WTF is a Pelvic Floor???
You may or may not have heard of the pelvic floor. If you've heard of it but don't know what it is, it can seem like this weird, ethereal thing that exists and you might even have one, but wtf is it?
First, you have one. Everyone has one. Men, women, and all others have one. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that sit inside the pelvis and function to support our pelvic and abdominal contents including the bladder, rectum, intestines, and vaginal wall/uterus/prostate if you have them. These muscles are also intimately related to bowel and bladder function, sphincteral and urethral function, sexual function, and breathing. If the pelvic floor muscles are dysfunctional, you may see issues with any of the functions listed above.
Your pelvic floor is made up of 3 layers of muscle and 15 muscles total. Beyond that they are covered and interconnected by layers and layers of fascia, a web like connective tissue that is continuous throughout the body. When we're looking at the fascia in the pelvic floor we can see it's directly connected to the lower back, abdominal wall, all around all of the abdominal contents to the diaphragm and extending down to the inner thighs. When you can have an understanding of this you can understand that restriction, pain, or weakness in any of these areas can affect your pelvic floor and vice-versa. It is all so interconnected in ways we just can't see.
The pelvic floor has four primary roles:
- Support of the bladder, rectum, and uterus or prostate
- Holding in poop and pee
- They form the vaginal opening and allow for penetrative sex & childbirth
- And contract and relax during orgasm
Without the pelvic floor, sex just wouldn't be possible. The pelvic floor forms the vaginal opening, contracts to bring in blood flow and therefore moisture, and facilitates pumping blood to the clitoris to increase its size up to 300x to increase sensation and pleasure. It also contracts and relaxes during orgasm, which without that, orgasms wouldn't happen. In men this is important to facilitate ejaculation and is often implicated in erectile dysfunction. It's also why, when the pelvic floor is strong and mobile, orgasms can last longer, go a little deeper, and be better overall.
Our pelvic floor creates our anal sphincter and supports our rectum, and regarding the fascial web, is deeply connected to our intestines as well. When the pelvic floor works appropriately, there is enough mobility to allow for peristalsis (contraction) of the colon to move things along & to release bowel movements by lengthening the pelvic floor.
For example, if you are on the toilet and you find that you hold your breath, strain, or squeeze or tense up to have a bowel movement it is counter intuitive to what we should be doing, which is relaxing into it. It can also make it much harder to have a full and complete bowel movement. Girl, we want that sh-t OUT of there. If you deal with this, try using a squatty potty. It naturally allows us to relax the muscle that wraps around the rectum and makes our bowel movements much cleaner, smoother, and easier.
We know the pelvic floor prevents us from leaking and allows us to pee when we want. Our bodies have this very cool system that gives us control over this. Basically, to pee, our bladder has to contract to push urine out, and the pelvic floor has to completely relax to allow that urine to flow.
Conversely when we want to hold our urine our pelvic floor needs to contract so the bladder can relax.
This is actually super great to know because, let's say you are in the car on the 405, or any other psychotic interstate, and you're at a dead stop and 3 miles from the next exit. You realize you drank 2 cups of coffee an hour ago and now you have GOT to go. Well, now you know that if your pelvic floor contracts, the bladder cannot push urine out. So you can perform a kegel as hard as you can for 10 seconds. Do this 5-10 times. I promise, this will stave off the sensation that you might actually pee yourself in your car.
The pelvic floor is the center of our bodies and it is the key to health and maintaining a strong core and preventing us from experiencing pain. We have to love it, take care of it, and be aware of it.