The pelvic floor is the core of the human body – it is there and working from crawling, to walking, to experiencing sexual pleasure, and giving birth to children. The pelvic floor is the root of the body, running deep and interweaving, making a hammock that gently sways and supports the digestive and reproductive organs. So why don’t we talk about the pelvic floor? Because it is also the sexual part of our body, and social norms don’t allow public discourse about sex. In some countries, like France, people are immediately referred to a pelvic floor physical therapist right after childbirth to address obstetric trauma and prevent pelvic floor disorders.
When we think of the pelvic floor and conditions that hinder its function, we usually talk about uterine or bladder prolapse and incontinence - but there is so much more. The world of pelvic floor conditions is vast, ranging from a hyper toned pelvic floor that causes painful sexual intercourse to a prolapsed bladder that causes incontinence. According to the National Institute of Health, Pelvic floor dysfunction affects women more frequently than men - 1 in 3 women are affected by a pelvic floor condition during their life.
Pelvic floor physical therapy is a holistic medical treatment that, for years, was rarely used in the United States. These days, especially in places with progressive medical care, pelvic floor physical therapy is becoming more well known. Pelvic floor physical therapists use therapies like breath work, diet, stress reduction, and manual manipulation of the body and tissues. This essay provides an overview of what pelvic floor dysfunction is, with a focus on over-active pelvic floors; what therapies are used to address it; and which herbs may be used in addition to other therapies. As much as possible, this essay uses gender-neutral terms, except when referring to published clinical studies.
So what is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is located at the base of the pelvis. It is made up of nerves, muscles, and ligaments; the nerves control the muscles and the fascia, which connect everything together. The muscles act like a hammock to support the reproductive organs, urinary tract, prostate, and digestive tract. When these muscles aren’t working effectively, the impact can be huge. People who have pelvic floor dysfunction may also suffer from interstitial cystitis, IBS, and endometriosis.
During pregnancy, pelvic floor dysfunction can cause hip, back, and deep groin pain, and, it may make vaginal delivery difficult and more painful. Aggressive forms of interventions during childbirth like forceps, directive pushing, birth trauma, and episiotomies can cause structural damage, and - C-sections can also cause pelvic floor dysfunctions.
Other root causes of pelvic floor dysfunction are:
Misalignment of the pelvis, due to trauma and poor posture
Sitting for to long on a daily basis
Working out improperly
A previous or existing infection, including yeast infections and urinary tract infections.
Surgery such as a hysterectomy
Menopause due to the loss of estrogen, and lubrication.
Endometriosis that causes tightening of the pelvic floor due to chronic pain.
Tight hip flexors
Leep Procedure (trauma)
Cone Biopsy (shortening of the cervix which affects the surrounding connective tissue and structure)
Range of muscular mechanisms not communicating properly.