone to suppress their emotions from day one. And as a result, we learn unhealthy strategies in order to deal with our emotions. For example, we unconsciously tense and contract the deeper muscles of our body and we hold our breath in order to not feel that emotional energy. Depending on where the muscles you are contracting are, you can end up with migraines or headaches, back or neck pain, hip or knee pain, or even pelvic pain. If you are suffering with pelvic pain, or have been diagnosed with pelvic floor dysfunction, it is very likely that one of the ways you are suppressing emotions unconsciously is by chronically contracting the muscles of your pelvic floor. Whether this is something you have always done, or just a result of the emotional aspect of chronic pain, you are not alone and there are ways for you to get back your quality of life.
What are some of the ways PFD can be treated?
With an expert treatment team, Pelvic Floor Dysfunction can often be successfully treated without surgery (yes!) and with a combination of integrative therapies and treatments. The goal for treating PFD is to relax the muscles of your pelvic floor, relieving chronic tension, making elimination easier and painless while also providing more control. Here are some of the most effective treatments for PFD.
Biofeedback Therapy: Non-surgical technique that uses special sensors to monitor the pelvic floor muscles as the patient attempts to relax and contract them.
Physical Therapy: Along with biofeedback, a physical therapist can help patients understand what it feels like to control your pelvic floor muscles.
Self-Myofascial release: Myofascial release to the PF can be done using something called Dilators. Dilators are not only an excellent way to self- perform trigger point therapy to your internal musculature but also to help women transition from pain/and or avoidance behaviors to decreased anxiety and/ or pain with intercourse.
Massage Therapy: Massage Therapy is very affective for anyone dealing with chronic pain and emotional stress. Massage can help release dysfunctions in the external supportive muscles to the pelvic floor. But most importantly it will promote relaxation and self- awareness in order to encourage healing.
Chiropractic: Chiropractic treatments can help by focusing on the structural and neurological pathways of the pelvis, helping with pain management and healing.
Counseling: One-on-one counseling with a professional can help with the psychological and emotional aspect of this condition. Remember, the body will always follow the mind.
Self-care: As far as this goes, self-care can be anything from warm baths, gentle exercise, meditation and other relaxation techniques.
Medication: If you are someone who thinks they will benefit from medication in order to control symptoms and manage pain, that can also be an option.
Taylor Paganini L.M.T, O.T is certified in Myofascial Release Technique, Trigger Point Therapy, AMMA, and Prenatal massage. Also certified in flame Cupping. Her techniques are to help unblock energy in the body and bring better mobility and functionality to the muscular and nervous systems in order to reconnect the mind/body experience.