Allow Me To Introduce You
to Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
If you are a human, you have a pelvis AND pelvic floor muscles.
If you are like most humans, you have little (to no) idea on what your pelvic floor muscles are, how to use them, and how to help them work better.
Allow me to step in 🙂 My name is Dr. Kelly Sadauckas, one of a handful of Doctors of Physical Therapy in the world who are double board certified in Pelvic Health and Orthopedics. Today, I’d like to demystify your pelvic floor.
What are your pelvic floor muscles?
1. Your Pelvic Floor Muscles Work Like a ‘Smart’ Hammock
It is a three dimensional layer of muscles that goes from the back of your pubic bone, to the front of your sacrum, as well as from your sit bones to , well…your taint (the space between your vag and rectum, or balls and rectum).
Depending on what signals the pelvic muscles are sending to (& receiving from) your brain, they will automatically adjust their muscle activity to fit the task at hand. Kind of like ‘auto-dimmer switches’ on your computer screens or in your houses. When the programming is set up well, the brain knows the perfect muscle intensity for the task, without you having to think about it. Cool, huh?
2. There is more than one pelvic floor muscle
There are more than 6 different muscles on each side!!!
3. You have left AND right Pelvic Floor Muscles!
Just like you have muscles of your left leg that have their own strength and coordination apart from your right leg, you have TWO GROUPS of pelvic muscles, one group on the left side of your body, and one group on the right. In the best of times, these two groups of muscles function ‘cooperatively’ together, with totally different nervous system control, and totally different coordination patterns.
Frankly, it’s amazing that our pelvic floor muscles can ever work…yet they do!
Your Pelvic Floor Muscles Work Together!
They have unique, but complementary functions
- Some constrict (close) or relax (open) the urethra (pee hole)
- Some constrict (close) or relax (open) the rectum (poop hole)
- Some connect the pubic bone to the tailbone, narrowing (or broadening) the pelvic outlet (bottom opening space)
- Some go from the pubic bone and loop around the vagina or rectum, assisting in ‘normal’ angles for pee and poop.
- Some elevate the entire hammock…’lifting and scooping’ all the parts up between our sit bones, as I like to say 🙂
Pee, Poop or Seggsy Time Problems Happen When Your Pelvic Muscles Stop Working Cooperatively
Yep, nearly all pelvic problems have some component of muscle dysfunction at their root, or as a part of the persistent problem. Pee leaks, fart leaks, pee urgency, pee anxiety, poo urgency, constipation, pain with sitting, pain with tampons, pain with periods, pain with sex, “meh” sex….while there can be other medical causes of these pelvic problems, one of the most common causes is pelvic floor muscle hypertonicity, which means “muscles are too dang tight to work right.”
Pelvic Problems are Usually Due to your Pelvic Muscles Being Too Tight.
Tight muscles are NEVER strong. 🙁 And they are often painful. 🙁 🙁
Q: But won’t the pelvic problem just go away on it’s own? I don’t want to talk about this with anyone!
A: Nope, Pelvic Problems Don’t Usually Go Away on Their Own Because The Brain LOVES to Ignore the Pelvic Floor!
We get into dissociation and trauma, and brain anatomy in other blog posts, but the gist is this:
Any trauma, illness or stress, can result in the brain ignoring your pelvic region.
The brain does this in a misguided attempt to protect us.
After ANY physical injury, illness or stress, especially one that involves digestion, the crotch or pelvic problems (including having abdominal surgery, or having a baby!!), the brain is like “Whoa. That sucked. I don’t want that to happen again. I’m going to protect you by ignoring the pelvic region, so you never feel pain again AND I’m going to tighten up the pelvic muscles to protect you.”
But here’s the thing, chicken wing. The brain isn’t supposed to ignore “all of the nerves” to a body region. It actually can’t. So it ends up ignoring the proprioception nerves, which are the nerves that tell us where our body is in space. So our pelvic muscles start to rest in a clenched fist…and since our position sense is turned down, we don’t notice.
(Side note, it also does this in response to emotional trauma, or perceived stress. One old study showed that if you show a group of college age women (with zero trauma history) a picture of a dark parking garage, that their pelvic floor muscles will clench without them realizing it!!)
And we don’t notice, in fact, until we start peeing our pants, or sex hurts.
And even then, we just notice the symptoms, and we’re not even aware of the cause.
We might be told “just do kegels”, because the practitioner didn’t understand that the usual way we have pelvic problems is from muscles being disconnected and weak because they are too tight all the dang time.
So how do we fix this?
Educate yourself, by someone with kick-butt pelvic health credentials, like me!
If you can, visit with a Pelvic Physio online or in person, to learn more about your specific anatomy.
Learn coordination exercises to improve your brain’s connection to your deep core and pelvic floor, with the understanding that the brain-body disconnect happened because the brain was trying to help you, not harm you…”it meant well” as they say 😉
Now go get your cute butt signed up for one of my classes, or read some more fun & educational blog posts 🙂
Xoxo -Dr. Kelly