According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than 31 million people suffer from chronic lower back pain, and about 80 percent of all adults experience lower back pain at some point in their lifetime.
Back pain is one of the leading causes of job-related disability and a major contributor to missed workdays.
About 25 percent of adult women suffer with pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) issues such as incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and pelvic pain. As women age, this ratio increases.
What is the connection between lower back pain and pelvic floor dysfunction?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that extend from the front of the pelvis to the coccyx bone in the back. They are the muscles that hold your pelvic organs — including your bladder, uterus, and rectum — in place.
The pelvic floor muscles also control the output of urine and feces. If you have a pelvic floor dysfunction, your pelvic floor muscles are not working properly to control that output, which can cause incontinence.
If the pelvic floor cannot adequately support the organs above it, the result can be a pelvic organ prolapse.
If your pelvic floor muscles are too tight, it can cause pelvic pain.
Many people who have a pelvic floor dysfunction also experience lower back pain, and many people who experience lower back pain often have a pelvic floor dysfunction.
Back pain and pelvic floor dysfunction are so closely related because all the muscles that support the pelvic floor must also work to support and protect the spine.
Many people assume that core muscles are only made up of the abdominal muscles. But in fact, our core is made up of four walls: the abdominals, the paraspinal muscles in the back, the breathing diaphragm, and the pelvic floor. If there is dysfunction in any one of these areas, it can affect the entire pelvic core, causing weakness, pain, and even injury.
People with lower back pain tend to have significantly lower pelvic floor muscle function compared to those without lower back pain.
Also, stress urinary incontinence is greatly increased in women with lower back pain due to insufficient activation of the postural muscles.
Those most at risk for PFD are athletes, prenatal and postpartum women, people who have had a pelvic or back surgery, and men who have had prostate surgery.
Many people also develop back pain from improper exercise.
Core strengthening is one of the most helpful things you can do for PFD. Yoga, Pilates, and barre can all be helpful.
There are also core-strengthening programs such as Pelacore, which uniquely integrates the pelvic floor into core training, addressing the needs of the lumbopelvic anatomy and working all the pelvic core muscles in functional unison. This leads to a stronger core that can not only end lower back pain, but also improve posture, build endurance, eliminate incontinence, improve sexual enjoyment, strengthen abs, and alleviate other problems related to a weak pelvic core.
If you’re experiencing lower back pain, how do you know if it’s related to a pelvic floor dysfunction? Speak with your physician. If he or she determines that you have a pelvic floor dysfunction, they can help you determine the best course of treatment.
Natalie Padveen is a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction, sports orthopedics, and spinal injuries. She created Pelacore in 2009 to provide a fitness program for people who suffer from lower back pain, incontinence, poor strength, sexual dysfunction, prolapse, diastasis recti, and other pelvic floor dysfunctions
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