By Aleisha Theisen, PTA, NBC-HWC
For men, one area of the body that sometimes gets overlooked when it comes to strength training is the pelvic floor. These muscles play a crucial role in men's overall health, from urinary and sexual function to core stability. Neglecting them can lead to various health issues.
At FYZICAL – Forest Grove, physical therapist Farah Custodio specializes in pelvic floor health in addition to other conditions.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about pelvic floor health,” Farah says. One is that it’s a concern just for women, she says.
Farah can address specific men's pelvic floor health problems, helping them regain control and enhance their well-being.
Understanding the pelvic floor
The pelvic floor is a layer of muscles and connective tissue that stretches between the pubic bone and the tailbone and supports the bladder and large intestine. These muscles tighten and relax to assist in going to the bathroom and having sex. They also form part of the core, or the stabilizing system of muscles that protects the internal organs during exertion, like coughing, sneezing, or lifting heavy things.
Pelvic floor health problems in men
Aging can affect the pelvic floor, as well as lifestyle factors and medical conditions such as:
- Persistent cough
- Repeated heavy lifting
- Prostate surgery
- Pelvic trauma
- Weight gain
- Spinal cord injury
Signs of pelvic floor dysfunction in males
Pelvic floor muscles must be strong enough to support the internal organs but also flexible enough to stretch and relax. If they are too tight or too weak, they can cause:
- Pelvic pain
- Leaking urine or stool
- A sudden, urgent need to urinate
- Erectile dysfunction
The role of pelvic floor physical therapy
Specially trained physical therapists like Farah can assess and diagnose pelvic floor problems. Farah creates a customized treatment program to address the issue, whether that be improving blood flow, reducing pelvic pain, boosting muscle strength, or addressing erectile dysfunction.
Farah says education, illustration, and visualization are important parts of her treatment sessions. She helps patients learn about their bodies and how to activate their pelvic floor muscles. Because these muscles are not visible, the visualization piece is key. One technique she uses is asking patients to picture an elevator door closing, then lifting, then lowering, and then opening. They then try to perform these tasks with their pelvic floor muscles. The elevator imagery teaches them to activate and relax the muscles.
She also teaches patients how to use their muscles in the right order. When doing dynamic activities like moving heavy items or lifting weights, some folks tend to activate their gluteal muscles first, then their core, but they might not use their pelvic floor muscles. Farah helps them learn how to activate all the right muscles in the right order, starting with the pelvic floor.
“It’s more challenging than you think it might be,” Farah says. But she is there to gently guide her patients each step of the way.
Pelvic floor muscle endurance is something many folks need, especially workers who are on their feet all day, Farah says. They are prone to prolapse because their pelvic floor is constantly under pressure as they stand for long hours. These folks may develop stress incontinence. Lifting something heavy, coughing, or sneezing may trigger the incontinence. If they are busy all day at work and don’t take regular bathroom breaks, the bladder can become irritated and lead to urinary urgency problems as well. These problems can lead to missed hours of work.
Chronic back and hip pain may also be rooted in pelvic floor issues. Farah uses her multidimensional training, blending her orthopedic skills and her pelvic floor expertise, to evaluate a patient’s pain from external and internal perspectives. She’s found that sometimes a patient needs to strengthen the inner pelvic floor as well as the outer hip muscles to effectively address the pain.
Men's pelvic floor health is a critical yet often overlooked aspect of overall well-being. With the guidance of a skilled physical therapist, men can address specific pelvic floor health problems, including erectile dysfunction, urinary and stool incontinence, and pelvic pain. By unlocking the strength of their pelvic floor, men can regain control, enhance their quality of life, and ensure they're at their best.
Our staff at FYZICAL – Forest Grove wants to help you get back to your life without pelvic floor dysfunction, and we are ready to address your problem and tailor the treatment to your specific needs. Want to learn more? Call us for an evaluation at 503-357-1706 or read more here.
Aleisha Theisen is a physical therapist assistant and a board-certified health and wellness coach.
Disclaimer This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
A Guide To The Pelvic Floor Muscles. Oxford University Hospitals/NHS Trust. Nov. 2014. Reviewed Nov. 2017. Pages 1-7. https://www.ouh.nhs.uk/patient-guide/leaflets/files/11124Ppelvic.pdf
Masterson TA, Masterson JM, Azzinaro J, Manderson L, Swain S, Ramasamy R. Comprehensive pelvic floor physical therapy program for men with idiopathic chronic pelvic pain syndrome: a prospective study. Transl Androl Urol. 2017 Oct;6(5):910-915. doi: 10.21037/tau.2017.08.17. PMID: 29184791; PMCID: PMC5673826.