Pain and Incontinence
The most common symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction are pelvic pain and urinary incontinence. Some men and women experience both, while others suffer one or the other.
Pelvic pain can appear in women and men of all ages. It usually manifests as a feeling of pain or pressure in the low abdomen or deep in the pelvis. Some women have pain at the opening of their vagina, particularly with penetration. People with pelvic pain often have trouble sitting or standing for long periods of time, although this also varies from person to person. Pelvic floor dysfunction can interfere with bladder, bowel and sexual function and can greatly lower quality of life.
What Causes Pelvic Pain and Incontinence?
Pelvic floor dysfunction often causes or contributes to pelvic pain and urinary incontinence. The muscles may either be too tight or too weak.
Understanding what cause the pain and incontinence to appear in the first place can help during the treatment process. For example, pain and incontinence often appear after childbirth. During labor and delivery, the pelvic muscles are stretched and injured and sometimes cannot return to their normal condition on their own. In fact, more than 15 percent of women experience urinary incontinence or stress leakage after giving birth. In those cases, physical therapy can be used to address the problem directly and speed up healing.
Sometimes, pain and incontinence are caused by underlying medical conditions, including urinary tract infections, prostatitis, Interstitial Cystitis or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. These issues usually require other medical treatment, but having pelvic floor therapy can help reduce symptoms and improve quality life.
The most important thing to remember is that neither pelvic pain nor incontinence are hopeless conditions. Both can be treated or managed so you can get back your quality of life and return to the activities you love.
Treating the Problem
Dietary changes. Certain foods and drinks can inflame the bladder, causing it to react and spasm. There’s no single food that affects everybody, so it might be useful to keep a food diary for a few weeks. Simply write down everything you eat and drink to see if a pattern develops. If you develop urinary urgency or pain after drinking or eating a specific food, eliminating that from your diet could help.
Pelvic floor exercises. Better known as Kegel exercises, this is a form of therapy that can help strengthen the pelvic muscles that control the bladder. Once those muscles become stronger, it will become easier to hold the urine in and avoid leakage.
With pain and some urinary symptoms, learning pelvic floor relaxation exercises can help minimize tension and spasming of the pelvic floor muscles. This can help restore you to normal functioning and reduce your symptoms.
Dr. Erika Grace is a specialist in pelvic health in North Carolina. She offers comprehensive, dedicated treatment for a number of pelvis-related conditions. Her office focuses on personalized care that puts the patient first so you never have to feel ashamed or self-conscious about your health issues.