Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and Today’s Athlete
By: Dr. Jillian Hadfield, DPT
Are you ever running, jogging, walking, weight training, golfing, playing tennis or flowing through a yoga class and you feel like you may have lost some urine or fecal matter on the way? You hear it is normal, especially after childbirth, and if you haven’t given birth or you’re male, you’ve heard it can happen when you’re really working hard and pushing yourself.. However, it is not normal. You should always be able to control your bowel and bladder and you should not have any of these “accidents”. This is what we call, incontinence. To experience incontinence, it does not mean you lose your entire bladder and wet your pants each time, it means that your body is unable to hold its urine or fecal matter for some reason and you are leaking. You may have small or large amounts bladder or bowel leakage or discomfort during and after exercise, and this should be addressed. It is our job as pelvic floor physical therapists is to find out why this is happening and how to correct it.
Exercise-related incontinence is a form of pelvic dysfunction. When you hear the words pelvic floor- envision a sling of muscles running from your tailbone forward towards your pubic bone, from hip to hip. These muscles form a supportive bowl which holds all of your internal organs- your intestines, your bladder, ovaries, prostate, uterus, etc and they control your bowel, bladder and sexual function. Then when you think of the word dysfunction, don’t think of something being broken and unfixable, think of something having a kink in it and therefore making it less effective..
Just like any muscle in your neck, shoulder or back can become irritated, so can the muscles of the pelvic floor. They can become too tight, which leads to increased tension, causing compression, pain, discomfort and eventually weakness of the muscles; or the muscles are weak because they just aren’t strong enough or have been underutilized and they cannot handle these impact activities. Typically, when an athlete is experiencing any type of bowel, bladder or sexual dysfunction, the pelvic floor is often a culprit. Pelvic floor dysfunction and urinary and bowel issues, are typically not topics we want to talk about- especially if we are having a problem with them. It seems embarrassing and uncomfortable to talk about such intimate and private concerns, however, it is an extremely common area of injury for athletes, leading to leakage/incontinence, as well as pain or discomfort of the pelvis, hips, low back and sacroiliac joints.
Luckily, just like other muscles in your body- your pelvic floor can be rehabilitated through physical therapy! It is during therapy which you can learn about the anatomy, how it pertains to your situation and understand why you may be having any kind of leakage when you’re exercising. It is important that you see a physical therapist who is specially trained in treating the pelvic floor to provide the most effective and evidence-based treatment.
At Inner Dynamics Physical Therapy, you can expect to be seen and evaluated by a Doctor of Physical Therapy who is specially trained in treating pelvic floor dysfunction as well as the entire musculoskeletal system. We will help guide you towards improved function of your pelvic floor for a safe return to any sport you wish to get back into. Contact us at Inner Dynamics Physical Therapy to schedule your evaluation for pelvic floor dysfunction at: 732-508-9926. We are located at 1300 NJ-35, Ocean Township, NJ 07712.