Aging and the Pelvic Floor: How Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation Can Help

Getting older comes with many bodily changes. Your hormones begin to fluctuate, your muscles begin to change, and the pathways in your brain no longer regenerate at the same speed they once did. 

Your pelvic floor will also respond to these changes in your body as you age. However, if you choose to seek out pelvic floor rehabilitation, you may not have to endure the symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction. Pelvic floor physical therapy can help limit or in some cases completely resolve symptoms ensuring you can get back to the everyday activities you love. 

What Happens to the Pelvic Floor as We Age?

Shifts in hormones may lead to weaker or stiffer muscles in the pelvic floor. Connective tissues become more rigid and provide less support. Cumulative bad habits – like holding our urine too long or straining with bowel movements – start to catch up with us in time. All of these can contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction. 

Symptoms of Pelvic Floor Issues

If you think you are experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction, keep an eye out for the following symptoms: 

  • Lower Back Pain: Think of the pelvic floor muscles as part of a team that helps support the spine and pelvis. When one team member isn’t pulling its weight, this can increase strain to the other muscle groups. This can lead to an increase in low back pain. 
  • Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI): SUI is described as an inability to control one’s bladder when laughing, sneezing, coughing, exercising, or otherwise engaging one’s body. 
  • Bowel and Urinary Urgency: A sudden urge to urinate or defecate without an earlier indication is considered urgency. People who experience this often cannot delay going to the restroom when the urge to urinate or defecate strikes, and they may even have leakage on the way to the restroom. 
  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse: Prolapse occurs when a shift in position of one or more of the organs within the pelvis occurs. Some people experience urinary dysfunction, feel a sensation of pressure in the pelvic region, or experience a bulging sensation at the opening of the vagina. Early intervention is best and may prevent progression of this uncomfortable condition. 
  • Painful Sex: Have you noticed changes in your sexual experiences as you are aging? Do you notice diminished libido, or are you having pain with intercourse? Painful sex can be a sign of pelvic floor dysfunction and is reason enough for you to have a chat with your pelvic floor PT about options to help. 

Treatments for Pelvic Floor Issues

As mentioned, you aren’t resigned to experiencing these symptoms as you age. Pelvic floor physical therapy (PFPT) can help! 

PFPT is a unique specialty within the field of physical therapy that requires specialized training. Your PT will guide you through treatment and help you identify where your symptoms originate. Is your issue weakness or could it be coming from muscle/connective tissue tension, scar tissue, or simply poor habits? 

Depending on what your PT decides is appropriate, your treatment could include a variety of manual (hands-on) skills, exercises, or one of the following: 

  • Bladder Retraining – Retraining habits can sometimes limit and prevent leakage. This process may involve going to the bathroom at set times and/or using urge suppression techniques to reduce urgency. 
  • Biofeedback – Done in a variety of ways, biofeedback techniques can be manual, visual, or even with a special device. When a device is used, sensors are used for detecting muscle activity, and the data collected is then displayed on a screen. This can be especially helpful for people who have difficulty perceiving whether the muscles of their pelvic floor are relaxed or contracted. 
  • Muscle Stimulation – This method also uses a device with special sensors, but it doesn’t depend on a person being able to engage the muscles. Instead, the device gently stimulates the muscles, causing a contraction. This is generally only appropriate for very weak muscles. 

If you’re ready to move forward, you can talk to your general practitioner or OB/GYN for a physical therapist recommendation. You also can make an appointment on your own, as a referral isn’t necessary to initiate pelvic PT (or any type of PT) in the state of GA. 

If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, don’t wait until the symptoms worsen. Instead, seek out the assistance of a medical professional so that you can improve your quality of life. 

Contact Provenance Rehabilitation today for an initial assessment and consultation.