Pelvic Floor Dysfunction: Common Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction: Common Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

5 minute read

Pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) isn’t pleasant! But if you’re suffering from it (or suspect you are), then you’ve come to the right place to get information about it and get it treated.

So what are the symptoms?

It can cause awkward sensations, such as difficulty urinating or frequently needing to use the bathroom. Worse still, you may experience decreased sexual sensation or painful intercourse, leading to your sex life suffering big time.

It can be difficult to talk about, but if there’s any area in your life where you should put your cards on the table, it’s the issues surrounding pelvic floor dysfunction. 

It’s wise to address PFD in its mild form before it starts causing you more difficulties, especially when you consider that the PFD symptoms can progressively worsen.

Luckily, here at
nixit, we welcome all topics under the sun, and the good news is, if you catch PFD early on, there's many effective treatments that can get your life back on track. 

Today we talk about what pelvic floor dysfunction is, what the most common symptoms and causes are, and the treatment options. 

What Is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?

Pelvic floor dysfunction can be an umbrella of different disorders—from pelvic organ prolapse to difficulty passing stool and urine. These disorders indicate your pelvic floor may not be doing its job effectively. 

To understand this further, let’s go back to the basics. The pelvic floor is the entire area surrounding your pelvic bone: muscles, ligaments, and tissues included. The muscles reach from the front of your pelvic bone to the lowest part of your spine (called the sacrum), attaching to all sides of the pelvic bone.

The muscles must be able to contract and relax to work properly and carry out their primary function of keeping your vagina, bladder, and rectum in place. So pelvic floor disorders crop up when pelvic floor muscles start to fall behind in performing these functions. Let’s examine which symptoms these disrupted functions can bring about. 

What Are the Symptoms? 

People suffering from PFD can have weak or overly strong pelvic floor muscles. So, you can expect different symptoms depending on which of these two conditions you have. In medical jargon, pelvic floor disorders are divided into low and high-tone disorders. In other words, you can have a hypertonic pelvic floor or a hypotonic pelvic floor

If your pelvic muscles are low-tone, they get more relaxed and looser than usual. As a result, you may have difficulty contracting them. When this happens, your core cannot be adequately supported, leading to urinary and bowel incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

On the flip side, if your pelvic floor muscles have a high-tone, they’re tighter and more restricted than usual, and you're likely to have trouble relaxing them. As a result, you may experience pain upon trying to relax or stretch these muscles.

High-tone pelvic muscles can also create problems with urinating and emptying your bowel and bladder, as well as a whole load of other related issues such as muscle spasms, pelvic pain, and painful intercourse.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the symptoms. 

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Symptoms

Low-Tone Disorder Symptoms

High-Tone Disorder Symptoms

  • Overactive bladder. Loose pelvic muscles can mess up your ability to control your urinary or bowel urges. If you have an overactive bladder, your muscles may contract, so you can’t empty your bladder completely, leaving you with a frequent desire to use the bathroom. 

  • Pelvic organ prolapse. Pelvic floor muscle weakening can cause pelvic organ prolapse. This may result in your pelvic organs dropping and pressing down on your vaginal region or rectum.

  • Urinary and fecal incontinence. The process of leaking urine, gas, or feces involuntary.

  • Stress incontinence. Involuntary leaking urine due to bodily stress and pressure, such as sneezing, coughing, laughing, or heavy lifting. 

  • Vaginismus. Uncontrolled tightening of the pelvic muscles resulting from muscle spasms in your pelvic (which can happen after using tampons, after a pelvic exam, and more). This disorder can also occur due to psychological fear of sexual penetration.

  • Vulvodynia. Chronic pain and discomfort localized in the vulva region.

  • Pelvic floor myofascial pain. Chronic pelvic floor pain resulting from tightened pelvic floor muscles.

  • Dyspareunia. The discomfort and pain during vaginal penetration due to too much muscle tension. 

  • Incomplete urinary and bowel movement. This condition occurs when a person has trouble with urine or bowel movement.

Causes of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Looking at the possible causes of pelvic floor dysfunction makes sense for two reasons: you know what issues are causing your ailment and you know whether you have a greater risk of developing PFD than other people. 

Like we did before, we’ll parse the information on PFD causes into those affecting high and low pelvic floor disorders. 

Common Causes Of Low-tone Pelvic Floor Disorders: 

  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic constipation (bearing down too hard while emptying your bowel can weaken your pelvic floor muscles)
  • Sustained traumatic injuries to the pelvic region
  • Advancing age
  • Drops in estrogen levels during menopause
  • Pelvic surgery

Pro Tip: The most common cause of PFD is childbirth and pregnancy. Pelvic muscles tend to weaken immediately after labour. And though the loss of control and sensation in your pelvic region (often followed by trouble controlling your bladder and bowel movements) is distressing, these issues can be amended by physical therapy.

Common Causes Of High-Tone Pelvic Floor Disorders: 

  • Scar tissue
  • Endometriosis (chronic pain and inflammation in the pelvis can get your muscles to tighten protectively)
  • Birth trauma (the pain and scarring caused by vaginal tearing can create tension in the pelvic floor area)
  • History of holding urine or stool
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Hemorrhoids

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