Thursday, February 04, 2010
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Pelvic health concerns in women are common — yet how the issues impact sexuality and childbearing is not often discussed, according to Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource.
The February issue features an overview of pelvic health problems, risk factors, causes and treatment options. The key recommendation is that women should talk to their doctors about pelvic health concerns because several treatment options, including physical therapy, can help.
The pelvic floor holds in place the uterus, bladder and rectum. Over time, the pelvic floor may stretch, weaken or become excessively tense. The tension or loss of support can lead to pain, bladder and bowel problems, pain during sexual intercourse and other symptoms.
Factors that may contribute to pelvic floor concerns include childbirth, obesity, menopause, stress, straining during bowel movements and older age. Half of women over age 50 experience pelvic floor weakening.
Several types of treatment can provide relief for pelvic floor disorders.
Physical therapy: Most women can benefit from physical therapy that's designed to relax or train pelvic floor muscles. When pelvic floor muscles are tight and painful (pelvic floor tension myalgia), exercise to improve the strength and stability of the spine can be helpful. In addition, massage techniques to release tight muscles can ease pain.
To treat urinary incontinence, Kegel exercises — contractions of the muscles used to stop the flow of urine — combined with bladder training can help resolve incontinence.
Biofeedback: A biofeedback specialist uses monitoring equipment that provides feedback — visual cues, sound or verbal guidance — to the patient about body functions that usually aren't under conscious control. Biofeedback can help improve pelvic floor muscle coordination and rectal and bladder sensation.
Medical treatment: Various medical therapies may be helpful for pelvic floor tension myalgia, including estrogen, pain relievers, nerve pain medications, antidepressants, numbing agents or Botox injections.
Surgery: Many different surgical procedures, including minimally invasive techniques, can be used.
Acupuncture: This may relieve muscle pain, but more research is needed to determine whether it specifically helps with pelvic floor problems.
Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource is published monthly to help women enjoy healthier, more productive lives. Revenue from subscriptions is used to support medical research at Mayo Clinic. To subscribe, please call 800-876-8633, extension 9751, (toll-free) or visit MayoClinic.com Bookstore.
Journalists can become a member of the Mayo Clinic News Network for the latest health, science and research news and access to video, audio, text and graphic elements that can be downloaded or embedded.
Learn more about becoming a patient at Mayo Clinic in the Patient & Visitor Guide.