The pelvic floor, what exactly is it? And, why should I care? These were some of the questions I asked myself. The pelvic floor is not an area that’s commonly thought of and it’s even less commonly discussed. The pelvic floor is a bowl-shaped group of muscles that sits inside of your hip bones. Why do we need it? It’s responsible for many things, including but not limited to: supporting the abdominal contents, allowing for the passage of waste, allowing for the passage of babies, sexual function, support of the skeletal system, posture, and connecting the “core” to the lower body and upper body. The 4 things I’m discussing today aren’t an exhaustive list of what I wish I knew earlier about my pelvic floor, but they’re some of the most important things I wish everyone talked about.
The Pelvic Floor is Part of a Greater System of Support. The pelvic floor is part of a system of support that stabilizes us as we move. This system, the deep lower core, is made of the diaphragm (the main muscle for breathing), the transverse abdominis (the deepest abdominal muscle), the multifidi (the deepest layer of back muscles) and the pelvic floor. It creates a cylindrical shape: diaphragm on top, pelvic floor on the bottom with the transverse abdominis wrapping around the sides to the front and the multifidi creating the back. When we use this system to its fullest potential, we create the most efficient and effective way to gain actual stability within our body. Think of the deep lower core as the base in which your outer system (arms, legs, head) moves upon. The stronger the base, the more freely we can move. Because this system the base of our support, it is also one of the most important components of our posture. Your pelvic floor holds up your head! Think about that! How does that happen? Your pelvic floor and diaphragm are essentially (in ideal posture) stacked in line with each other with your diaphragm stacked over your pelvic floor and with your head stacking on top of the diaphragm. We can’t achieve ideal posture without addressing the function of the pelvic floor and its relationship to the rest of the body.
It Moves. Wait, what moves? Your pelvis forms an oval shape, the pelvic ring, and within that ring there are 5 joints. There are two joints in the front formed by your two pubic bones and your pubic symphesis. The disc (i.e., pubic symphesis) between your two pubic bones decreases the amount of compression forces that pass through your pelvis. Your sacroiliac joints (or SI joints) create two joints on the back side of the pelvis. The SI joints connect the two halves of the pelvis to your sacrum. The final joint is at the bottom of the sacrum, where it connects to the tailbone, or coccyx. While there’s movement in all 5 joints in your pelvis, the tiny little joint made of the coccyx and sacrum is the most mobile of the 5. (If you’re questioning whether the pelvis moves, place your hands on the back side of your pelvis and squat down. The backside of the pelvis widens as you squat and narrows as you stand – the only way this can happen is if there is something happening within the pelvic ring). The reason the coccyx is the most mobile part is because of where the muscles in the pelvic floor attach. Not all of them have a direct attachment on the coccyx, but many of them do and the ones that don’t are still connected fascially. If the pelvic floor isn’t involved in your movements (which happens!), this joint can fuse and create a A LOT of dysfunction, including incontinence (bowel and/or bladder), difficulty during childbirth, sexual dysfunction, pelvic organ prolapse, postural dysfunction and many other things we’d like to avoid.
The Common Dysfunctions of the Pelvic Floor ARE NOT NORMAL This. Is. Important. Our society is very good at giving us the impression that as we age, we naturally lose control of our bowel and bladder. We are told that because we had a baby, or 5 babies, that we will no longer be able to jump, laugh, cough or sneeze without leaking. We’re told that sex is sometimes painful for certain women and that we need to somehow figure out how to enjoy it more. And we’re told that there are products, and surgeries, out there to help us and that’s the best we can get. NO. Just, no! If you have a dysfunction in your bicep, whether it’s weakness or tightness, you don’t jump straight to surgery or just brush it off. Your pelvic floor should be treated no differently. (This is not to say that surgery is never the appropriate treatment.) Even though these symptoms are common in our culture, they are not normal, and you never need to “just live with them.”
You Can Improve Its Function This is something I want you to always, always, always remember! You already have everything you need to get improved pelvic floor function. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms I discussed above, you do not have to live with them! One of the best parts of addressing these symptoms (besides learning how to laugh without leaking, of course) is discovering how empowering it is to build a relationship with this part of your body. It holds so much more than physical strength; it helps give you life – literally and figuratively.
So, what’s the next step? Reach out to me! And, talk to your friends, talk to your family, and talk to your doctor. Talk! Pelvic health is important, and we all deserve to know about it. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Well Set front desk to get scheduled! 720.739.0745