Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles in your pelvis that runs from your pubic bone (in the front of your body) to the tailbone (in the back). There are numerous muscles in this group although they generally function together. They are part of your “core” along with your abdominal and spinal muscles. These muscles are small, but have a big job!
Pelvic floor muscles have 3 main functions. Primarily it supports your pelvic organs – the bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum. It also has a sphincteric function – holding in urine and feces until it is time to void. Lastly it has a sexual function. While there are numerous small muscles they all work together so you do not have to do separate exercises for each of them. You will hear these muscles referred to as PC or levator ani and are what you contract to do Kegel exercises.
There are 2 Types of Muscle Fibers in the body. Type I – Slow twitch for endurance and Type II - Fast twitch for speed or power. Because they have different functions they need to be worked differently. Your pelvic floor has both of these muscle fibers, but is primarily made up of slow twitch. The pelvic floors main function of supporting the pelvic organs requires they function at a low level all the time. On a scale of 0-100 the pelvic floor maintains a level of about 2 as a baseline. When you contract these muscles you may go up to 30-80 (depending on how strong you are).
In a person who has pelvic pain the muscles are sometimes at a baseline of 10-20! This constant high level of contraction of the pelvic floor muscles can cause tension to build and pain to occur. This spasming of the muscles is what leads to various pelvic pain syndromes. The pain you are feeling is not all in your head! Notice your pelvic floor. Can you feel if it is tight? Try to notice throughout the day and when you catch yourself clenching then relax them. It has become a habit for them to be tight so it can become the habit for them to be relaxed. Take a deep breath and let them go.
Vulvodynia, Vulvar Vestibulitis, Vaginismus, Levator Ani Syndrome, Dyspareunia, prostatitis, interstitial Cystitis and Endometriosis are just a few of the conditions that cause pelvic pain. All of these conditions can be treated be a pelvic health physical therapist! Diversified Physical Therapy specializes in the treatment of pelvic pain and other pelvic disorders. Don't live with pain, contact us to see if PT would be helpful for you!