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Is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction a Normal Part of Aging?

You probably never thought about your pelvic floor until it stopped supporting all of the organs it was designed to uplift. When your pelvic floor falls, the organs it supports can’t function the way they should. The result can be symptoms such as:

Pelvic floor dysfunction affects about 32% of women at some point during their lives, usually starting around perimenopause or menopause (i.e, ages 40 and over). But about 16% of older men also have pelvic floor disorders.

So, if pelvic floor dysfunction affects so many women and men as they grow older, is it just a normal part of aging? Do you just stock up on pantyliners and diapers and accept your fate? Or is there another way?

At Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford, our team believes in another way. No matter how old you are, you shouldn’t have to suffer the embarrassment, pain, and social difficulties that pelvic floor dysfunction can bring.

What falls with the pelvic floor

Your pelvic floor is a sling of muscles wrapped around your pelvic bones that supports your genitourinary organs. Included in your pelvic floor are:

If your pelvic floor muscles have deteriorated, chances are the muscles that control how you urinate and defecate have also grown weaker with time. That’s why you may now struggle to have a bowel movement or may be leaking urine or feeling that you can’t completely empty your bladder.

You need more than Kegels

Kegel exercises are usually given as a remedy to strengthen your pelvic floor and resolve the symptoms of urinary or fecal incontinence. However, Kegels are difficult to do correctly; 40% of women and men perform them wrong the first time. Doing Kegels incorrectly may actually exacerbate your problem.

Our colorectal experts may recommend a number of lifestyle adjustments to help you regain control of your pelvic floor. For instance, adding more fiber into your diet with whole foods may reduce the incidence of constipation or diarrhea.

We may also recommend working with a pelvic floor therapist who can help you strengthen your muscles again through Kegels and other exercises. Once you’ve mastered the exercises, you can repeat them throughout your day on your own.

Another therapy that’s useful for pelvic floor dysfunction is biofeedback. With the help of biofeedback, you learn how to relax and contract your muscles appropriately to have normal, natural bowel movements and prevent urinary leakage. It can also help with pain.

Finally, we may recommend bowel and bladder training. Training involves setting times to urinate or defecate, whether you feel the urge or not, and then gradually extending the time between sessions until you can control your urination or defecation.

Surgery is a last resort

If you have pain in addition to dysfunction, we may recommend anti-inflammatory medications or painkillers. Only in rare cases do we recommend surgery. However, if your symptoms are severe, or if you have a large prolapse (i.e., sunken organs), surgery may be your best remedy.

Don’t resign yourself to the adult diaper aisle before you speak to us about pelvic floor dysfunction. If you have trouble controlling urine or feces, call us at 860-242-8591. You can also schedule your appointment online at our Bloomfield, South Windsor, or Plainville, Connecticut, clinics.

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