Let’s Talk About Incontinence
PELVIC FLOOR DYSFUNCTION CAN AFFECT ANYONE - MEN TOO
Pelvic floor dysfunction can affect men and women of all ages and walks of life. In fact, as many as 27% of New Zealand men and almost 60% of New Zealand women will experience pelvic floor issues at some point in their lifetime1. So why do so many of us know so little about our pelvic floor, what it does and how to keep it strong and healthy?
In New Zealander, 3 in 10 men and 3 in 5 women will experience pelvic floor issues in their lifetime.
What is the pelvic floor?
Put simply, your pelvic floor is a sling of muscles that run from the pubic bone back to your coccyx and attaches to the sit bones at either side of the pelvis; it is their job to support the pelvic organs and control bladder, bowel and sexual function2.
What are the Signs of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
You may already be aware that pelvic floor weakness can cause incontinence, but this is only one sign of significant pelvic floor weakness. There are many other indicators that your pelvic floor may not be functioning as well as it could:
Signs of pelvic floor weakness can include:
Leakage with sneezing
- High impact or endurance exercise
- Not making it to the toilet in time and passing wind without warning3
Signs of pelvic floor overactivity can include:
Not completely emptying when going to the toilet
- Needing to go to the bathroom frequently with little output
- Painful intercourse4
Signs of urge incontinence can include:
Sudden urgent need to go to the bathroom
- Urge to use the bathroom with putting your keys in the door or with the sound of running water3
Do some of these symptoms sound familiar? What can you do?
If you have experienced some leakage with a sneeze, laugh, or during an FCT class, your pelvic floor needs some attention. It could be tempting to use a liner and pretend the issue isn’t there at all. It could be tempting to just switch from your regular FCT class to pilates, or reduce your weekly jog from 6km to 3km, but where is the fun in that? Your pelvic floor should be treated like any other muscle that needs some training. Like the rest of our muscles, our pelvic floor can be re-trained and strengthened5 without stopping your regular exercise!
Is Exercising Bad for My Pelvic Floor?
Exercise is always a positive! Having said that, your choice of activity and how much load you place on these muscles can affect them over time. For example, over 50% of gymnasts experience stress urinary incontinence compared to just 1-6% of swimmers. Gymnastics is not a poor choice of sport, but it highlights how essential adequate pelvic floor strength is if you choose to do high-impact activities, as they place increased load on your pelvic floor6.
If you have some signs of pelvic floor weakness or dysfunction, having an assessment with a qualified physiotherapist can help determine what the issue is and to develop a plan to fix it. An assessment could include a thorough discussion about any signs or symptoms, real-time ultrasound on your lower abdomen to assess the muscles function, re-training strategies, pelvic floor-friendly exercise programmes, and exercises to continue between sessions. If required, we can also refer you to a pelvic floor specialist.
It's been found that while a large percentage of men and women have some dysfunction in their pelvic floor, 70% of these never seek advice or treatment from a health professional7. Don't just be a statistic. Be fantastic! While minor issues can be ignored or managed, pelvic floor dysfunction is not normal and shouldn’t be accepted. Reach out and get help, because we can.
Tara Kemp is a physiotherapist at Habit
- Thom, D., (1998). Variation in estimates of urinary incontinence prevalence in the community: Effects of differences in definition, population characteristics, and study type. Journal American Geriatric Society. 46: 473-480
- Raizada, V., & Mittal, R. K. (2008) Pelvic floor anatomy and applied physiology. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 37(3): 493-vii
- Goforth, J., (2016). Urinary incontinence in women. North Carolina Medical Journal. 77(6): 423-425
- Faubion, S. S., Shuster, L. T., & Bharucha, A. E. (2012). Recognition and management of nonrelaxing pelvic floor dysfunction. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 87(2): 187-193
- Dumoulin, C., Cacciari, L. P., & Hay-Smith, E. J. (2018). Pelvic floor muscle training versus no treatment, or inactive control treatments, for urinary incontinence in women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 10
- Kruger, J. (2018). High impact exercise may cause pelvic floor dysfunction: Against: Is high-impact exercise really bad for your pelvic floor? BJOG. 125(5): 615-615
Millard, (1998). The prevalence of urinary incontinence in Australia. Australian and New Zealand Continence Journal. 4: 92-9