Approximately 1 in 3 women in the US suffer from pelvic floor issues at some point during their lifetime. Pregnancy and childbirth can strain and weaken the pelvic floor muscles leading to leaked urine when you sneeze or cough, or even sexual dysfunction.
We spoke with Dr. Deb McKim, PT, DPT, MTC; a physical therapist at Western Berks Physical Therapy who specializes in pelvic floor health.
What is your pelvic floor?
For those of you who don’t know, the pelvic floor muscles are located in the bottom of your pelvis, in the area that would contact a bicycle seat if sitting on a bike. They create a “hammock” or “sling” from the pubic bone in front of the pelvis to the coccyx (tailbone) and form a “figure 8” around the openings to the urethra (the bladder tube), the vagina, and the rectum.
These muscles have 3 main functions:
Supportive – Act as a shelf to support and maintain position of the internal organs
Sphincteric – Help to close the urethra and anus/rectum to provide continence
Sexual – Contraction/relaxation of these muscles affect sexual activity.
What is pelvic floor dysfunction?
Pelvic floor dysfunction affects women, men, and children, though it is most commonly seen in women. It presents as tightness, weakness, pain, or increase/decrease in sensitivity affecting the pelvis and most specifically the pelvic floor muscles.
When to seek help:
Most women do not let medical providers know of their pelvic floor issues due to embarrassment. They often feel that it is “normal” (it may be common but not normal), or perhaps they do not realize that treatments can help. If you have any of these symptoms for longer than a couple of weeks it is time to call your provider or seek out a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor health.
Urgency to use the bathroom
having to pee more than 8-10x/day (depending on amount of fluid you drink)
having to pee 2x/night or more
Incomplete bowel or bladder emptying
pain for more than 3 months in/around the pelvis, pubis, hips, and buttocks
pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen or genital region
feeling of pressure/heaviness/or dullness in the abdomen or pelvic area
presence of a bulge or something falling out of the vagina or rectum
need to strain hard to have a bowel movement
loss of gas beyond your control
What if I am still pregnant?
Pelvic floor treatment will depend, of course, on evaluation findings. Most pelvic floor signs and symptoms can be addressed in some capacity with physical therapy during pregnancy. Pelvic floor physical therapy treatment is conservative, non-invasive, and safe with a focus on overall wellness of the mother and child.
Pelvic floor dysfunction affects more people that you realize, and helping to educate others may help many get the care they need and deserve. And please keep in mind… just because something is common does not mean it is normal!
Dr. Deborah R. McKim, PT, DPT, MTC
BA – Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA
MPT – University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences: Institute of Physical Therapy, FL
Doctor of Physical Therapy – University of St. Augustine, FL
Deb is a Pelvic Floor Specialist, skilled at treating many dysfunctions since 1999. She is also skilled in Myofascial release techniques. Deb has a MANUAL THERAPY CERTIFICATION which means she is uniquely trained in delivering hands-on manual techniques. Manual therapy is considered the most effective approach to treat musculoskeletal dysfunction. Deb is skilled in outpatient orthopedics, manual therapy, pelvic floor dysfunction and women’s health. She has worked at Western Berks Physical Therapy since 2001.
Deb is a member in good standing of the APTA and PPTA, including the Women’s Health Section. Deb is also an NCAA All American Swimmer.