Your pelvic floor muscles are just like any other muscle in your body.
Just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean they can’t get tight, weak, overactive, or go into spasm.
A weak pelvic floor is common and can be caused by a variety of things, including improper peeing/pooping, pregnancy, prolapse, or other pelvic floor dysfunctions.
For some, it may be bothersome, while others may experience no symptoms at all.
For a second, think of your biceps:
If you have a weak bicep, the bicep has trouble contracting– or doing it’s job– meaning you’ll have difficulty bending your elbow to bring your hand close to your face.
When your pelvic floor muscles are weak, this means they have decreased muscle tone and have difficulty contracting– or doing their job to support our bowel, bladder, and reproductive health!
So, how do I know if I have a weak pelvic floor?
While visiting a physician or a pelvic health physical therapist you trust is ideal to determine whether or not your pelvic floor is weak, there are some things to look out for:
Leaking pee, or urinary incontinence, is a common symptom of pelvic floor weakness. This loss of control over the muscles of our bladder is due to the lack of support for our urethra from our pelvic floor muscles.
While leaking can occur during coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising, or even at rest, LEAKING IS NOT NORMAL. It’s a sign of a weak pelvic floor and can be addressed and eliminated.
Increased Urinary Urge/Frequency
If you find yourself peeing more often than you’d like, chances are you might have a weak pelvic floor. It’s common for individuals with weak pelvic floor muscles to have increased urinary urgency and/or frequency, with or without leaking.
While vaginal dryness is commonly caused by low levels of estrogen, common in women postpartum, vaginal dryness is also a sign of a weak pelvic floor. Vaginal dryness can lead to further complications, including painful or less pleasurable intercourse.
Vaginal flatulence, better known as “queefing,” is one of the lesser-known symptoms of pelvic floor weakness. If you experience “queefing” during or after intercourse or exercise, this could be a sign that your pelvic floor muscles are weak, allowing air to trap itself inside of your vagina.
Pain during sex, or dyspareunia, is a common complaint of individuals with weak pelvic floor muscles, along with pelvic pain during other forms of penetration, including inserting a tampon or dug in a pelvic exam. These could be early indicators of pelvic floor muscle weakness.
When should I see a pelvic floor physical therapist?
While pelvic floor physical therapy exercises aren’t one size fits all, and everyone’s bodies and symptoms are different, a weak pelvic floor needs some strengthening.
If you are able to point out any of these as symptoms you experience, it doesn’t hurt to schedule an appointment with a pelvic health specialist.
Dealing with pelvic floor related issues may feel uncomfortable and embarrassing, and discussing your symptoms with your doctor may be challenging.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, know that you aren’t alone. Healthcare providers who specialize in this field are very familiar with these issues, and are only here to help.
Can I strengthen my pelvic floor at home?
While you’ve probably heard of kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor (which is the go-to for pelvic floor strengthening for many reasons), it’s important to know when and when NOT to do kegels– as well as how to do them correctly (I’ll talk about that in a future post.)
In addition, there are a variety of other muscles we can work to target our pelvic floor (abdominals, glutes, etc.) as well as tools that can be purchased and used at home to help strengthen your pelvic floor (hint hint.)