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Pelvic Floor Health and Men: Surprising Things All Guys Should Know

If you’re a man or know a man who struggles with things like prostate problems, hernias or erectile dysfunction (ED), I have one question for you:

Have you ever considered whether the pelvic floor muscles are involved?

In my experience, both men and women often seem to “forget” about men’s pelvic floor muscles. My guess is that this is because discussions about pelvic floor health overwhelmingly center around women, as perhaps they should—since female gender, pregnancy, and menopause are among the leading risk factors for pelvic floor dysfunction.

But the truth is, pelvic floor health for men is just as important as it is for women. Just like in female bodies, male bodies rely on a healthy, well-coordinated group of pelvic floor muscles to help:

  • Support the bladder and bowels inside the pelvic cavity
  • Control their bathroom movements (the opening of the bladder and bowels—the urethra and rectum—both pass through the pelvic floor muscles)
  • Support and help control sexual function and sensation

And just like women, men can experience dysfunction in this important “sling” of muscles suspended across the bottom of their pelvis.

To help end the embarrassment some people feel while discussing men’s pelvic health issues, I’d love for everyone to know about the common signs of male pelvic floor dysfunction, what the common risk factors and complications are, and how pelvic physical therapy can help.

Causes of Male Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Pelvic floor dysfunction typically falls into one of two categories: either the pelvic floor muscles become too tight and overactive, or the muscles are too stretched out and weak.

Men who experience pelvic floor dysfunction often have a history of:

  • Obesity
  • Frequent heavy lifting or high impact exercise
  • Long-term persistent coughing, often in the setting of smoking or lung-related conditions
  • Advancing age
  • Surgery in the abdominal area

Signs of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Men with pelvic floor dysfunction may notice signs and symptoms like:

  • A “start-stop” style of urine stream
  • Urinary urgency or the inability to hold your urine
  • Incomplete emptying of the bladder
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Constipation
  • Pain in the lower back or pelvis area that has no other clear cause

Pelvic floor dysfunction in men can also occur alongside or exacerbate other conditions, including ED and hernias in the pelvis, groin, or lower abdomen (a hernia happens when an organ or other tissue pokes through a weak area in a nearby muscle or connective tissue).

I strongly encourage any man having the above symptoms to consult with a doctor. For one thing, other conditions like prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland) can resemble pelvic floor dysfunction and may require different kinds of treatment.  (Although, it is important to keep in mind that many men who are diagnosed with nonbacterial prostatitis can be greatly helped with pelvic floor physical therapy.)

For another thing, pelvic floor dysfunction in men is treatable! Which means relief from your frustrating symptoms is possible.

Taking Care of Pelvic Floor Health for Men: How a Physical Therapist Can Help

Restoring pelvic floor health for men should include a consultation with a pelvic health physical therapist. These PTs are experts in pelvic health and can provide personalized care for men looking to regain normal strength, tone, and coordination in their pelvic floor muscles.

We can do this through a variety of interventions, including:

  • Posture and movement assessments
  • Specific exercises (note: “strengthening” an already-tight and overactive pelvic floor can just worsen the problem, which is why I don’t advise men to just start doing Kegels without talking to a pelvic health PT first!)
  • Manual therapy
  • Dietary recommendations to assist with things like bowel movements and weight loss

Looking for a Men’s Pelvic Health Therapist?

If you live near McLean VA or Bethesda MD and are concerned about pelvic floor health, contact ITR Physical Therapy at 301-770-7060 and find out how pelvic physical therapy can help you!