If your pelvic floor is out of order, you might be experiencing pain, discomfort, urinary and bowel incontinence, uncomfortable sex, and more. If this sounds like you, it could be worth exploring pelvic floor therapy.
But before we begin, we understand this might be a topic you’ve never given much thought. Considering your pelvic area might be completely new to you! But shying away from the issue could cause problems down the line. Within the nixit community, nothing is TMI: pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) included. We’re not health care professionals, but we’re always happy to listen and lend any advice we can!
For the record, even if you’re not diagnosed with PFD and your pelvic organs are doing just fine, giving them some extra TLC can strengthen your muscles, helping you better control your bladder, bowels, and more.
Long story short, we’re breaking down what pelvic floor therapy is, who should do it, and what benefits to expect. And an added bonus? We offer a few tips on what you can do to boost your pelvic health.
What Exactly Is Pelvic Floor Therapy?
Pelvic floor therapy is a set of physical exercises used to strengthen and relax the pelvic region muscles. The layers of pelvic floor muscles work in synergy to hold your bladder, bowel, and uterus in place, giving you control over urination, bowel movements, and sexual function.
Pelvic floor physical therapy targets these specific muscles to improve core stability and help you to regain control over your pelvic region. It can also help relieve pain and other symptoms linked to pelvic floor dysfunction. Furthermore, a physical therapist can help you control your contraction and relaxation patterns to improve your sexual life.
There are no quick fixes here, but pelvic floor therapy is the first line of defense for people developing PFD. It’s minimally invasive and can help treat pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms, including but not limited to:
- Urinary or fecal incontinence
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Painful intercourse
Seeking Pelvic Floor Therapy—What to Expect?
Your pelvic floor therapy will start with a physical exam. Both decreased and increased muscle tone can cause pelvic floor dysfunction, so whichever end of the spectrum you find yourself on, you’ll be given appropriate therapy.
Treating pelvic floor dysfunction is a broad field—some conditions require strengthening and others relaxing muscle exercises. With that in mind, you’ll sit with your physio and devise a tailored treatment plan to help relieve your particular set of symptoms.
Short and sweet, here’s which treatment modalities you can expect during the treatment:
Available Pelvic Floor Therapies
Biofeedback is a treatment method with fairly high success rates. In fact, a recent study found 59.6% of patients felt adequate relief when being treated with biofeedback. Only 32.7% of patients felt relief with emergency general surgery and 28.3% with digital massage.
So, how does biofeedback work? A skilled physical therapist will insert special sensors into your pelvic floor region to monitor your condition on a screen. They will use these visual cues to lead the therapy session and test ways to change the results.
Important note: Biofeedback isn’t painful. A therapist may ask you to relax and contract your pelvic muscles to teach you how to retrain them, but that’s about it!
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy
Pelvic floor physical therapy includes working with your physical therapist to help improve your pelvic muscle coordination.
The therapist will first isolate a group of problematic muscles and then prescribe you a set of physical exercises to condition those muscles, helping you regain control over them.
Note: You may have issues with any of your pelvic floor muscle segments, starting from your abdominal muscles, to those wrapping under your pelvis, and all the way to your back muscles.
We’re not talking about good ol’ ultrasound diagnostics here. Nope, we’re talking about a therapeutic method that uses ultrasound to stimulate pelvic muscles and the surrounding tissues.
Therapeutic ultrasound works by applying deep heating to soft tissues to improve blood circulation and reduce pain and inflammation. The best part? It doesn’t only target muscles but also the surrounding tissues, such as tendons, joints, and ligaments.
Electric stimulation is a standard procedure in pelvic floor muscle rehabilitation. This technique uses a small internal probe with low voltage electric current to stimulate the nerves and muscles of the pelvic floor.
The idea here is to either relieve muscle spasms or strengthen your muscles, depending on the underlying problem.
The good news is this method can also help treat pelvic floor-related pain. The pelvic structures are brimming with vascular and nervous networks. What’s more, the pelvic connective tissues are interwoven with nociceptors (receptors responsible for feeling pain). Researchers suggest that they may be a culprit behind local and referred pain in people with PFD.
In short, the electrical stimulation delivered to those receptors can help mitigate pain.
Weighted Vaginal Cones
Weighted vaginal cones, aka Kegal weights (or simply, vaginal cones), add resistance to your pelvic muscle training. The end goal is to intensify your pelvic physical therapy and help with muscle strengthening.
The therapist will introduce bigger (but lighter) weights first and then make adjustments so you can work your way up as your muscles become stronger.
