What is pelvic floor dysfunction?
Pelvic floor dysfunction refers to a condition where the muscles, connective tissues, and ligaments that support the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, and rectum) are not functioning properly. The pelvic floor muscles and surrounding fascia form a sling-like structure that supports the pelvic organs and help control urinary and bowel functions. When the pelvic floor muscles are weakened, stretched, or too tight, they may result in a range of symptoms such as back pain or discomfort, painful intercourse, pelvic pain, constipation, urinary incontinence, or loss of control over the bladder or bowels.
Pelvic floor dysfunction can be caused by a variety of factors such as pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, aging, chronic constipation, or high-impact sports. It can also be associated with certain medical conditions such as interstitial cystitis, endometriosis, and chronic prostatitis.
A healthcare provider can diagnose pelvic floor dysfunction through a physical examination, pelvic floor muscle assessment, and other diagnostic tests as needed.
Give it some time
The length of time someone should continue with pelvic physical therapy depends on their individual needs and treatment goals. Pelvic physical therapy is often prescribed for individuals who are experiencing symptoms related to pelvic floor dysfunction, such as pain, discomfort, or incontinence.
The duration of treatment can vary based on the severity of the condition, the individual’s response to treatment, and other factors such as the individual’s overall health status and lifestyle habits. Some people may see improvements in their symptoms after just a few sessions, while others may require several weeks or months of treatment to achieve their desired outcomes.
It is important to work closely with a healthcare provider or physical therapist to establish a treatment plan and set achievable goals. The therapist will typically evaluate the individual’s condition and create a personalized treatment plan that may include exercises, manual therapy, biofeedback, or other interventions.
As the individual progresses through treatment, the therapist may modify the treatment plan based on their response to therapy and ongoing symptoms. It is important to attend all scheduled therapy sessions and follow through with any home exercises or recommendations provided by the therapist to achieve the best possible outcomes.
Many people with IC experience symptoms of PFD. It is believed that up to 75% of people with IC have PFD. This is because pelvic floor muscles and connective tissues play a key role in bladder function and can become dysfunctional due to a variety of factors, including chronic stress, trauma, chronic UTIs, injury, or other medical conditions.
It’s worth noting that not all people with IC have pelvic floor dysfunction, and not all people with pelvic floor dysfunction develop IC. However, research suggests that addressing pelvic floor dysfunction through pelvic floor physical therapy, relaxation techniques, or other interventions can significantly improve IC symptoms for some individuals.
What is fascia?
Fascia is a type of connective tissue that surrounds and supports muscles, organs, and bones. It is a thin, flexible layer that helps to hold the body together and provides structure and support. When the fascia becomes tight or restricted, it can cause pain and discomfort.
Fascia can also play a role in IC symptoms. Researchers believe that when the fascia in the pelvic region becomes tight or restricted, it can put pressure on the bladder and pelvic muscles, leading to pain and discomfort. This is why some people with IC report feeling relief from symptoms after receiving treatments that target the fascia, such as myofascial release therapy.
How to treat pelvic floor dysfunction and fascia tension
The good news is that PFD and fascia-related symptoms can be treated with a variety of techniques. Some of the most common treatments for PFD include pelvic floor physical therapy, which involves exercises and techniques to strengthen and relax the pelvic floor muscles. Other treatments may include medications or nerve stimulation therapy. For fascia-related symptoms, myofascial release therapy is a popular treatment option. This therapy involves applying gentle pressure to the fascia to release tension and improve flexibility. Other treatments may include massage, acupuncture, or dry needling.
Good news!! You can also purchase a self-massage myofascial tool to massage your tissue at home (focusing on your inner thighs, abdomen, and low back). I personally use the FasciaBlaster by Ashley Black and love it! To use the FasciaBlaster tools, it’s important to first apply a lubricant to your skin. You can use massage oil, baby oil, or coconut oil to help the tools glide easily over your skin. Once you have applied the lubricant, select any FasciaBlaster tool and gently scrub it on your body. Start with up and down and side-to-side movements, focusing on the skin level. If it feels good, gradually increase the pressure, moving into the top layer of muscle. If you’re new to using the FasciaBlaster, consider doing a “test patch” first to see how it feels. You can use long strokes or tiny strokes depending on your preference. Remember that you are in complete control of the pressure you use, so go slow and steady and listen to your body.
Be patient and don’t give up
If you have IC, it’s important to be aware of the potential role that PFD and fascia may play in your symptoms. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best treatment options for you. By addressing both the underlying root causes and symptoms of IC, you can improve your quality of life and find relief from pain and discomfort.
FitzGerald MP, Payne CK, Lukacz ES, Yang CC, Peters KM, Chai TC, Nickel JC, Hanno PM, Kreder KJ, Burks DA, Mayer R, Kotarinos R, Fortman C, Allen TM, Fraser L, Mason-Cover M, Furey C, Odabachian L, Sanfield A, Chu J, Huestis K, Tata GE, Dugan N, Sheth H, Bewyer K, Anaeme A, Newton K, Featherstone W, Halle-Podell R, Cen L, Landis JR, Propert KJ, Foster HE Jr, Kusek JW, Nyberg LM; Interstitial Cystitis Collaborative Research Network.
Randomized multicenter clinical trial of myofascial physical therapy in women with interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome and pelvic floor tenderness. J Urol. 2012 Jun;187(6):2113-8. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2012.01.123. Epub 2012 Apr 12. PMID: 22503015; PMCID: PMC3351550.
Lin HY, Lu JH, Chuang SM, Chueh KS, Juan TJ, Liu YC, Juan YS. Urinary Biomarkers in Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome and Its Impact on Therapeutic Outcome. Diagnostics (Basel). 2021 Dec 29;12(1):75. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics12010075. PMID: 35054241; PMCID: PMC8774507.