The pelvic floor muscles are often described as a hammock, lifting and supporting the pelvic organs above. These muscles need to be able to contract to keep us continent, but also they must relax to allow for urination, bowel movements, childbirth and sexual intercourse.
Problems with the pelvic floor can occur when these muscles are too weak (hypotonic) or too tight (hypertonic).
When the pelvic floor muscles are weakened, the hammock becomes less effective at supporting the pelvic organs, causing symptoms such as urinary or bowel incontinence, urgency and pelvic organ prolapse.
When the pelvic floor muscles are too tight they can cause urinary frequency, urgency, hesitancy or incomplete emptying and painful urination as the muscles are unable to relax fully to allow the passage of urine down the urethra. You may also experience constipation or pain with bowel movements, unexplained pain in your low back, pelvic region or genital area, pain during or after intercourse, orgasm, or sexual stimulation due to the tension in these muscles.
Pelvic floor physiotherapy involves exercises for strengthening and retraining the pelvic floor muscles and Pilates based stability exercises to strengthen the abdominal muscles which impact on the strength of the pelvic floor.