Did you know that women are not the only ones affected by pelvic floor dysfunction? While many people associate the term “pelvic floor” with women and childbearing, men also have a pelvic floor. Indeed, when a man experiences an injured, unbalanced, or tight pelvic floor, he may have issues with some of his most important bodily functions. By understanding this crucial part of the body, men can quickly identify when something is awry, and find help to restore this important muscular area through pelvic floor therapy for men.
What is the Pelvic Floor for Men?
The pelvic floor is a sling of musculature between the thighs, near the genitalia, which supports the pelvic floor organs. In men, the pelvic floor organs include the prostate, bladder, rectum, and the semen-producing, seminal vesicles.
The pelvic floor muscles are key in terms of providing a stable base for the most basic and important body functions involving the bowel, bladder, and sexual activity. In general, these muscles are mostly internal and often overlooked until a dysfunction occurs.
The names of the muscles may be unfamiliar – the levator ani and coccygeus – but just like any muscle in the body, they are susceptible to injury, weakness, or tightness. When men ignore the health of these muscles, they can experience troubling symptoms.
What is a Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
Pelvic floor dysfunction occurs when the muscles of the region are no longer functioning in an optimal state. In some cases, the muscles feel contracted or painful, and the dysfunction can lead to very real symptoms that are potentially life-altering. Indeed, the most intimate and private activities can become painful, impaired, or embarrassing.
In other cases, muscles may be weak causing various kinds of incontinence or even erectile dysfunction. Whether too tight or too weak, pelvic floor dysfunction can cause quality of life issues for those affected. Understanding what is happening, and knowing where to go for help, is a key component to the effective treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction in men.
What Causes Pelvic Floor Dysfunction in Men?
Sometimes, increased pressure on the pelvic floor can cause some level of pelvic floor dysfunction. For instance, prolonged sitting from extended computer work, or long bicycling rides, can affect the pelvic floor and cause tightness that impacts function.
Additionally, stress, inflammation, or bacteria can be factors in male pelvic floor dysfunction. Direct trauma or injury can cause these muscles to tighten, or retract, leading to significant issues with the pelvic floor.
On the other hand, pelvic floor weakness can develop due to heavy lifting, chronic coughing, or repetitive straining for bowel movements. Any activities that increase intra-abdominal pressure can potentially lead to a stretching or weakening of the sling in the pelvic floor.
Regardless of the cause, it is important to realize that pelvic floor dysfunction is very treatable and positive outcomes are available through treatment by a qualified healthcare professional.
What Are Some of the Common Signs of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction in Men?
Different men can present with different symptoms when experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction. Some men may notice difficulty with urination and find it challenging to start the urine stream or to get a feeling of complete emptiness in their bladder. Urine flow may be weak, or there may be a need to get up multiple times a night to void.
Some men experience groin pain around the scrotum, testicles, or rectum and may complain of discomfort in sitting. The sensation of “sitting on a golf ball” is one sign of pelvic floor dysfunction. In other cases, there is pain during or after intercourse, or even just with an erection.
When the pelvic floor muscles are overly tight, constipation can occur, or a person might feel like they can’t ever quite complete their bowel movement. In general, problems with urination, bowel movements and/or sexual activity are all common red flags for dysfunction of the pelvic floor and warrant professional evaluation.
In some cases of pelvic floor weakness, a man might notice leakage of bowel or bladder or symptoms related to sex, including erectile or ejaculation issues.
What are Common Conditions Associated with Pelvic Floor Dysfunction in Men?
When male pelvic floor dysfunction occurs, it is often in association with several common conditions like urinary dysfunction, erectile dysfunction, or prostatitis.
Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland, a small gland near the bladder that tends to enlarge over time. At times, the prostate gland can become inflamed, leading to painful urination, groin pain, or pain with ejaculation. Prostatitis can contribute to pelvic floor imbalances in men, and impact sexual health and pleasure.
When a man experiences a new onset of urinary or sexual dysfunction, especially with accompanying pain, seeking medical care is a solid step in alleviating the symptoms.
What is Available in terms of Pelvic Floor Therapy for Men?
Certain professionals like physical therapists are specialists of the musculoskeletal system. In general, they understand that any muscle, or muscle group, can lose function or sustain injury. Some physical therapists have specialized training in pelvic floor dysfunction and are highly qualified to treat the symptoms and causes of many cases, in both men and women.
Pelvic floor therapy for men may include a wide range of modalities. For instance, treatment of pelvic floor weakness may include strengthening and biofeedback. Manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, postural re-education, and electrical stimulation can address cases of spasm or tight pelvic floor muscles.
For men concerned about the pelvic floor, an experienced physical therapist will be able to design a personalized treatment plan for you specifically and address your concerns in a professional, understanding manner.
What to Expect During a Pelvic Floor Evaluation for Men?
The pelvic floor evaluation begins with a thorough review of medical history and a question-and-answer session to collect background information. Usually, your physical therapist will complete a general physical screening of your entire body as oftentimes, muscle imbalance in other areas may contribute to pelvic floor symptomology.
Next, you will change into a medical gown, and the physical therapist will examine the pelvic floor visually. The therapist will perform an external palpation of the pelvic floor including around the pubic bone and sitting bones, to assess pelvic floor activity and inspect for any sign of dysfunction.
Finally, the therapist will perform an internal exam, usually with one gloved, lubricated finger inserted into the rectum to check the functioning of the muscles in the peri-rectal area. The physical therapist may ask you to cough or contract muscles in this area to assess function. Your therapist will be checking in with you every step of the way to assess that you are comfortable with the exam, and in agreement to the assessment.
What Exercises are Included in Pelvic Floor Therapy for Men?
There are several different exercises that can address pelvic floor therapy for men. In effect, your treatment is specific to your underlying symptoms and condition. For instance, Kegel exercises are a common exercise that can strengthen and tone the musculature. Your therapist can prescribe the frequency and type of Kegels to work on, to best address your symptoms.
Often, you can incorporate exercises right into your normal day to achieve functional retraining of the area. Sometimes, core exercises, targeted squats, or back exercises also help to speed recovery. Again, your treatment plan will depend on your specific findings, with the goal of a comfortable, effective rehabilitation program.
The Importance of Treating Pelvic Floor Dysfunction in Men
Indeed, most people don’t realize that a healthy, strong, balanced male pelvic floor is a key component to a well-functioning urinary, bowel, and sexual system. Ultimately, tuning into this area of the body can be a game-changer for keeping the systems running smoothly, so remember, it is important to pay attention to symptoms. If you are concerned that you may have pelvic floor dysfunction, find a physical therapist with experience in diagnosis and treatment. This step can bring life-changing results, and a better quality of life, for years to come.
If you’re seeking a male Pelvic Floor Therapist in the New York City area, schedule an evaluation at our Brooklyn, NY location. Just give us a call or start by filling out the form below.