What Is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?

Doctor showing male patient a model of the abdomen
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Pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) is a condition in which the muscles in the pelvis do not work properly. The role of these muscles is to support various pelvic organs, including the bladder, prostate, rectum and female reproductive organs. The muscles themselves are also involved in the functioning of the urinary and anal sphincters. Problems with the pelvic floor muscles can lead to urinary difficulties and bowel dysfunction.

PFD is experienced by both men and women.

In order for the processes of urination and defecation to go smoothly, the various muscles within the pelvis need to act in a coordinated manner. In some cases, the muscles contract when they should be relaxing, or the muscles do not relax sufficiently to facilitate coordinated movement.

Symptoms Associated with Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

The following are some of the more common problems associated with PFD:

Causes of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

PFD can be caused by injury to the nerves and muscles of the pelvic area through such things as surgery, pregnancy and vaginal childbirth. In many cases, the cause of the dysfunction is unknown.

Treatment of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

In the past, it was thought that PFD would benefit from exercises to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor.

It is now recommended that treatment focus on stretching, relaxing, and re-training the muscles. Many physical therapists specialize in this type of treatment. Other options include biofeedback, and in more severe cases, surgery.


"Common Causes of Incontinence" International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Fact Sheet Accessed May 21, 2011.

Wang, et.al. "Pelvic floor disorders and quality of life in women with self-reported irritable bowel syndrome" Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics 2010 31:424-431.

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