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The Pelvic Floor: What Is It & Why It's Important


What exactly is the pelvic floor?


The pelvic floor consists of three layers of muscle that span across the bottom of your pelvis between your hips, pubic bone and tailbone like a hammock. They are tasked with important bodily functions and when they are functioning properly, life is great! But when there is weakness, imbalance or dysfunction the resulting symptoms can be embarrassing and painful.


Imagine, if you will, your core as a pop can. The lid would be your diaphragm, our major breathing muscle, which lies horizontally just below your sternum and within you ribcage. The circular sides of the can would encompass your abdominals, erector spinae and multifidi muscles that reach around your core from your belly button to your spine. Last (but not least!), the base of the can would be your PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES! Together this group is known as your can of stability”.


You may also envision the pelvis and the pelvic floor muscles as a bowl. The top of the pelvis, the pelvic ring, is the brim of the bowl, while the pelvic floor muscles form the bowl shape to support its contents (the organs!).


Why is the pelvic floor so important?


The pelvic floor is responsible for some of your body’s most vital and necessary daily functions.


Like I mentioned above, the pelvic floor is made up of three layers of muscle. The first and second layers are in charge of controlling the opening and closure of the urethral, vaginal and anal openings, which are important for functions of peeing, pooping, giving birth and sexual intercourse. The third layer of muscle is primarily responsible for supporting the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus and rectum) as well as maintaining core stability and intra-abdominal pressure with movement.


Any weakness or imbalances in your can of stability, as described above, can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction which can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life.


What does pelvic floor dysfunction look like?


Common pelvic floor dysfunctions include urinary and bowel incontinence and urgency, constipation, pelvic organ prolapse, and pain with intercourse. Dysfunction may also encompass diastasis recti abdominis (DRA), low back, hip, tailbone and pubic symphysis pain.


These symptoms may be due to a combination of problems, including muscles that are too weak, too tight or uncoordinated. They may also be influenced by daily stress, anxiety or depression as well as past experiences such as abdominal surgeries, birth or sexual trauma.


If you are struggling with any of the above stated problems, email Dr. Hayley VanBeek at hayley@fuelphysicaltherapy.com to ask any questions and set up a consultation.