The what, the where, and the why of the Pelvic Floor

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Commentary on the importance of a strong pelvic floor is becoming increasingly more common in the Australian media landscape. Pelvic floor physiotherapists are discussing this vital structure of the human body on breakfast television (see video at the end of this article) and articles are starting to appear in women’s magazines (Women’s Fitness Article) With more information comes more questions, and we at Bellbird Sports & Spinal would love to answer them for you!

What is the pelvic floor and where is the pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor is a muscular and ligamentous structure located in the pelvis of men and women.

The deep muscles of the pelvic floor are;

  • the iliococcygeus
  • the pubococcygeus
  • the puborectalis – this muscle also works with the external sphincter of the anus to maintain faecal continence

and they traverse the pelvis from front to back and from left to right each with individual attachments to the bones of the pelvis.

The superficial muscles of the pelvic floor are;

  • the transverse perineals
  • the bulbocavernosus
  • the ischiocavernosus

and are muscles of sexual function and arousal.

Why are the deep pelvic floor muscles so important?

They have two key jobs:

They are muscles of support: the pelvic floor muscles form a strong supportive base on which the organs of the pelvis – the bowel and bladder (and uterus in women) – sit. Just like a hammock!



They are muscles of continence: the pelvic floor muscles relax when a person needs to empty their bowel or their bladder but at all other times the pelvic floor muscles are in state of contraction to seal closed the openings of the bowel and the bladder.


What are some symptoms I should be aware of that may suggest my pelvic floor isn’t working properly?


According to The Australian Pelvic Floor Questionnaire these are some of the symptoms you should look out for:

  • Increased frequency of urination during the day and/or over night
  • Urgency or an inability to delay going to the bathroom to empty the bladder or the bowel
  • Loss of urine from the bladder before getting to the toilet
  • Loss of urine when coughing, exercising, laughing or sneezing
  • Needing to strain to empty the bladder or the bowel
  • Uncontrolled flatulence or wind
  • A sensation that there is urine left in the bladder or faeces left in the bowel after you go to the toilet
  • Pelvic organ prolapse i.e. the protrusion of tissue through one of the openings of the pelvic floor
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Pain when using tampons


If I experience any of the above, what should I do?


Lucky for you our physiotherapist Eleanor Donoghue has a Post Graduate Certificate from the University of Melbourne in pelvic floor physiotherapy and she can to assess the strength of your pelvic floor muscles and work with you to implement strategies to treat your symptoms!


Written by: Eleanor Donoghue