Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Pelvic floor dysfunction occurs when there is a loss of control of the pelvic floor muscles, which act as a sling to support the organs located in the pelvis. These include the bladder, the uterus (in women), the prostate (in men), and the rectum. Those affected by pelvic floor dysfunction contract these muscles even when they need to be relaxed in order to allow for proper bowel and bladder function. Because of this constant muscle contraction, those with pelvic floor dysfunction have trouble with bowel movements. Specifically, symptoms include frequently feeling the need to have bowel movements, feeling unable to complete a bowel movement, and feeling constipated or needing to strain during bowel movements. Additionally, those affected by pelvic floor dysfunction may experience a frequent urge to urinate, painful urination, low back pain that is not otherwise explained, pain during sexual intercourse (for women), and constant pain in the pelvic area, rectum, or genitals. In most cases, this condition responds positively to non-surgical treatment. Such treatments include administration of muscle relaxants, use of various relaxation techniques, and perhaps most importantly, participation in a physical therapy program to improve muscle strength and coordination. Physical therapists also may use biofeedback, a technique that involves using special sensors and video to capture and analyze pelvic floor muscle activity. In some cases—such as those involving rectal prolapse or rectocele—surgery may be required.