Quick, think about Canada’s most common medical problems. Heart disease and cancer may come to mind, as they should. But one-fourth of Canadian women experience pelvic floor disorders, as well as thousands of men.
Very few Canadians are aware of what the pelvic floor is, let alone what pelvic floor disorders are. Before you experience a disorder, you need to educate yourself and take charge of your pelvic health.
What is the pelvic floor, and what happens in a pelvic floor disorder? How can a doctor diagnose you with a disorder? What can you do to receive treatment?
Answer these questions and you can prevent and manage pelvic floor problems in no time. Here is your quick guide.
The Essentials of Pelvic Floor Disorders
The pelvic floor is the group of tissues and muscles that support the pelvis and the organs around the pelvis. The pelvic floor provides support to the bladder, rectum, uterus, and vagina.
The muscles can move up and down, and they stretch from the tailbone to the pubic bone. The muscles are very tight, especially in the areas around the vagina and nerves.
A pelvic floor disorder (PFD) occurs when the muscles or organs in the pelvic floor become damaged. The muscles can also become too tight or too weak, resulting in organ problems.
Anyone can experience pelvic floor disorders. People with obesity and people who are pregnant are more likely to experience them, as body fat and the weight of a fetus apply pressure to the pelvic floor.
Types of Pelvic Floor Disorders
There are many types of pelvic floor disorders, but there are a few that are extremely common. In order to understand your pelvic floor health, you should understand the most common disorders.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when an organ on the pelvic floor shifts from its normal position. It may descend into the anus, vaginal canal, or another location.
Any organ on the pelvic floor can create prolapse. A dropped bladder occurs when the bladder drops into the vaginal canal. It can lead to extreme pain as well as difficulty urinating and swelling.
Uterine prolapse occurs when the uterus falls into the vaginal canal. Many people experience small bowel prolapse alongside uterine prolapse, which can result in severe pain.
Bladder Control Disorders
Bladder control issues can occur independently of a dropped bladder. If the muscles around your bladder loosen, you may not be able to hold your urine long enough to reach the bathroom. You may experience frequent urination, or you may leak urine at random moments.
If the muscles tighten, you may find it hard to urinate, even if you have the urge to do so. You may experience blood in your urine as well.
Bowel Control Disorders
Most people with bowel control disorders experience bowel incontinence. They are unable to control their bowel movements and tighten their muscles to prevent stool leakage. But the opposite can also occur, with someone experiencing constipation or difficulty passing stool.
A PFD diagnosis can take some time. The symptoms of PFDs overlap with other conditions, including muscle strains and irritable bowel syndrome.
If your doctor thinks you may have a PFD, they will ask you a series of questions about your symptoms. Some of the questions may be uncomfortable or personal, but you should try to give the clearest answers you can. The more details you provide, the sooner your doctor can diagnose you.
Your doctor may ask you to keep a diary monitoring your symptoms. If you experience severe symptoms, you should call your doctor.
Your doctor can conduct a physical exam to assess where your muscles and organs are. During a digital rectal exam, a doctor will feel inside your rectum to determine if anything has shifted out of place. The exam will last only a few seconds, and you can prepare for it by taking deep breaths and relaxing your muscles.
If the exam suggests a PFD, your doctor may order tests. They can order blood and stool tests to see if you have an infection or inflammation.
They can also request bowel function tests, which will assess how well your muscles and nerves are. X-rays can produce images of your organs, allowing a doctor to see where everything is.
Some PFDs do not require extensive treatment. You may need to adopt lifestyle changes so you put less stress on your pelvic floor.
You should avoid pushing or straining your muscles, especially when you are using the bathroom. You should eat small meals, which will relax your muscles.
Medications for PFDs include muscle relaxants and botox injections. These medications treat tight muscles, and they’re not ideal for people who have weak ones.
You can receive pelvic floor physiotherapy. Exercises like heel slides and diaphragmatic breathing can relax your muscles and help you coordinate them.
Most people do not need surgery to treat PFDs. If you have organ prolapse, you can get a pessary, a device that goes inside the vagina and supports the descending organs. If you do need surgery, you can request a minimally invasive one that targets a particular muscle or organ.
Getting Help With Your Pelvic Floor
Pelvic floor disorders are common due to the sensitive nature of the pelvic floor. It can move up and down, causing organs to shift and muscles to tear or tighten. A disorder can affect your bowel movements, urination, and other bodily functions.
Your doctor can look at your symptoms and run tests to give you a diagnosis within a few days. You can then start treatment, including lifestyle changes and physical therapy. It may take time, but your disorder can eventually be cured.
Take advantage of your pelvic health resources. Reform Physiotherapy serves the Brampton area. Contact us today.