What is the Pelvic Floor?
Updated: Feb 18, 2021
We all have one- but we all may not know exactly where our pelvic floor muscles are or what they do. Did you know both men and women have a pelvic floor, and most of the muscles are exactly the same!
Anatomy of the Pelvic Floor
Your pelvis is made up of two bones that are joined together in the back by your sacrum (the lowest part of your spine). These bones are held together by ligaments, tendons, muscles and connective tissue. When the bones join together, they form a bowl. At the base of this bowl are your pelvic floor muscles. You can think of them as forming a hammock that runs from the front (your pubic bone) to the back (your tailbone). Your pelvic floor consists of three layers of muscles and they play an important role in bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction. Let’s chat about the different jobs of the pelvic floor.
Role of the Pelvic Floor
These muscles allow urine to be stored in the bladder and keep it inside your bladder until you are ready to urinate. They also have to relax fully to release around the urethra to allow complete emptying of your bladder. They work to make sure you aren’t peeing your pants before you get to the bathroom or when you are chasing after your kids on the playground.
The pelvic floor muscles also keep your poop (and gas) inside of your rectum until you are ready to have a bowel movement. These muscles then relax to allow poop to exit your body without any straining.
The pelvic floor plays a role in both arousal and pleasure. The muscles need to relax around the opening of the vagina to allow for penetration. They also quickly contract and relax during orgasm.
Support + Stability:
This group of muscles are responsible for holding your internal organs (bladder, rectum and uterus in females) inside of your body. Therefore, they play an important role in supporting a growing baby (and uterus) when you are pregnant. Lastly, they play a role in stability, giving your spine support to do all the activities you love.
What happens when these muscles aren’t working optimally?
Sometimes, your muscles can be too tight, or overactive. This may lead to pelvic pain, constipation, pain with sex, tailbone pain or a slow urinary stream. Other times, the pelvic floor muscles may be weak which may lead to urinary leakage, difficulty holding back gas or pressure/heaviness in your pelvis. It is helpful to know whether your muscles are too weak or too tight as not everyone needs to be doing kegels!
This is where seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist can be super helpful. If you are experiencing any urinary urgency/frequency, stress incontinence, pelvic pain, constipation or pain with sex, you should reach out to a local pelvic PT to see how they can help. You can use this directory to find a pelvic PT near you. I’d also be happy to assist you if you are having trouble finding anyone in your hometown.