What is Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy? Can it Help Me?
Written and medically reviewed by Dr. Brenda, DPT
The pelvis and core connect to everything and influence all of our systems. So pelvic floor therapy can benefit all of our body systems as well! However, pelvic floor PT is also very individual, so finding what works for you is important. In this blog, I’ll break down the basics about the pelvic floor, pelvic floor physical therapy, and pelvic floor therapy benefits you’ll want to consider.
What is the Pelvic Floor?
First things first: what is the pelvic floor?? Even though it’s an integral part of our bodies, the pelvic floor remains a mystery to many. Whether it’s from a lack of education about it (very common!) or the taboo nature of discussing what’s going on “down there” (also common, but getting much better!), a surprising number of people don’t know what their pelvic floor exactly is or what it’s designed to do. It’s time to fix that!
So, what is the pelvic floor? Our pelvic floor is a bowl-shaped system of muscles, fascia, and ligaments that sits at the base of our pelvis like a hammock. The pelvic floor system supports our organs and closes our openings. It also results in our posture, hip stability, and core stability – or lack thereof. (Yes, your pelvic floor is part of your CORE!)
When doing any pelvic or deep core stability work, it helps to understand exactly where your pelvic floor is located and what the muscles look like. Check out the diagram below. (The top image looks from the top down, and the bottom image looks from the bottom up.)
Don’t worry about all of the muscle names – let’s just look at overall functions and how your pelvic floor links with other muscle systems.
In the top image, you see the inner layer of the pelvic floor. This layer can give us lift and stability by how it interacts with other structural components (like our hips, sacrum, pelvic ligaments, organs, and core). For example, note the piriformis and obturator internus listed in the diagram – those are hip muscles! That’s a great picture of the pelvic floor’s integration with other muscle systems.
The intermediate layer (not visible in the diagram) houses our urethral and vaginal sphincter musculature.
In the bottom image, you see the outer layer of the pelvic floor. In the front, you find the sphincter muscles around the urethra and vaginal canal (associated with quick closure), and in the back, the anal sphincter. The thicker tissue between the vaginal and anal openings is called the perineum. (You can actually use the perineum as a marker to feel whether you’re doing a pelvic contraction – or kegel exercise – properly.)
What is Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy?
Simply put, pelvic floor physical therapy takes care of you down there. But pelvic PT is much more than just testing your pelvic floor for strength or weakness. The pelvis and core are connected to everything, and they influence all of our systems. Understanding those connections and how your pelvic floor links with other muscle systems, like the diaphragm, glutes, deep abdominals, and deep hip muscles, allows you to achieve full strength and function.
That’s where pelvic floor PT comes in!
There are many approaches to pelvic PT, all aimed at the same goals. For example, I apply orthopedic principles, body awareness, and manual therapy. However, I do not do internal pelvic work with my patients. (If internal work is needed, I refer my patients to another trusted doctor specializing in internal therapies.)
Primary focus areas with my PT clients include proper alignment, positioning, and posture habits. We retrain your body to engage and strengthen muscles that have previously gone unnoticed. It takes a lot of work to repattern movements and change habits – but the benefits are astounding!
Pelvic Floor Therapy Benefits
Did you know that pelvic issues affect up to 75% of women? When a woman learns about and taps into this part of her body, she can help remedy pain patterns, weaknesses, and even ailments in her organ systems! There are so many ways that pelvic floor physical therapy can improve women's health and wellness, including reducing pain, improving sexual function, and promoting bladder and bowel control. Here are just a few examples of issues that could benefit from pelvic floor therapy:
Incontinence: leaking, running to the bathroom, going a hundred times before exercising “just to be sure it’s all out”
Bowels: difficulty emptying or controlling your bowels (having to strain) or difficulty controlling flatulence
Pelvic Organ Prolapse: a feeling of “heaviness” or bulge in your vagina or pelvis
Pain: Any pelvic pain, pain in pubic symphysis (the joint sandwiched between your left & right pelvic bones), hip pain, low back pain, pain with intercourse or when inserting a tampon
Diastasis Recti and core weakness
Other internal dysfunctions, including digestive issues, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), urinary tract infections (UTIs), endometriosis, and more.
Sometimes women seek treatment for these issues. But many just whisper about or try to ignore the problems. That’s because many women quietly believe these issues are a normal part of life, particularly after giving birth or when approaching menopause. And that’s where I come in to say, Don’t settle for things feeling “off” in your body!
The pelvis is the true center of our body, and as women, reconnecting with it is powerful on many levels. You can increase core strength and stability by tapping into this comprehensive muscle system, giving your body coordination, postural control, and access to previously ignored or unknown muscles! Not only can pelvic floor therapy resolve symptoms and health issues, but often women report feeling more grounded, powerful, and in control of their bodies and life.
These are all reasons I love what I do and am so passionate about sharing the life-changing benefits of pelvic floor physical therapy. If you have questions, contact me to schedule a complimentary phone consultation. I’d love to help you make the next right decision on your healing path.