Pelvic floor dysfunction is any condition is which the pelvic floor muscles do not function correctly. It can affect men and women, although the frequency is higher in women due to birth trauma and menopause.
The pelvic floor is just like any other muscle in the body. Imagine trying to walk up the stairs with a really bad hamstring strain. It would hurt to put pressure through the leg and you would likely limp or even have to hold onto the rail to make it up the stairs. Now apply the same principle to the pelvic floor. If overly stretched or strained (such as during child birth) it will not be able to hold in urine (urinary incontinence) or stool (fecal incontinence). If overly tight, then it will not be able to adequately eliminate urine, stool or relax during intercourse. Sounds pretty bad right? But it can go a step further and start aggravating the organs. When this happens it can mimic symptoms that may appear to be coming from the organs when they are really coming from the pelvic floor!
When the pelvic floor is severely irritated and tight, it can cause urinary frequency, urinary urgency, irritable bowel symptoms, pelvic, back and abdominal pain etc. So often patients seek out help from a number of different specialists not realizing that all of their symptoms are connected. They will see a urologist for the urinary frequency, urgency and incontinence. Then see a gastroenterologist or colorectal surgeon for constipation or IBS, a gynecologist for the pain with intercourse or what they think is a yeast infection. Then a neurologist for pain. Sooner or later they may end up seeing a psychologist for stress and anxiety from everything they are going through.
By the time they have seen all these specialists, they are so frustrated that no one has given them an adequate answer to their problem. Physical therapists are some of the last practitioners to see these patients yet play a critical part in healing pelvic dysfunction.
Pelvic floor dysfunction can occur for many different reasons. It can be caused by: