Did you know over 33 million people have some type of pelvic health disorder? Or that, according to the National Institute of Health, one-quarter of women suffer from pelvic floor disorders? It’s all true, and it’s important to recognize the prevalence of these disorders increases as we age.
The issue is that pelvic health is oftentimes viewed as an embarrassing topic for most patients which creates a natural reluctance to disclose these conditions to your healthcare provider. Conditions such as urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, fecal incontinence, pelvic floor dysfunction, rectal prolapse, defecatory disorders and pelvic organ prolapse are all classified by the medical community as pelvic health disorders.
Said disorders are no joke, and they happen to be more common than you might think. That’s why we’re here to give you a crash course on the basic anatomy and explain how pelvic floor muscle training and physical therapy can help!
Your Basic Anatomy
The simple upshot is that both men and women have a pelvic floor. A quick synopsis and introduction to the topic is best explained by the experts, courtesy of the University of Chicago Medicine’s Center for Pelvic Health:
“In women, the pelvic floor is the muscles, ligaments, connective tissues and nerves that support the bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum, all of which help these pelvic organs function. In men, the pelvic floor includes the muscles, tissues and nerves that support the bladder, rectum and other pelvic organs.”
AnimatedAnatomy.com created this 3D animation that takes viewers through the Pelvic Floor Anatomy – Pelvic Diaphragm:
Bottom line is our pelvic floor is an intricate system instinctively designed for voiding and eliminating waste. With proper coordination and squeeze, the openings can remain closed and no urine, feces, or gas can leak out. When these muscles are weakened, or poorly coordinated, the chances of leakage increases.
Know Your Type (of Incontinence)
There are a variety of ways to identify types of incontinence. The three main diagnoses are defined as Urge incontinence, Stress incontinence and Mixed incontinence.
- Urge incontinence, also known as overactive bladder presents a strong urge to urinate despite the bladder not being full. The strong urge is followed by an inability to hold your bladder thus an involuntary loss before reaching the bathroom.
- Stress incontinence occurs with activities such as jumping, coughing, laughing and lifting. These movements increase abdominal pressure and put additional stress on the muscles of the pelvic floor.
- Mixed incontinence is a combination of urge incontinence and stress incontinence.
Harvard Health Publishing, in literature published by Harvard Medical School goes on to describe additional situations where leakage can occur including:
- Functional incontinence described as leakage despite no lower urinary tract dysfunction. In this case illnesses, or disabilities prevent you from getting to the bathroom and undressing in time. If someone has severe arthritis and is unable to move, or have neurological or mental illness diagnoses that limit their ability to recognize the need to void, limit communication to caregivers. It can occur with someone who is so confused they are unable to complete the series of steps to undress and use the bathroom.
- Overflow incontinence which is leakage that is due to incomplete emptying of the bladder and a lack of sensation to urinate allowing the bladder to become over-distended pulling the urethra open and allowing leakage. An outflow blockage from an enlarged prostate or mass in the pelvis, or a severe organ prolapse, can cause a disruption of urine flow through the urethra and also contribute to this type of incontinence.
- Reflex Incontinence which occurs with severe neurological impairments such as spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis or local nerve damage and includes the bladder reflexes triggering a leak of urine in response to being filled.
However, there are many parts that can be controlled to become stop gaps against unwanted leakage or incontinence which is where we come into the picture. As musculoskeletal specialists, our physical therapists are able to identify dysfunction in the muscles of the pelvic floor such as weakness and poor awareness and control.
Improve Your Quality of Life with Personalized Training, Treatment
Physical therapists (PT) are skilled in the rehabilitation of muscle control and coordination. At CORA Physical Therapy, we have PT’s with special training in pelvic health who are able to help strengthen these muscles with proper function in mind. We teach patients how to coordinate their contractions and relaxation techniques to promote the appropriate functions. We are even trained to address some of the behaviors that may exacerbate your symptoms. In fact, pelvic health muscle training has proven to help cure, or present improved symptoms, for over 80% of patients suffering from pelvic health disorders!
Are you ready to get back to living your life free of painful or embarrassing urges? If you answered ‘Yes’, then our trained pelvic health specialists can help. All it takes is a quick consultation at one of our 200+ CORA clinics before we’ll have you on your way!
Want more? Avoid the Urge to Let Urinary Incontinence Leak into Your Life details six conservative interventions with proven results to cure or improve symptoms for nearly 80% of our patients.