For patients who suffer from bowel and bladder dysfunction, strengthening one’s pelvic floor muscles can offer significant improvements to what can be embarrassing or even painful symptoms. This program is a painless, non-surgical method of retraining the pelvic floor muscles to help patients regain control of their bladder and bowel function.
The pelvic floor muscles are located between the legs and run from the pubic bone to the base of the spine. They are shaped like a sling and support your pelvic organs, such as the bowel and bladder.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is a functional disorder or weakening of the muscles and/or nerves of the pelvic floor. It is extremely common (especially as we age) and can result in symptoms of urgency, chronic constipation, or fecal/urinary incontinence.
Along with a physical exam and an understanding of all symptoms you are experiencing, your healthcare provider may perform an anorectal manometry test to evaluate the strength of your anal sphincter muscles.
Anorectal manometry measures the functional performance of the anus and rectum. For this test, you will change into a hospital gown and be asked to lie on your left side. A small, flexible catheter with pressure sensors and a balloon on the end will be gently inserted into the rectum. During the test, the balloon will be inflated in the rectum to assess the normal reflex pathways. The nurse may also ask you to squeeze, relax, and push at various times in order to measure the anal sphincter muscles. The test takes approximately 30 minutes and is unlikely to cause any pain. Immediately following the test, you will be able to drive yourself home and resume normal daily activity.
During weekly visits with a dedicated pelvic floor specialist nurse, patients will undergo an individualized muscle rehabilitation plan which may include contraction exercises, EMG biofeedback (which measures muscle tension), ultrasound imaging, and mild pelvic muscle electric stimulation.
At your initial visit, the nurse will attain a health history, explain the therapy in detail, and answer any questions you may have. You will also receive an anorectal manometry test to evaluate the current strength of your anal sphincter muscles. This first session usually takes about an hour.
Follow-up sessions will occur once a week and typically last about 30 minutes. Your individualized program may include anywhere from four to eight sessions depending on your specific condition as muscle training is unique to each patient. To evaluate the progress of your pelvic muscle strength, two additional anorectal manometry tests will be administered throughout the program.
Each week you’ll be given exercises to complete at home prior to your next therapy session.
Like other muscles in your body, your pelvic floor muscles will become stronger with an exercise program. By regularly and properly engaging the pelvic floor, 75-90% of patients treated with this type of therapy experience significant improvement in their symptoms. In fact, changes are usually noticed within three to four weeks.