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What is a Pelvic Floor?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The pelvic floor is the group of muscles that help to attach the pubis to the sacrum in the pelvis. This important network of muscles perform a variety of important tasks, such as supporting vital organs like the bladder and the intestines. In women, the pelvic floor has the additional responsibility of supporting the vagina.

Along with providing a secure foundation for body organs, the pelvic floor also plays an important role in maintaining continence. Pelvic floor muscles help to regulate the function of both the urinary and the anal sphincters. When these muscles are damaged in some manner, pelvic floor dysfunction is often manifested first as incontinence, but can soon develop into more problematic issues, such as the descent of organs into the vagina. This condition, known as pelvic organ prolapse, can be extremely serious if not treated by a qualified physician.

This group of muscles also play an important role in the process of birth. The structure of the muscles is such that they can expand and contract to support the uterus and the rest of the female reproductive system as the child travels through the birth canal. Without the action of the pelvic floor, the process of birth would be much more complicated.

There are a number of factors that can lead to a failure of the pelvic area. Difficult childbirth can cause a collapse of the muscles and may require surgery to correct. Physical trauma to the area as a result of an accident can produce similar results. Unless the damage is corrected, the floor will be unable to support vital organs and will increase the possibility of additional organ failures.

Strenuous activity can also lead to dysfunction of the floor muscles. Pastimes like waterskiing, horseback riding, and mountain biking can over time create trauma that will weaken the muscles and finally cause them to fail. As with failure as a result of childbirth, the damage may require surgery to repair and allow the individual to resume normal activities.

In order to help strengthen the pelvic muscles and thus minimize the potential for damage during childbirth, accident, or even strenuous exercise or exertion, many physicians recommend the use of Kegel exercises. Sometimes referred to as pelvic floor exercise or PFE, these simple exercises can be done anywhere, and will significantly improve muscle tone in the pelvis. As a result, the muscles can withstand greater amounts of trauma without failing.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including The Health Board, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon342507 — On Jul 21, 2013

Over-strengthening the sphincter muscles can also contribute to incontinence and dysfunction of the pelvic floor muscles. Only strengthening muscles can create problems with prolapse, incontinence, pain, and sexual dysfunction.

Knowing whether you have a hyper or hypo tonic pelvic floor is the first step to recovery. Work with a pelvic floor specialist, yoga teacher, physical therapist, massage therapist to bring yourself back into balance.

By B707 — On Aug 17, 2011

Wow! The pelvic floor, especially in women, certainly takes some rough treatment throughout life. Child birth, accidents, certain sports activities, gravity and aging causes organs to sink down where they don't belong causing all kinds of problems.

I have never heard that some sports like horseback riding, mountain biking and water skiing could cause pelvis floor damage. I guess the constant jolting of the pelvic area could be a real problem.

I think I'll have my doctor check out the pelvic area and see if any repair needs to be done, to avoid big problems in the future.

By lovealot — On Aug 16, 2011

When the pelvic floor muscles become weak or damaged for a variety of reasons, it may cause incontinence of the urinary tract or rectal malfunction. It can be a very troublesome issue that can cause much stress.

My pelvic floor muscles are becoming weaker and causing my sphincter muscles to become less strong and this is causing incontinence.

A first step in strengthening those muscles is to start doing Kegel exercises. They are easy to do and if you do them consistently, you should see improvement.

You should do these exercises in three positions: lying down, sitting, and standing. Just pull in with your sphincter muscles and release quickly. Do them at least 20 times in each position and increase as time goes on. After a few weeks, try holding the "pull" to the count of 10. My muscles feel stronger already.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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