Conditions & Treatments - Pelvic Floor Dysfunction - Urinary Incontinence & Pelvic Pain


Has your quality of life been affected because of incontinence? Are you also experiencing pelvic/back pain in addition to the incontinence? If you answered yes to these questions you may have a dysfunction of the pelvic floor muscles which can affect the ability to control your bathroom habits. Furthermore, dysfunctions of the pelvic floor muscles can also result in the development of pain in the region of the pelvis, abdomen and back. (picture Lynn Scanzano.


What is Urinary Incontinence?

Incontinence is defined as the inability to retain urine or feces through loss of sphincter control. There are various types and causes of incontinence which affects both men and women of all ages. This condition can be very life-limiting and embarrassing, yet many sufferers never seek professional medical treatment.

Urinary incontinence can typically occur when an individual laughs, sneezes, exercises, participates in sexual intercourse or participates in other physical activities. Urinary incontinence can also result if one experiences a sudden urgency to urinate and can not control the bladder for more than a few minutes.


Often times the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder, vagina, and rectum are affected. When this group of muscles becomes affected or are weak (often from lack of use, pelvic surgery or childbirth) conditions such as urinary or fecal incontinence, urinary urgency or frequency and uterine prolapse (dropping) may develop. If the pelvic floor becomes tense, conditions such as pelvic pain, urinary hesitancy or incomplete bladder emptying may develop as well.


Persistent pain in the lower abdominal and pelvic areas often can be accompanied with low back pain as well. Pelvic pain may vary at times, but many people suffer with this chronic pain for many years. A large population affected by urinary incontinence are child-bearing females. During pregnancy and after childbirth, a woman’s pelvis and low back is constantly being strained. The stress of childbearing on a woman’s lower body can cause permanent problems with her internal organs and joint structures. Structurally, the pelvis houses the bladder, uterus & rectum. Muscles and tissues surround the organs and act as a “hammock” for the organs to rest on. Because the pelvis and the soft tissues surrounding the area all have to stretch to allow for childbirth, this can result in disruption to those internal organs. This is a leading cause of incontinence. Many women believe this to be just a typical side effect of having children, or think that incontinence is a natural part of aging. Incontinence is not a “normal” condition and can be treated with Physical Therapy. (picture Pauline Voss.    


Physical therapists can perform and utilize various resources to treat incontinence and pelvic pain, including the prescription of exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. These pelvic floor exercises are commonly referred to as “Kegel exercises”. With Kegel exercises, patients are told to imagine to stop the urine stream, to squeeze the vagina, or to hold back gas. Kegel exercises are NOT to be performed during the act of urination, as this may effect the quality of the urinary stream. Kegels may be done in a variety of positions including lying, sitting and standing. To obtain a handout from on how to perform Kegel exercises click here: Kegel Exercise Handout. If you believe you may have incontinence, pelvic pain or a disorder of the pelvic floor, please consult your urologist or gynecologist for proper treatment recommendations including physical therapy.


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Last revised: June 6, 2008
by Jennifer Hill, MPT, CSCS


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Please review our terms and conditions carefully before utilization of the Site. The information on this Site is for informational purposes only and should in no way replace a conventional visit to an actual live physical therapist or other healthcare professional. It is recommended that you seek professional and medical advise from your physical therapist or physician prior to any form of self treatment.