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With all the information that you can find on the internet and social media platforms about the pelvic floor, can you find the help you need out there? Why should you choose to go to pelvic floor physical therapy vs finding information online? Is in-person physical therapy worth it?
The pelvic floor is a group of 26 muscles that make up the bottom of the pelvis and create supportive hammock-like structure from the tailbone to the pubic bone and from hip to hip. The group of pelvic floor muscles connect with the abdominal wall, hips, and back to create the deep core musculature. These muscles work together in 5 primary functions.
- Support the pelvic organs which include the bladder, uterus, rectum, and prostate.
- Stabilize the hips, pelvis, and spine.
- Play an important role in sexual function.
- Create a sump pump for the lymphatic system.
- Create sphincters that help manage bladder and bowel control.
The muscles of the pelvic floor are the same as any other muscles in the body. They can become weakened or tight. Generally, a weaker pelvic floor can contribute to leaking and a tight pelvic floor can cause pain. This is a very large generalization. Because of changes with weakness or increased tension, many people are not able to do a pelvic floor contraction (Kegel) well or at all. And just FYI, Kegels by themselves are never the only answer to your pelvic floor concerns.
This is where in-person, hands-on pelvic floor physical therapy is so important. Physical therapists are the experts in muscles, joint, and nerve function. Pelvic floor PTs have gone a step more in their education and become experts in the muscles of the pelvic floor and how they relate to the rest of the body. This means the PT can assess your pelvic floor muscles with a 1-finger vaginal pelvic floor assessment. This allows you to tell the PT where you are having pain, weakness, or changes after delivery. The PT can also look at your vulvar and vaginal tissues to determine if there are any concerns or skin changes and refer you to the correct providers. The PT can also assess your movement patterns to see if your pelvic floor is affecting your hips, back, or other joints. From the examination, the PT can help you to learn how to activate, relax, and elongate your pelvic floor correctly and how to coordinate them with the rest of surrounding muscles.
Often, patients are not able to properly coordinate the muscles of the deep core. In this case, trying to do any exercises you find online with be futile. If you are incorrectly working these muscles, you will not improve, or you may worsen your issues. Seeing a PT in person can ensure you are performing exercises correctly, and also educate you to understand how to recognize when you are doing it incorrectly.
The pelvic floor PT will work with you to come up with an individualized plan to address your specific needs. There may be some cool-looking exercises on TikTok, but they are not specific to you and may contribute to making an issue either not improve or make it worse. It is also important to follow up with your PT to progress your exercises and to make sure that the exercises you are doing are helping you out.
Going online can feel like an easy answer, but if you are struggling with pelvic floor symptoms, pelvic floor PT is an excellent place to get the individualized help you need.