Healthy Tahoe: Pelvic health 101
Many people live with pelvic health concerns for years without knowing that help is available. About one-third of women in the United States have pelvic floor disorder — a condition that often develops after bearing children and getting older. While commonly addressed in women, both men and women have pelvic floors and can have concerns that affect their quality of life.
The pelvic floor is part of the group of muscles in the abdomen commonly called the core and refers to muscles, fascia, and fibrous tissue that span from the pubic bone in the front, to the tailbone in the back. Its role is to support the pelvic organs and their functions. Pelvic floor dysfunctions can occur if there is too much tone through the pelvic floor, making it difficult to relax, or conversely if the pelvic floor is weak and has difficulty contracting.
One common pelvic floor dysfunction is urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence can occur as leakage that happens with an event like sneezing, coughing, or physical activity (stress urinary incontinence) and/or as leakage that occurs with a sudden, intense urge to urinate (urinary urge incontinence). While this is very common, it is not normal and is a sign that the pelvic floor is not functioning properly.
According to the National Association of Incontinence, more than 25 million adult Americans suffer from urinary incontinence. Women, on average, wait six and a half years from the first time they experience symptoms until they seek help for their bladder control problems. Leaking urine can be embarrassing and inconvenient, forcing modifications to activities and daily life.
It’s time to seek help if you experience symptoms of pelvic dysfunction including increased frequency of urination during the day or night, urge and stress incontinence, have difficulty fully emptying your bladder or bowels (including constipation), or accidentally losing control of bowels, including uncontrolled passing of wind or stool.
Other pelvic dysfunction symptoms include the feeling of a bulge in the vagina, or a feeling of heaviness, discomfort, pulling or dragging in the vagina, rectum or pelvis, low back pain that can’t be explained by other causes, pelvic pain, pain with sexual intercourse or difficulty with penetration, erectile dysfunction for men, and concerns during pregnancy or postpartum time frames.
Pelvic floor dysfunction can occur in varying ways and impact many people, but it is very possible to alleviate or treat these symptoms with the right help. A physical therapist can treat the pelvic floor and underlying concerns that are impacting the pelvic organ systems. Don’t suffer in silence if you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, with the right help, you can get back to a healthy and active lifestyle.
Brianna Thour, PT, DPT, is a Physical Therapist with Barton Rehabilitation. Pelvic Health services are available at the Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness in South Lake Tahoe and at the Stateline Medical Center. Thour and Audra Eisz, PT will host a free Wellness Webinar, “Pelvic Health,” at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17. Register in advance, or view previously recorded webinars at BartonHealth.org/Lecture. For more information about pelvic health services, call 530-539-6600 or visit BartonHealth.org/Rehab.
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