Vaginal dilators, anybody? To those new to these devices, vaginal dilators are tube-shaped plastic instruments inserted into the vagina to help stretch tight tissues.
Appropriately-sized instruments gradually work their way into the patient’s soft tissues helping pelvic muscles relax to allow for easier penetration.
That said, vaginal dilators are a gold standard for rehabilitation after gynecological cancer treatment.
The Benefits of These Therapies
Once treatment techniques have been negotiated, your physical therapist will let you know what to expect in terms of the benefits. Receiving proper care and treatment can be a game changer as it can help relieve an umbrella of symptoms associated with PFD.
Here’s what you can expect after receiving treatment for dysfunctional pelvic floor muscles:
- Reduced pain
- Increased range of motion
- Corrected urinary and bowel patterns
- Lowered risk of developing chronic pain
Like any other muscle in your body, pelvic floor muscles need conditioning as they’ll lose their strength and elasticity with age, birth, and pregnancy.
And an important note: toning those muscles will also lead to more enjoyable sex and better sexual function.
Who Needs Pelvic Floor Therapy?
So, when should you seek pelvic floor physiotherapy? It’s highly advisable to do so if you notice urine leakage when you cough, sniffle, or laugh. Also, pay attention if you’re feeling pain when your bladder is full or while urinating—this can be a telltale sign you should seek professional help.
We know pelvic floor issues are not common knowledge, so people are more reluctant to seek help, but do! It’s better to have it be a false alarm than be served with a nasty surprise down the road.
Book a physio appointment if you experience any of the following:
- Urinary urgency
- Urinary incontinence
- Fecal incontinence
- Vaginal pain
- Painful intercourse (dyspareunia)
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Pelvic organ prolapse
Also, book an appointment if you’re having any of these prolonged symptoms:
- Lower back pain
- Bowel pain
Which Menstrual Care Products Are Best for Pelvic Floor Health?
Menstrual cups and discs have been a hot topic for the last couple of years, and for good reason. Unlike pads and tampons, they’re easy on the environment, and the good news is they’re also good for your pelvic floor hygiene. They're made from rubber or silicone, which means they guard you against infections—which is a plus.
But which is a better option—a cup or a disc—for those who want to take extra care of their pelvic floor health? Let’s break it down.
Bell-shaped menstrual cups are not exactly a go-to product if you have pelvic floor issues—whether your muscles are tight or weak.
- Using menstrual cups when your pelvic floor muscles need conditioning may result in the cup sliding down and falling out. This can also cause leakage and irritation.
- On the flip side, tight pelvic muscles can pull a menstrual cup higher into the vaginal canal, making the removal more challenging. Breaking the seal and pulling the cup out may also cause painful abrasions.
Menstrual discs, on the other hand, are, well, disc-shaped, and we strongly recommend them for people struggling with either strength or weakness pelvic floor issues. Here’s our rationale:
- A menstrual disc doesn't require suction, so it may be counterintuitive to have it be your first choice. You may be concerned about whether it will stay in place if your pelvic muscles aren’t super strong. However, a disc is wider-shaped and tucked inside the vaginal fornix cavity—and the pubic bone props it up. It’s held in place by the surrounding tissues, so it’s very unlikely it will fall out.
- Discs are a better and softer alternative for those struggling with tight pelvic muscles. They tend to be more flexible and easier to insert/remove.
Considering their anatomic position, discs can also support your internal organs without the risk associated with cups (incorrect cup usage can sometimes cause pelvic organ prolapse).
nixit is a disc-shaped menstrual cup designed with your convenience in mind. It’s soft, suction, and BPA-free.
Show Some TLC to Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
So, ready to show some TLC to your pelvic muscles? Now you know all you need to know to take charge of your pelvic floor health and wellness.
Pelvic floor disorders tend to get worse if neglected, and time is of the essence—so if you suspect something, see your physio ASAP. A good therapist will help relieve pelvic floor pain and other related symptoms.
As humans, we get to be myopic about things we cannot see, and that’s why awareness counts big time when it comes to pelvic floor health.
Here at nixit, our mission is to bring awareness about healthy, planet-friendly period care—the one you’ll feel comfortable wearing both physically and emotionally. We also create reusable menstrual discs hoping to put a dent in the universe.
So, have a peek at our product page to see what’s it all about, or have a look at our recommended reading list:
- Do Menstrual Cups Cause Pelvic Organ Prolapse? An Expert Weighs In
- Pelvic Floor Dysfunction: Common Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
- Menstrual Disc: Your A to Z Beginner Guide