Hello there! My name is Jaclyn and I’m a certified pelvic health physiotherapist. Many people don't know my job exists.
I can’t say that I blame them. A few years ago, I didn't know either. Then I had babies…3 to be exact and now pelvic health is one of my biggest passions.
Usually people avoid talking about the pelvic area because bodily functions here are considered personal and private. Functions such as going to the bathroom aren’t talked about when they are working properly, let alone when they’re not. Thank God for girlfriends though! Girlfriends don't mind talking about personal things. They’ll get that conversation started! And it’s a good thing too or none of us would ever know that other people also have issues.
The more I talked to people, the more I learned. Here’s what I realized - people (even people other than pregnant or postpartum women) have issues with their private pelvic functions. Athletes (including really good ones), postmenopausal women and even men have issues too. Issues such as peeing when you sneeze, pressure or bulging sensations with high intensity exercise or pain with intercourse are commonly noted scenarios. Sadly, most people think it’s a normal after childbirth or with aging and they don’t know there is something you can do about it.
Here’s another amazing thing I’ve learned from listening - people, especially postpartum women, are past the point of accepting that this is their new “normal” in life. They want to be active; they want to DO stuff like play with their kids or grandkids even if that includes a trampoline. They want to go for a run to burn off the day’s stresses and they don’t want to pee their pants when they do it.
So, where does Pelvic Health Physiotherapy come in and how does it help?
To understand how pelvic health physiotherapy can help, I think it’s important to step back and understand a little about how our bodies work and what happens when things aren’t working optimally. I hope after reading this blog, you’ll have a better understanding of your body, what pelvic health physiotherapy is and how it might change your life by helping you DO STUFF again.
Let’s get to it.
Most women have heard of pelvic floor muscles, but other than the fact that you’re supposed to tighten them when performing the dreaded “Kegel”, I bet you don’t know much else about them.
The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles located at the very bottom of the pelvis between the pubic bone and tailbone and between the sitting bones on either side. Pelvic floor muscles do stuff - important stuff. They help with several essential body functions including:
Support - The pelvic floor muscles have an important role in helping support the pelvic organs (i.e. the bladder, uterus, rectum) up in the pelvis. If this function is diminished, women will complain of pressure or “heaviness” in the vagina (or less commonly the rectum), a bulging sensation with heavy lifting, deep squats, coughing or high intensity exercise such as jumping and running. In more advanced stages, some women report seeing or feeling things at the vaginal opening that aren’t supposed to be there.
Support some more - Pelvic floor muscles as well as other pelvic muscles help support and assist with movements in other areas of the body, for example, the low back and hips.
Sexual - The pelvic floor muscles and the nerves that supply them play an important role in sexual function and pleasure, from erection to orgasm. If dysfunction is present, women will often complain of pain on penetration during intercourse, pain with orgasm and/or vaginal dryness. Men can have issues getting or maintaining an erection or have pain with ejaculation.
Control openings - Pelvic Floor muscles are responsible for controlling the openings of the perineum. The perineum is the body surface located between your thighs and includes openings for the bladder, vagina (if you have lady parts) and rectum. If this function is not working optimally and the openings are not being closed appropriately, people will complain of urinary leakage, vaginal pressure or bulging and trouble controlling the passing of gas. On the flip side, if the pelvic floor muscles are too tight and keeping things closed, people will often complain of chronic constipation, pain with intercourse or not being able to fully empty their bladder.
Sump-pump - when the pelvic floor muscles contract and relax, they help circulate fluids from the legs through the pelvis/hip area and back to the heart. When this function is decreased, people will often complain of swelling or sensations of swelling in the perineum (the body surface located between the thighs).
Like any other muscles in the body, pelvic floor muscles can get weak, they can get tight and/or they can get uncoordinated. Any of these scenarios can limit the ability of the pelvic floor muscles to do one or more of their jobs.
In Part 2 of our series, we’ll cover what Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy is, what it works to accomplish and how it can play a role in sorting out these less than optimal scenarios.
For more information, call Rebirth Wellness Centre at (226) 663-3243 or visit our Physiotherapy page at rebirthwellness.ca.
Jaclyn Seebach, PT
Certified Pelvic Health Physiotherapist