Treatments are Available for Pelvic Floor Disorders
The February issue of the Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource offers women an overview of pelvic health problems, risk factors, and causes for pelvic health concerns, including several treatment options for pelvic floor disorder.
Pelvic floor disorders include urinary and fecal incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and other emptying abnormalities of the lower urinary and gastrointestinal tracts.
The pelvic floor or pelvic diaphragm is a muscular partition formed by the levatores ani and coccygei that spans the area underneath the pelvis and supports the uterus, bladder, and rectum. Over time, the pelvic floor may stretch, weaken, or become excessively tense, leading to pain, bladder and bowel problems, pain during sexual intercourse, and other symptoms.
Some of the factors that contribute to pelvic floor disorders include childbirth, obesity, menopause, stress, straining during bowel movements and older age. About one in three women suffer from pelvic floor disorders. There are many options, ranging from natural and complementary therapies to medical/surgical therapies that can help.
Most women can benefit from physical therapy that is designed to relax or train the pelvic floor muscles. A 2008 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that pelvic floor muscle training, in conjunction with bladder training, resolved the symptoms of urinary incontinence in women. Kegel exercises are one example. These involve tightening and holding the pelvic muscles and then relaxing them several times a day.
Research in the Journal of Urology found that cognitive therapy incorporating meditation-based deep breathing, relaxation, and visualization can be an effective management strategy for overactive bladder and urinary incontinence. The most common cause of incontinence is weak pelvic floor muscles.
Biofeedback can be used to help improve pelvic floor muscle coordination and rectal and bladder sensation. A specialist uses monitoring equipment that provides cues (feedback) to the patient about body functions that aren’t under conscious control.
Certain medications can be used for pelvic floor tension myalgia, including estrogen, pain relievers, antidepressants, numbing agents, or Botox injections. Ditropan and Detrol are two medications that are available for urinary incontinence.
Surgery is also an option. According to the Merck Manual, about one in 11 women will need surgery for a pelvic floor disorder during her lifetime.
Another group providing education and support for women with pelvic floor disorders, overactive bladder or prolapse is called “The Accidental Sisterhood”. Formed in 2006, the therapy and education program offers a guide to understanding and treating bladder health and other issues related to the pelvic floor.