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Pelvic floor conditions: symptoms, causes, and treatment

Pelvic floor conditions refer to a range of health issues affecting the network of muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues that support the pelvic organs, including the bladder, uterus, and rectum. 

What are the types of pelvic floor conditions?

  • Pelvic organ prolapse (POP): Weakening of pelvic muscles causing organs like the bladder, uterus, or rectum to sag into the vaginal canal.

  • Urinary incontinence: Inability to control bladder function, leading to involuntary urine leakage.

  • Fecal incontinence: Loss of control over bowel movements, resulting in unintended fecal leakage.

  • Pelvic pain syndrome: Chronic pain in the pelvic area, often linked to muscle tension, inflammation, or nerve dysfunction.

  • Dyspareunia: Painful sexual intercourse, often associated with pelvic floor muscle issues.

  • Levator ani syndrome: Discomfort or pain in the pelvic region caused by tension in the levator ani muscles.

  • Interstitial cystitis: Chronic bladder condition leading to pain and discomfort in the pelvic and bladder area.

  • Coccydynia: Pain in the tailbone (coccyx), often associated with pelvic floor muscle tension or injury.

  • Vulvodynia: Chronic pain or discomfort in the vulvar area, impacting the pelvic floor.


Symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction 

  • Pelvic pain

  • Urinary incontinence

  • Fecal incontinence

  • Pelvic organ prolapse sensation

  • Painful sexual intercourse

  • Chronic constipation

  • Incomplete emptying of bowels or bladder

  • Pelvic muscle tension

  • Lower back pain

  • Recurrent pelvic infections

  • Difficulty initiating or stopping urination


If you suspect you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult with a St. Joseph Health OB/GYN for a proper diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.

Causes of pelvic floor conditions

Pelvic floor conditions can arise from various causes, contributing to the weakening or dysfunction of the pelvic floor muscles and associated structures. Common causes include:

  • Childbirth

  • Aging

  • Obesity

  • Chronic constipation

  • Chronic coughing

  • Heavy lifting

  • Genetic factors

  • Hormonal changes

  • Neurological disorders

  • Pelvic surgery

  • Trauma


Pelvic floor condition treatment options

The treatment of pelvic floor conditions involves a multifaceted approach tailored to the specific issue and its underlying causes. Here are common strategies used in the management of pelvic floor conditions:

  • Pelvic floor physical therapy: Specialized physical therapy focuses on strengthening and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. Therapists guide individuals through exercises and techniques to improve muscle function.

  • Biofeedback: Involves using electronic monitoring to provide visual or auditory cues, helping individuals gain awareness and control over pelvic floor muscles.

  • Medications: Depending on the specific condition, medications may be prescribed to address symptoms such as pain, inflammation, or incontinence.

  • Behavioral and lifestyle changes: Modifying habits, including dietary changes to alleviate constipation, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding activities that strain the pelvic floor, can contribute to improvement.

  • Surgical interventions: In cases where conservative measures are insufficient, surgical procedures may be considered. This can include repairs for pelvic organ prolapse or other corrective surgeries.

  • Relaxation techniques: Practices such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help reduce overall tension, contributing to pelvic floor relaxation.

  • Hormone therapy: For conditions related to hormonal changes, such as menopause, hormone therapy may be considered under medical guidance.


Each person's situation is unique, and consulting with a St. Joseph Health OB/GYN can provide valuable insights and options tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.

Pelvic floor exercises

  • Kegel exercises: Contract and hold the pelvic floor muscles for a count of 5 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds. Gradually increase the duration and repetitions.

  • Bridge exercise: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips toward the ceiling, engaging the pelvic floor muscles, then lower back down.

  • Squats: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and lower into a squat position. Keep the back straight, engaging the pelvic floor muscles as you rise.

  • Pelvic tilts: Lie on your back with knees bent. Tighten the abdominal muscles and tilt the pelvis upward, then relax back to the neutral position.

  • Flutter kicks: Lie on your back and extend your legs. Lift one leg slightly off the ground and then the other in a fluttering motion, engaging the pelvic muscles.

  • Yoga cat-cow pose: Start on hands and knees, alternating between arching and rounding your back. Coordinate with deep breathing to engage the pelvic floor.

  • Inner thigh squeeze: Sit or lie down with knees bent. Place a soft ball or pillow between the thighs and squeeze, engaging the inner thigh and pelvic floor muscles.

  • Heel slides: Lie on your back with knees bent. Slide one heel along the floor, straightening the leg, then return to the starting position.

  • Pelvic clocks: Sit comfortably and visualize a clock around your pelvis. Tilt your pelvis forward, backward, and to each side, engaging the pelvic muscles.

  • Step-ups: Stand in front of a step or sturdy platform. Step up with one foot, then bring the other foot up. Repeat, engaging the pelvic floor muscles.

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