Ask a guy what his pelvic floor does and odds are he might have no idea.
Or if he does know, he may not want to talk about it due to social stigmas. But the truth is all men have pelvic floors and just like it does in women, the male pelvic floor serves multiple functions.
The male pelvic floor is made up of multiple layers of muscles some of which contribute to sexual function (
ischiocavernosus and bulbospongiosus
), others contribute to urinary function (
bulbospongiosus and the urethral sphincters
) and some help with bowel function (
levator ani group
). Not to mention it does all of this while being the ground floor in your body that is supporting all of your pelvic organs. It even has muscles that can affect hip motion (
). All of these muscles work in concert to make these important activities go smoothly and the strength, coordination, and mobility of these muscles is something some men may never have to think about. For anyone that is having pelvic floor dysfunction though, it can be a whole different story.
There are many conditions affecting men that may have links to their pelvic floor. For example, consider the prostate, a pelvic organ that is specific to men - according to the American Cancer Society prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men. This means prostatectomy (the surgical removal of the prostate) is an extremely common procedure here in the US. Men who have had their prostate removed may have trouble with their urinary and sexual function afterwards due to the effect the surgery may have on the muscles and nerves of the pelvic floor. Or you may have heard of prostatitis, which is an infection or inflammation of the prostate, and according to the National Institute of Health, is the most common urinary tract problem for men under the age of 50. Prostatitis can cause men to experience pelvic pain, have difficulty or pain urinating, and affect their sexual function - all of which is influenced by the muscles and nerves of the pelvic floor.
Since the pelvic floor serves so many functions, there are many ways pelvic floor dysfunction can present.
Men may be dealing with urinary issues such as difficulty starting a stream, post-void dribbling, painful urination, or straining to urinate. Or they may be dealing with sexual function issues such as erectile dysfunction, painful ejaculation, or premature ejaculation. Or they may just have chronic pelvic pain syndrome which can come in a variety of forms such as penile pain, perineal pain, scrotal pain, pudendal nerve dysfunction, and many more. Many of these conditions can be linked to the function of the muscles of the pelvic floor and all of them can have a profound effect on a man's life. With the social stigmas he faces, he may be unsure of where to turn or what resources are out there.
One resource is
pelvic floor physical therapy.
A physical therapist can examine and treat pelvic floor conditions in a variety of ways. During the exam the PT will look not only at your pelvic floor (externally and internally as needed), but also at your hips, low back, diaphragm and abdomen. After all, our bodies are intricately connected and just as the hip can influence the position of the foot, what our diaphragm is doing while we breathe can affect the position of pelvic floor. From there they can help strengthen the muscles, stretch the muscles, learn to coordinate them more effectively and discover strategies to help manage symptoms. This means that for men who have had their prostate removed, physical therapy can help them regain control of urinary function and improve sexual function. For men with urinary issues, it can give them strategies to reduce their symptoms and teach their muscles how to function properly. For men with chronic pelvic pain, it can help them find relief through soft tissue work, exercises, and lifestyle modification. Just as physical therapy helps people return to the activities they love after injury to a shoulder or hip, physical therapy can also help when any of the problems listed above are keeping you from doing what you love.
If you or any man you know is dealing with pelvic floor related issues, have them reach out to the physical therapists at CTS to find out more about how we can help them. You can also come check out the next meeting of our Men's Pelvic Health Support Group. The Men's Pelvic Health Support Group is a safe and open space for men to share their stories, experiences, and successes with pelvic floor dysfunction.