Washington University Colon and Rectal surgeons answer patient questions regarding pelvic floor disorders.

What is a pelvic floor disorder?

Pelvic floor disorders, also known as pelvic floor dysfunction, occur when the muscles of the pelvic floor do not correctly tighten and relax when prompted. This can create difficulty with bowel function, urinary function and sexual function.

How can I treat pelvic floor disorder?

Pelvic floor disorders are treated in a variety of ways including diet modifications, medications, surgeries and/or physical therapy depending on the symptoms.

Pelvic floor physical therapy is one of the most commonly used treatments. A pelvic floor specialist will work with you to help retrain the pelvic floor muscles. This will allow the muscles to relax and tighten appropriately to provide more control and easier bowel function. Many techniques such as Kegel exercises, positional maneuvers, massage and a technique called biofeedback will be used to help aid in bowel function.

Mild forms of pelvic floor disorders causing constipation, fecal incontinence and urinary incontinence may be treated with medical therapy while more progressive cases such as rectal prolapse and severe fecal incontinence may require surgery.

What causes pelvic floor disorders?

Pelvic floor dysfunction can be caused by damage from childbirth, traumatic accidents, surgery, or neurologic conditions; however, in many patients, the cause is unknown.

Are pelvic floor disorders chronic?

Pelvic floor disorders are chronic, but they are treatable! A chronic condition is one that typically occurs over a slow period of time from weeks to months and can last for a long period of time. They can start many years after the initial cause of dysfunction, such as childbirth),as the pelvic floor weakens with age.

Why do I have chronic pelvic pain?

Chronic pelvic pain can be constant pain in the pelvic region or pain that comes and goes after prolonged sitting or standing, prolonged periods without a bowel movement, around times related to your menstrual cycle, or with intercourse. There

are numerous causes of chronic pelvic pain which should be worked up thoroughly. A few more common causes are listed below

  • Constipation
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Chronic pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Chronic pelvic scarring
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Conditions causing inflammation of the joints, muscles and bones or the pelvis
  • Stress, depression, or anxiety

Often times, management of these issues requires a team of doctors to address the individual symptoms and work together to help provide relief from the pain.

Can you have surgery to treat pelvic floor disorders?

There are many options for surgery related to pelvic floor disorders. Surgery is done to address the individual complaints related to each patient. For example, some patients may have problems relating to urination while others have issues with prolapse of the vagina or the rectum. After through work up and evaluation by different surgical specialists, surgery is done to address each of the individual issues the patient is experiencing. Typically, the specialists are able to coordinate and offer surgery at the same time to avoid multiple trips to the operating room.

Where can I find a doctor for pelvic floor disorders?

Washington University Colorectal can provide care and treatment options for pelvic floor disorders. Meet our specialists below. 

To request an appointment, please fill out this online form or call 314-454-7177.