Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Definition
Pelvic floor dysfunction is a condition characterized by weak muscles surrounding the bladder, uterus (women), prostate (men), and rectum. Individuals with this condition experience difficulty relaxing the muscles of the pelvic floor. As a result, they cannot produce complete bowel movements. There are many disorders that can cause the improper functioning of pelvic floor muscles. A physician may administer a thorough physical examination and health history evaluation to determine whether or not pelvic floor dysfunction is present. 

Causes
Pelvic floor dysfunction is often the result of an underlying condition or obstetrical (child-bearing) history in women. Conditions that may lead to pelvic floor dysfunction include rectocele, paradoxical puborectalis contraction, and pelvic pain syndromes (i.e. coccygodynia, proctalgia fugax, and pudendal neuralgia). Women who experience difficult childbirth may be at risk of developing pelvic floor dysfunction.

Risk Factors
Taking a patient’s medical history is immensely valuable when diagnosing pelvic floor dysfunction. Women with a history of difficult deliveries, which often includes forceps deliveries, prolonged labor, or episiotomies (incision made between the vaginal opening and anus to help with childbirth) are at risk of developing pelvic floor dysfunction. Additionally, patients with a history of bowel irregularities (i.e. diarrhea, constipation, etc.) and anorectal surgeries are at an increased risk of developing this condition. Patients should have their symptoms, current health status, and medical history evaluated if pelvic floor disorder is suspected.

Symptoms
Because pelvic floor dysfunction causes abnormalities with bowel movements, pain, and other symptoms may be present. Symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction often include:

  • Urgent, painful, or frequent urination
  • Incomplete emptying of urine or bowels
  • Straining or pain during bowel movements
  • Pain in the lower back, groin or rectum
  • Pain during or after sexual intercourse
  • Muscle spasms in the pelvic region

Treatments
Pelvic floor dysfunction can be debilitating, which is why patients may want to consider treatment to experience relief from their symptoms. Treatment for pelvic floor dysfunction often includes a combination of techniques such as self-care, medication, physical therapy, or minimally invasive surgery. Unique treatment modalities like biofeedback, electrical stimulation, interferential therapy, ultrasound therapy, and cold laser therapy may also be considered to treat pelvic floor dysfunction. 

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