A Tour of Your Pelvic Floor
Biceps, hamstrings, glutes: These are muscle names you may be familiar with. You know when you flex your arm muscles to lift a heavy box or stretch your leg muscles after a long car ride. But there’s a very important group of muscles nestled deep inside your body that you use all day long, probably without ever giving it much thought: your pelvic floor.
Picture a group of muscles shaped like a bowl at the bottom of your torso, stretching from your pubic bone in the front to your tailbone in the back. This is your pelvic floor.
The importance of the pelvic floor is right there in its name. Like the foundation of a house, your pelvic floor supports everything above it. That includes all your major organs — your bladder, intestines, stomach, uterus, and more. It’s a big job. The muscles and tissues of your pelvic floor are flexible — making them more like a hammock than a hard concrete floor.
Just like any other muscle, the pelvic floor can develop pain or weakness. When this happens, it can cause many different health issues — leaking urine, constipation, pelvic and vaginal pain, organ prolapse, and more — because the pelvic floor plays a role in so many different body functions.
Knowing more about how your pelvic floor works may help you understand what could be causing a host of symptoms, which can range from mildly annoying to completely disruptive. It will help you be more informed when you work with your Hinge Health physical therapist or coach.
Your Pelvic Floor’s Job Description
Your pelvic floor carries a lot of responsibility. It helps with:
Continence. So — pee and poop. Your pelvic floor muscles help control when you go to the bathroom. They contract or close around the urethra and rectum to hold in urine, feces, and gas. Then they relax (or open) when you decide to urinate or have a bowel movement.
Support. Pelvic floor muscles act like a “hammock'' that holds up your internal organs. If the “hammock” becomes weak (sometimes due to age or hormonal changes) or undergoes a lot of strain (say, during pregnancy) organs might shift down, creating a bulge or sense of pressure in the vagina (commonly known as pelvic organ prolapse).
Stabilization. Did you know that your pelvic floor muscles are a part of your core? Most people associate “core” with abs. But your core is actually more of a square, made up of your abdominal, back, diaphragm, and pelvic floor muscles. They work together to help with balance and stability during movements that use your trunk, like bracing, bending, and lifting.
Sex. Pelvic floor muscles play a role in arousal and orgasm in both men and women. And in women specifically, these muscles need to relax to allow for comfort during sex and during vaginal childbirth.
Circulation. Pelvic floor muscles help pump blood and lymphatic fluid (clear fluid that carries infection-fighting cells through your body) from your legs and abdomen back to your heart.
Your Pelvic Floor Is a Big Deal
An issue with your pelvic floor is kind of like a leaky pipe in your basement. It’s a quiet and subtle problem that you don’t notice until you find the water damage. And then it’s pretty hard to ignore. Your pelvic floor plays a really important role in a lot of daily functions but it usually just “flies under the radar.” Most people don’t think about their pelvic floor until it starts causing disruptive symptoms.
Pelvic floor symptoms don’t have to negatively impact your quality of life forever, though. With a better understanding of what your pelvic floor does, you can more effectively treat your symptoms. And Hinge Health is here to help you do just that.
Starting Pelvic Floor Exercises
If you’re struggling with any type of pelvic floor problem, pelvic floor exercises can make a big difference. Repeat after us: Pelvic floor exercises are not just Kegels. Rather, they include a variety of moves that help strengthen and relax the muscles of your pelvic floor, which support your pelvic organs (bladder, bowels, etc.). Be sure to reach out to your Hinge Health physical therapist or coach if you’re interested in adding pelvic floor exercises to your current routine.
Your pelvic floor sits at the base of your pelvis and is made up of layers of muscles, ligaments, and fascia (or connective tissue) that stretch from your pubic bone in front of your body back to your tailbone.
Pelvic floor muslces play an important role in controlling bowel and bladder function, supporting your major organs, stabilizing your trunk, pleasure during sex, and circulation.
Pelvic floor disorder can cause very disruptive symptoms like leaking urine, constipation, pelvic and vaginal pain, organ prolapse, and more. There are a lot of ways to address these symptoms, though, such as with pelvic floor exercises.
Hodes, P., Sapsford, R., & Pengel, L. (2007). Postural and respiratory functions of the pelvic floor muscles. Neurourology and Urodynamics, 26(3), 362-371. doi: 10.1002/nau.20232
Netter, F. (2018). Atlas of human anatomy (8th ed). New Jersey: Novartis.