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Pelvic Floor Disorders 

Pelvic floor disorders can lead to urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. 

The pelvic floor consists of the muscles, ligaments, connective tissues and nerves that stretch like a hammock from the front of the pelvic bone to the back. It provides support to the bladder, rectum and reproductive structures (the uterus and vagina in women, the prostate in men). One of the most important functions of the pelvic floor is maintaining bladder and bowel control. A pelvic floor disorder, therefore, happens when these muscles become weak or damaged, leading to: 

  • Urinary incontinence (lack of bladder control) 
  • Fecal incontinence (lack of bowel control) 
  • Pelvic organ prolapse (when the uterus, bladder or bowel drops within the vagina, causing a bulge in the vaginal canal)  

Causes of Pelvic Floor Disorders  

The exact cause of pelvic floor dysfunction is unknown at this time, but certain factors can put you more at risk for this condition: 

  • Being pregnant 
  • Having a traumatic injury to the pelvic area
  • Undergoing pelvic surgery 
  • Being overweight
  • Overusing the pelvic muscle
  • Being older 

Symptoms of Pelvic Floor Disorders 

Common symptoms of a pelvic floor disorder include: 

  • Painful urination 
  • Frequently feeling the need to urinate 
  • Not being able to fully empty the bladder 
  • Constipation 
  • Straining and pain during bowel movements 
  • Muscle spasms in the pelvic area 
  • A feeling of heaviness in the pelvic region 
  • Leaking urine or stool 
  • Lower back pain 

Diagnosing Pelvic Floor Disorders 

After learning about your symptoms and taking a full medical history, your physician will then conduct a physical exam to analyze your pelvic floor muscle control, which may include a rectal exam or a vaginal exam (for women).  

Other tests can also be used to diagnose a pelvic floor disorder, such as: 

  • Uroflow testing to learn how well you can empty your bladder 
  • A defecting proctogram to analyze how well you can complete a bowel movement 
  • Surface electrodes to test your pelvic muscle control 
  • Anorectal manometry to determine the pressure, muscle strength and coordination of your anal sphincters 

Treatment of Pelvic Floor Disorders 

Commonly, pelvic floor disorders are treated with physical therapy, a service provided at Tampa General Hospital. Pelvic floor physical therapy employs a variety of strategies to improve the capacity of the muscles through neuromuscular re-education. This treatment may include but is not limited to: 

  • Exercise 
  • Electromyographic biofeedback  
  • Pelvic muscle electric stimulation
  • Electrical stimulation for pain relief/control 
  • Vaginal weight training 
  • Postural stabilization