Pelvic floor dysfunction

Pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms can vary and manifest in different ways – let’s explore some of the most common.

Pelvic floor dysfunction can manifest in several different ways and has a variety of root causes. Whatever is going on with your pelvic floor, the condition can be frustrating to deal with. Thankfully, there are ways to treat and manage pelvic floor dysfunction.

What exactly is the pelvic floor and what does it mean when it dysfunctions?

The pelvic floor is a complex, intricate, and if you ask us, beautiful arrangement of muscles, nerves, tendons, blood vessels, ligaments and connective tissue. 

Your pelvic floor muscles span the base of your pelvis forming a kind of hammock or trampoline. The four corners of the trampoline stretch from the pubic bone in the front to the tailbone in the back and across to each of the sit bones. If your pelvic floor muscles are in good shape your trampoline will be thick, taut and supple, flexing easily as you breathe and go about your day.

Your bladder, bowel and uterus (if you’re a woman) lie on top of your pelvic floor muscles and there’s a hole for passages to pass through and exit your pelvis. In men those passages are the urethra and anus, and in women those passages are the urethra, anus and vagina.

 Your pelvic floor helps control the passage of urine, faeces and wind. When your pelvic floor is contracted, it effectively closes up the openings of your vagina, urethra and anus. When it’s relaxed, it lets urine and faeces exit your body, and allows you to have sex.

Pelvic floor dysfunction is a condition whereby you experience pain or dysfunction directly in your pelvic floor. You might be unable to contract or relax your pelvic floor muscles to pass urine or bowel movement, or have sex. Pelvic floor dysfunction can also lead to pain or issues in areas that are influenced by the pelvic floor like your hips or low back. 

What are the symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction?

Like any muscles the pelvic floor can be too tight, too weak or experience changes in length or sensation. This can irritate nerves and impact any of the organs in that gorgeous pelvic bowl of yours.

Pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms may include:

What causes pelvic floor dysfunction?

There are a few reasons why pelvic floor dysfunction might occur. Often, the pelvic floor muscles become weaker due to pressure (such as through being pregnant, overweight or experiencing constipation), age (muscles weaken over time), and a lack of muscle strength. 

Some of the most common causes include:

  • Being obese or overweight
  • Menopause
  • Getting older
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Damage to nerves around the pelvic area
  • Injury to the pelvic region
  • Pelvic surgery or radiation treatment
  • Heavy lifting including weight-lifting
  • Constant straining to go to the toilet
  • Chronic coughing
  • Inflammation of any organs- IBS, Interstitial Cystitis, UTI, Endometriosis etc

How can I manage pelvic floor dysfunction?

Get professional guidance

If you’re experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction get along to a women’s health specialist (like a gynaecologist or pelvic health physiotherapist) to get an assessment of your pelvic floor. They’ll be able to pinpoint what’s really going on, and guide you on the right treatment pathways for your specific issues.

Emma McGeorge

Physiotherapist and pilates instructor, Emma McGeorge is our founder. Emma spent years managing her own pelvic health issues, and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share.