Pelvic Floor Muscles - What Are They And What Do They Do?

Posted by Anna Bergeron on

When it comes to sex, most of us want to stay in tip top condition, so we can enjoy it to it’s fullest. Unfortunately though, as you become older, your body tends to become weaker. This can make sex much less enjoyable and lead to a decline in sex drive as you age.

One key area where this is true is the pelvic floor muscles. These are incredibly important muscles which play a vital role in your sex life. As you age these can become weaker, having a massive impact not only on your sex life, but also on your general health.

What Are The Pelvic Floor Muscles?

Pelvic floor muscles are an important group of muscles found in the lower body. They cover a massive area across the bottom of your torso, and are part of your core muscles.

In most people, these muscles form a kind of hammock across the bottom of the torso, from the front of your pelvis, to the back of your butt. Unsurprisingly, this area is made up of many smaller muscles that can be controlled independently depending on what you’re doing at the time.

What Do The Pelvic Floor Muscles Do?

Our pelvic floor muscles are responsible for a number of vital functions, without which our bodies simply cannot work properly.

Most importantly, the pelvic floor muscles form a barrier, which holds all your lower internal organs in place. This includes your bladder, lower parts of your colon, and all of your internal sexual organs.

Without these muscles, all these organs are free to sag and droop. This puts them under unnecessary strain, and can also damage other areas of your body thanks to the extra pressure.

Another vitally important function of the pelvic floor muscles involves controlling your continence. These muscles help to hold the various sphincters around your anus and genitals tightly shut, meaning that no urine or poop can escape when it shouldn’t.

When they become weaker, the muscles can struggle to hold these sphincters shut as tightly, leading to many different forms of incontinence.

Then, of course, there are the sexual functions of the pelvic floor muscles, which are partly responsible for orgasms, ejaculation, maintaining erections, the tightness of your vagina, and even your ability to wear a sex toy inside your body!

Finally, they help with childbirth. These muscles will support the baby throughout its growth. Then when the time comes to give birth, the pelvic floor helps to open up the body, and allow the baby to pass through and out of the body.

Why Do Pelvic Floor Muscles Become Damaged?

While many of us might not suffer from any of the problems associated with a damaged pelvic floor, that doesn’t mean ours are in perfect condition!

The primary cause of pelvic floor dysfunction is simply aging. Like all other muscles in the body, over time they become weaker, and if you don’t spend time exercising them regularly, then they may never recover their former strength.

Even if the passage of time isn’t affecting your body as much though, there are still many things which can cause your muscles to weaken. For example, frequently “holding in” poop or urine because you aren’t near a bathroom can cause problems over time.

Other factors which may cause problems include:

  • Functional Incontinence
  • Overflow Incontinence
  • Urge Incontinence
  • Stress Incontinence
  • Total Incontinence

On the other end of the spectrum, dysfunctioning pelvic floor muscles can also cause issues such as constipation, or pain with bowel movements. This is due to the muscles inability to properly open and close, meaning you can’t use the bathroom when you need to. The same is also true of urination.

Moving away from the bathroom, poor pelvic floor health can lead to pain in a number of places, including:

  • Lower Back Pain
  • Pelvic Pain
  • Genital Pain
  • Upper Leg Pain
  • Stomach Pain
  • Pain During Sex

The reason these symptoms can be so varied and affect so much of your body, is that there are multiple ways that your pelvic floor can be damaged. While we most often refer to a “weakened pelvic floor” it can also be too tight, or even a mixture of the two.

Pelvic Floor Problems During Sex

While any of the problems with a dysfunctioning pelvic floor are less than ideal, when it comes to your sex life it can also wreak havoc.

Of these, one of the worst effects is the overall reduced frequency that many sufferers will actually have sex!

While it sounds silly, this is usually the result of sex simply not feeling as good when suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction.

In women, the vagina often feels like it gets more “loose”, and during sex it doesn’t grip on to a penis as tightly as it used to. This in turn leads to reduced sensations and stimulation, which makes it harder to orgasm, and makes you enjoy sex less.

Luckily, this “loose” vagina syndrome isn’t really what’s going on. Instead, the muscles of the pelvic floor are unable to grip as tightly, so even though the vagina hasn’t changed, it feels looser.

When a man suffers pelvic floor dysfunction, things can be even more trouble. Often the problems make themselves known in the penis itself. He may suffer erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, softer erections, smaller erections, and weaker orgasms.

Once you start to understand the wealth of problems a dysfunctional pelvic floor can cause, it becomes much clearer how it can impact your sex life.

Can You Fix Pelvic Floor Problems?

We’ve made it sound like there’s a lot of doom and gloom surrounding the pelvic floor, but it’s not all bad news. Just like any other muscle in the body, regularly exercising the pelvic floor muscles can help rejuvenate them into their old condition!

The most commonly recommended treatment for pelvic floor problems is Kegel Exercises. These are simple exercises where you tense and relax your pelvic floor muscles multiple times.

It’s not going to magically fix all your problems overnight, but if you keep at it, you’re extremely likely to see some positive results.

One of the largest issues people have when it comes to exercising their pelvic floor though is figuring out which muscles you’re supposed to be using. None of your other muscles should be working, as this reduces the effectiveness of the exercise.

Some doctors may help you identify these muscles, either through coaching or with external help. They will often use anal probes that apply electrical stimulation to the muscles. This teaches them how to move, and helps you learn how to perform effective Kegel exercises.

You can even invest in sex toys specifically designed to help improve your pelvic floor health! Kegel balls are the most prolific of these, and just by holding them inside your body you will gently work out the muscles. There are plenty of different Kegel exercise tools to choose from, which we cover in much more detail in another article.

Don’t Forget Your Pelvic Floor!

With many of our muscles, it’s easy to know when we need to give them a little TLC. We can clearly see them and recognise the impact they have on our bodies.

Pelvic floor muscles are much more hidden, so it’s easy to forget about them. They are no less vital than any of our other muscles though, and we should all try to remember to take care of them to keep our sex lives as great as they can be!

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