How Pelvic Floor Muscles Get Weak
The primary types of pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) can manifest not just as stool and urine incontinence but also as prolapse of the reproductive organs. The percentage of women dealing with PFD vary from 30% to 50%, stated the National Institutes of Health.
As we age, pelvic floor disorders become more likely to happen. The problem is, many patients think that incontinence is a normal part of aging. So, there is no need for treatment since it is doomed to fail. But, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
When done right, pelvic floor exercises can be very effective at curbing urinary incontinence. All you have to do is learn to spot the signs of a weak pelvic floor and start managing the symptoms. Here are the ins and outs of a weakened pelvis.
Signs of a Weakened Pelvic Floor – How Spotting the Problem Can Help You Avoid a Heap of Trouble?
Many people are familiar with the signs of a weak pelvic floor. Particularly older adults. But, for others, these signs can take them by surprise. When you take a closer look at the symptoms, you will find it easier to recognize the problem.
- Leaking pee – Being unable to control the bladder muscles is a typical sign of a weakened pelvis. Studies indicate that moderate to severe incontinence is linked to leakage at least once a week or once a month. The leakage is more than just drops of urine.
- Vaginal dryness – A weakened pelvis paired with the plummeting estrogen levels can lead to vaginal dryness and uncomfortable intercourse.
- Susceptibility to UTIs – The weak pelvic floor muscles can make the system more susceptible to a urinary tract infection. Plus, the weak muscles can also be confused for a UTI. That’s why it’s best to consult a specialist.
- Vaginal queefing (farting) – The release of trapped air inside the vagina is completely normal and common. It doesn’t pose a gynecological health risk. But, if you are stretching or doing yoga, and you experience these “farting”- like sounds, it could be an indicator that the pelvic muscles have grown weaker.
- Pain when having sex – Pain during sex encompasses a ton of factors. But, it could also be the result of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. Inadequate lubrication can make it harder to enjoy sex.
- Pelvic organ prolapse – If it feels like you are sitting on a golf ball every time you feel pressure in the vagina, then you might be dealing with prolapse. Pelvic organ prolapse can also happen in men. Prolapsed organs are unable to heal themselves. That’s why medical treatment is necessary.
- Stool incontinence – The intestinal and rectal muscles stretch, eventually becoming weaker. When the pelvic floor is too weak, it will let watery stool move around and leak out. Persistent constipation could lead to nerve damage, thus triggering incontinence.
What Weakens the Pelvic Floor?
Many factors can lead to weak pelvic floor symptoms in both female and male patients. The muscles could be weakened by:
- Prostate cancer treatment
- Surgery of the prostate
- Chronic constipation
A lot of muscles surround the prostate. Undergoing radiation or surgery weakens these muscles. With obesity, the load to the pelvis grows significantly stronger. A person with a high BMI index (26 or more) constantly adds a heavy load to the pelvic floor.
The body fat begins to press down the bowels and bladder, making it relatively tricky to control the release of urine or stool. Women with BMI over 30 tend to experience quite a notable abdominal pressure. The pressure adds significant strain, weakening the structure and ligaments of the pelvis.
According to experts, the odds of having urinary incontinence increases by a third in females with a BMI of 25 to 30. And almost doubled in those with a BMI over 30. Shedding a couple of extra pounds or around 5% to 10% of the extra body weight is more than enough to create a beneficial impact on urinary incontinence.
Then, there is persistent straining from constipation. The chronic strains weaken the muscles, add excessive stress to the nerves and pelvic organs, which is why they can cause leakage and bladder dysfunction.
When a woman is pregnant, her pelvic region stretches—all in an effort to make room for the baby. With time, the muscles weaken due to the weight that builds up in the stomach. Sometimes, these muscles bounce right back up. But, they may also need help to get stronger with physical therapy.
While experiencing the trauma and damage of delivery, the risk of the muscles becoming weaker grows higher. Although incontinence after childbirth may be a taboo subject, it does happen. Don’t be ashamed to talk to your doctor if you need help to restore pelvic function.
Does Sitting Weaken the Pelvic Floor?
Based on a clinical trial, poor sitting posture can affect the pelvic floor muscles. Unsupported sitting paired with bad posture requires higher pelvic floor muscle activity than what you would normally get from sitting upright or in a proper sitting posture.
This observational study was done on 8 parous women without pelvic floor dysfunction. Despite the limited results, it is obvious how important it is to sit with support and avoid slouching.
How Long Will It Take Me to Strengthen Weak Pelvic Floor Muscles?
Performing Kegels can get you the results you need. A ton of patients want to know how to tighten pelvic floor muscles quickly. But, there is no solution that will solve your problems overnight. It takes effort and patience to achieve the desired result.
When tightening the pelvis with pelvic floor workouts, you can notice some improvement in 4 to 6 weeks. Depending on the problems you are facing and level of dysfunction, it could take about 3 months to notice drastic improvements. The goal is to do each exercise right and follow your doctor’s instructions.
Many factors can make the pelvic floor weak. Whether that is prostate treatment, obesity, chronic constipation, pregnancy, or childbirth, once you notice a problem, talk to a specialist. They can advise you on how to properly contract the muscles and restore that much-needed strength. With time, you can improve the incontinence and alleviate that weakness.