Pelvic floor muscle disorders are so common, in fact 1 in 4 women have a problem like incontinence or prolapse (Wu et al., 2014). But that doesn’t mean it’s normal. In addition, almost 1 in 7 women experience chronic pelvic pain (Mathias et al., 1996).

Pelvic floor dysfunction can be tricky to identify and treat, mostly because those topics are “taboo” and the symptoms of pelvic floor muscle problems are not only common, but can also mimic other medical or systemic issues (like infection). Surgical intervention, although it can be invasive and risky, is sometimes an option for very severe pelvic floor dysfunction, however not appropriate for the majority of mild to moderate problems. Perifit is a way to maintain strength and health in the pelvic floor, and it does so safely, conservatively, and with very low risk.

What is the pelvic floor anatomy?

The pelvic floor is a basket of muscles that support the pelvic organs, helps keep us continent, and provides a sexual function. Here’s a quick look at the functions of the pelvic floor:

Pelvic floor supporting pelvic organs: bladder, vagina and uterus, colonSphincter Control (closing):

Contracting the pelvic floor muscles closes the urinary and anal sphincters, which allows continence to be maintained. This is what keeps urine and stool in the bladder and rectum until we are able to void or defecate appropriately. Relaxing pelvic floor muscles opens the urinary and anal sphincters, allowing for voluntary urination and defecation. In order for the bladder and bowel to empty fully, the muscles have to be lengthened and relaxed as urine and stool are released. 

Pelvic organs are supported by a trampoline-like pelvic floorSupporting Pelvic Organs: 

The pelvic floor muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues are vital in maintaining proper support of the pelvic organs. These structures help maintain optimal contraction and support against increases and movement of intra-abdominal pressure, which helps keep our organs supported and in the optimal position. Over time, this can help prevent prolapse.

What are the symptoms of a weak pelvic floor?

Pelvic floor dysfunction can occur when the pelvic floor muscles are injured or have become weaker than they were before. Pregnancy and birth are major contributors to pelvic floor problems, along with the normal aging process and increased body weight. Other factors, like poor breathing patterns and poor body mechanics can make the pelvic floor muscles tight, weak, or out of sync with other muscles in the body. Pelvic floor dysfunction is linked with urinary leakage, decreased libidio and arousal, and pain with sexual activity (Handa, Cundiff, Chang, & Helzlsouer, 2008).

How can you prevent pelvic floor disorders?

One may to prevent pelvic floor dysfunction is to maintain and healthy and strong pelvic floor. Just like any muscle in our body, being strong and firing at the right times in the right way will improve overall function.
However, since we can’t see the pelvic floor, it’s hard to tell if the muscles are getting weaker or “atrophied” (which means they are losing their mass and becoming smaller). Sometimes this happens, and we don’t even have symptoms yet! Some common symptoms of a weak pelvic floor may be leaking urine with coughing or sneezing, or even laughing or exercise. In order to improve bladder control, the pelvic floor muscles need to be strong and coordinated, and that can help maintain overall pelvic health.

How can you do pelvic floor exercises?

Pelvic floor muscles consist of 2 types of muscle fibers: slow and fast twitch. In order to have the best outcomes, and choose the right exercises, BOTH sets of fibers in the muscles need to be addressed.

  • Fast twitch muscles help keep us dry with quick increases in abdominal pressure (like a sneeze or cough). If you are leaking urine with these types of activity, it’s important to target the fast twitch fibers with specialized Kegel exercises.

  • Slow twitch fibers help keep us dry and supported throughout the day. Overactive bladder or prolapse may benefit from Kegels that target the slow twitch fibers, because we have to train the endurance of the pelvic floor.

Perifit gives you biofeedback to prevent pelvic floor issues

Specialized pelvic floor exercises, Kegels, can help minimize symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction. It’s hard to tell, on your own, if your exercises are making a difference! Perifit was created to give you instant feedback about your pelvic floor and your Kegels, and it does so with a modern app and internal sensor.

Perifit guides you in your pelvic floor training, gives stats and feedback about your program and progress, and helps you keep track of your goals. Using Perifit will help you understand how to do a Kegel and pelvic floor contraction the right way, and will help maintain pelvic health and help to prevent future issues.

Article written by
Marcy Crouch, PT, DPT, WCS
Board Certified in Women's Health Physical Therapy
Creator and founder of The DT Method™️: The Standard for Birth Prep & PostPartum Recovery
@thedowntheredoc 

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References:

Handa, V. L., Cundiff, G., Chang, H. H., & Helzlsouer, K. J. (2008). Female sexualfunction and pelvic floor disorders. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 111(5), 1045-52. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2746737/ 

Mathias, S.D., Kuppermann, M., Liberman, R.F., Lipschutz, R.C., Steege, J.F. (1996). Chronic pelvic pain: prevalence, health-related quality of life, and economic corelates. Obstet Gynecol, 87(3): 321-7. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8598948 

Wu, J. M., Vaughan, C. P., Goode, P. S., Redden, D. T., Burgio, K. L., Richter, H. E., & Markland, A. D. (2014). Prevalence and trends of symptomatic pelvic floor disorders in U.S. women. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 123(1), 141-8. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3970401/