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Pelvic Floor Anatomy–Your Key to Eliminating Incontinence

In this post: If you are suffering from incontinence, learning about your pelvic floor anatomy is a great first step to eliminating this issue.

pelvic-floor-anatomy

One of the perks of motherhood for many a woman is incontinence. Laugh at a joke, pee. Sneeze, pee. Bend over to change your baby’s diaper, pee.

It can get to the point that you think you might be the one needing a diaper.

But incontinence isn’t just a female problem. Males can suffer from incontinence, too.

The great news is that there are exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, exercises that will cure your incontinence. However, the first step to stop your uncontrolled flow is to learn about your pelvic floor anatomy.

Here’s a quick guide to everything you need to know about your pelvic floor muscles and where to learn appropriate strengthening exercises.

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Pelvic Floor Muscles

pelvic floor anatomy
Thanks to Kenhub.com for the image.

According to BeyondBasicsPhysicalTherpy.com, the pelvic floor consists of 3 muscle layers. From most superficial to deepest, here are the layers of the pelvic floor.

  1. The superficial perineal layer includes the bulbocavernosus, ischiocavernosus, superficial transverse perineal, and external anal sphincter (EAS).
  2. In the deep urogenital diaphragm layer are the compressor urethera, uretrovaginal sphincter, and the deep transverse perineal.
  3. The pelvic diaphragm includes the coccygeus/ischiococcygeus, piriformis,  obturator internus, and levator ani. Other muscles that are part of the levator ani are the pubococcygeus (pubovaginalis, puborectalis) and the iliococcygeus.

What Does the Pelvic Floor Do?

Imagine your torso is a water cooler. Your pelvic floor muscles are sort of like the base for the jug of water in that they provide support for everything. They’re also like the tap because they control what comes out and when.

When the pelvic floor muscles work correctly, they help eliminate waste from your system. If you need to urinate, the muscles work to allow for urination at the proper time and stop the flow at improper times. Incontinence is a direct indication of weak pelvic floor muscles. Similarly, they help you eliminate waste from your bowels.

According to continence.org.au,

“Pelvic floor muscles are also important for sexual function in both men and women. In men, it is important for erectile function and ejaculation. In women, voluntary contractions (squeezing) of the pelvic floor contribute to sexual sensation and arousal.

The pelvic floor muscles in women also provide support for the baby during pregnancy and assist in the birthing process.”

Additionally, they work with the abdominals and spinal muscles to help support the spine.

Ways Pelvic Floor Muscles Weaken

Unfortunately, these important muscles can weaken or get injured just like all of our other muscles. Here are some ways that you may injure your pelvic floor muscles:

  • pregnancy,
  • child birth,
  • chronic constipation,
  • straining on the toilet,
  • heavy lifting,
  • chronic coughing,
  • high impact exercise,
  • obesity, or
  • age.

Does Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Require Surgery?

The good news is that pelvic floor injuries rarely require surgery. Instead, there are exercises that you can do to strengthen these muscles.

I like the exercises over on CoreExerciseSolutions.com. This website has great information about therapeutic pelvic floor exercises, plus an explanation of how to do Kegels. (Kegels are a must for anyone wanting to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles.)

If, however, you are scheduled for pelvic floor surgery, you will want to contact your doctor.

As of April 2019, the FDA has ordered all manufacturers of transvaginal surgical mesh to cease distribution of this product. This is partly because the mesh was not appropriately tested before it was distributed, and partly because people have had significant pain and damage from the subsequently used mesh.

To learn more about the mesh hiatus and what to do if you or a loved one has had damage from your mesh repair, check out this post from The Carlson Law Firm.

More Information

For more information, check out Kenhub.com or the Beyond Basics Physical Therapy website. Both websites have some great illustrations of the anatomy of the male and female pelvic floor. Beyond Basics Physical Therapy also has information about trigger points and innervation for these muscles.

Another good website is continence.org.au. They’ve got lots of good additional information about the pelvic floor, including what you can do to strengthen it.

If you’re in pain, I can help! Sign up for my free semi-monthly newsletter with tricks from a pro to help you become pain-free.

Do you have any tips for keeping healthy pelvic floor anatomy? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi! I'm Sarah, and I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. When I'm not working with clients, I'm researching the best ways to get rid of pain. Do you want to learn how to practice yoga and Pilates safely in your own home? Or, do you want to know all my tips and tricks for pain relief? Join my mailing list and receive free goodies to help you.

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