Many people suffer silently when it comes to talking about problems “down there.” However, the reality is that patients come to my office who have dealt with the debilitating consequences of pelvic floor dysfunction (including pelvic pain, incontinence, and painful sex), and because of stigma or embarrassment, I am often the first person they have been able to talk with openly about these issues. Given the importance of this issue and the fact that, unfortunately, it is not openly discussed in public without fear of judgment, I am devoting the next couple Wellness Wednesday articles to discussing the daily impacts of pelvic floor dysfunction, how pelvic floor dysfunction develops, and helpful, noninvasive treatment options.
Pelvic floor dysfunction can manifest in many different ways in terms of our body’s structure and function. There are different “root causes” or “doors” that one may walk through in order to arrive at a place where the pelvic floor is not functioning properly. These doors include low-back pain or spinal injury, bowel issues such as constipation and IBS, mental stress and anxiety, and poor core muscle strength.
As a result, many health issues arise, including painful sex, pelvic pain, and urinary incontinence in women. In fact, the prevalence of urinary incontinence in women increases with age (particularly after menopause), with 3.5% of women between the ages of 20 and 29 reporting having issues with that number increasing to 22% for women between 50 and 59 and 38% forwomen over 80. The risk of incontinence also increases for women living with obesity, comorbidities, or a history of hysterectomy. In addition, many women during and after pregnancy report symptoms of leaking, only to be told by their OBGYN’s that such is normal, that they should take medication, or even more shockingly, that they might need highly invasive surgery.
Women are not the only ones suffering. Men have pelvic floors as well, and when facing dysfunction, experience a range of symptoms including painful sex, erectile dysfunction, painful urination, and pelvic pain. In addition, one of the leading pelvic floor issues in men is inflammation of the prostate, or prostatitis, which impacts between 10-15% of men in the US.
While these symptoms can be severe the good news is that there are plenty of treatments for pelvic floor dysfunction that do not involve taking drugs or undergoing surgery! In addition, there are a variety of preventative techniques you can implement into your daily life to avoid the development of these issues over time. Stay tuned for next week’s article where we discuss many of these treatment modalities, especially as they relate to treating symptoms of painful sex.
In addition, Dr. Kelly is proudly presenting today at the New Orleans Chapter of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine on Pelvic Floor Dysfunction! Stay tuned for more updates regarding this event!