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The pelvic floor is a collection of muscles and ligaments that sit at the base of the pelvis. Its two major functions are to provide support to the pelvic organs and to maintain continence.

Several lifestyle factors can increase a person’s risk of pelvic floor dysfunction including:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Regular straining on the toilet
  • Chronic coughing
  • Regular heavy lifting
  • High impact exercise
  • Increasing age
  • Obesity

Pelvic floor dysfunction can play a role in the following conditions:

  • Urinary and/or faecal incontinence
  • Constipation
  • Pelvic organ prolapse

Assessment of pelvic floor dysfunction by a pelvic floor physiotherapist typically involves the following:

  • Taking an extensive history of your bladder and bowel function, gynaecological and obstetric history, sexual function and any other ongoing medical conditions
  • An internal examination is the gold standard for objectively assessing pelvic floor muscle function. This involves the physiotherapist using a gloved finger to check the position of the pelvic organs and check the quality and strength of the pelvic floor muscles by palpating these structures through the walls of the vagina
  • The physiotherapist will strive to ensure you remain comfortable throughout the consult and you always have the ultimate decision on whether you wish to have an internal examination completed

Treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction typically involves the following:

  • Provision of a tailored pelvic floor muscle exercise program
  • Modification of diet or fluid intake
  • Modification of specific behaviours that may be exacerbating symptoms
  • Bladder training drills (for an overactive bladder)

Further management

If your pelvic floor physiotherapist deems your condition to require further management beyond the scope of physiotherapy, such as medication prescription or referral to a specialist, they will liaise with your GP in order to ensure you are receiving the best possible care.