Feeling constipated or strained with bowel movements? Do you frequently need to urinate or find urination uncomfortable? Is sexual intercourse painful? Are you suffering from ongoing discomfort in your pelvic region or lower back that can’t be explained by other causes?
These are just a few of the symptoms that may suggest you have pelvic floor dysfunction. The good news is many of these issues can be addressed through a range of natural therapies and exercises, and Align’s own Dr. Urszula May is one of the few naturopathic doctors in Canada with special training in pelvic floor diagnosis and treatment.
Understanding Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
The pelvic floor is a sling-like structure made up of muscle and connective tissue that sits between the hips, pubic bone and tailbone. It’s a crucial component of your anatomy that supports bodily functions during urination, defecation, childbirth and sexual intercourse. It also acts like a pump, moving blood and lymph from the lower body back to the heart, and provides support and stability for your internal organs and body as a whole.
“I often say the pelvic floor is everything from the knees to the ribs,” says Dr. May. “Any issues, any pains, and any concerns in these areas can be related to the pelvic floor.”
While falls, traumas, infections, childbirth and surgeries are some of the most common reasons patients end up with pelvic floor dysfunctions, many pelvic floor issues arise slowly over time and the exact causes are often unknown. It can also be wrongly associated with aging in general or misdiagnosed as hip and/or lower back pain.
“What first drew me to learn more about pelvic floor dysfunction were my chronic bowel patients,” says Dr. May. “Many weren’t getting better with all of the things I knew they should be getting better with. Pelvic floor treatment is ultimately what ended up helping many of them.”
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and Diagnosis
When damaged, the muscles, tissues and joints of the pelvis can become too tight or too loose, or both. Tissues that are too tight can pull on the structures in their ‘neighbourhood’, like the bladder or vaginal canal for example, leading to urge incontinence or painful intercourse. When these tissues are too loose, pelvic organ prolapse or stress incontinence can result.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is diagnosed using hand-on assessment of both internal and external structures. An initial visit includes an examination of:
- muscle tone and trigger points
Often stress, anxiety and perceptions of pain are related to incontinence and pelvic pain, and those are also discussed and evaluated. An internal examination (rectal for men, vaginal and rectal for women) can be deferred depending on patient comfort level and body need.
Treatment and Relief
Pelvic floor dysfunctions can have a tremendous impact a person’s quality of life. Many who suffer from this dysfunction will spend more time at home or avoid social outings either because of the pain they’re in or the embarrassment they suffer from bladder and bowel control issues. Painful intercourse can also dramatically affect a person’s relationship with their sexual partner.
Treatment of the condition consists of a combination of in-office visits and self-care exercises like stretching, massage, deep breathing and daily bathing routines to help maintain the progress made during office visits.
“Self-care is the most important aspect of any pelvic floor treatment plan,” says Dr. May. “It’s not always easy, it does require you to work at it each and every day. But I do find that my pelvic floor patients are incredibly motivated, and I don’t have anyone that doesn’t get better when they put in the work.”
What’s exciting about pelvic floor therapy though is how well it works for people who thought they were stuck living with their symptoms for the rest of their lives. With the proper instruction and guidance, the results of pelvic floor therapy are life-long!
If you feel you may benefit from a pelvic floor assessment, or would like more information to see if pelvic floor therapy is right for you, please give us a call at 905-953-1008 to set up a consultation with Dr. May or book a visit online.