What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is one of the least discussed and understood group of muscles in the human body. Almost everyone can point to their abductor (abs) muscles, their bicep muscles, or their calf muscles. But ask the question "What is the pelvic floor?" and more specifically "where is the pelvic floor, exactly?" and people start to scratch their heads. Let's clear things up for you.
The pelvic floor is a series of internal muscles and tissues inside of your body surrounding and supporting many of your internal organs. The pelvic floor starts at your tailbone (coccyx) right at the end of your spine and spans across to your pubic bone at the front of your body. It also connects to each of your hip bones across your body. Many people explain a pelvic floor by using the analogy of a hammock that holds your internal organs where they should be.
The pelvic floor muscles work in many ways inside of your body. They work to support many of your internal organs, in men this includes your bladder and bowel, and in women this includes your bladder, bowel and uterus. The pelvic floor is also important not just in supporting your organs, but also in support of your genital related activities. These include effective urination, bowel movements, sexual activities, orgasm, childbirth (in women) erections (in men)
Weakened pelvic floor muscles are linked to a number of challenges. These include urinary incontinence (sudden need to urinate), stress incontinence (urine leaks during high stress exercise), organ prolapse, reduced sexual sensation, difficulty in childbirth, and overall lack of core strength in your body.
Understanding the pelvic floor muscles:
The pelvic floor muscles are not a single muscle, but a series of connecting and overlapping muscles that work together to support your core.
Let’s take a deep dive into the specific pelvic floor muscles with the assistance of an image. Below you will see a cutout looking from just below and from behind of the pelvic floor muscles of a female. We will go into detail so you can understand what is your pelvic floor:
The bulbospongiosus muscle is a paired muscle within the muscles of the pelvic floor. It is sexually dimorphic, meaning that it is different between men and women. In men, it surrounds the bulb of the penis as well as the corpus spongiosum, while in women, it encircles the vaginal orifice.
The function of this muscle for men is to facilitate urination, ejaculation, and erection. In females the function of the bulbospongiosus muscle is to contribute to the erection of the clitoris as well as support greater vestibular glands, which secrete mucus to lubricate the vagina. The bulbospongiosus also supports the perineal body for both men and women. The perineal body is essential for the integrity of the pelvic floor, especially in females.
The ischiocavernosus muscle is present in both men and women. Its primary function in men is to help stabilize the erect penis. In women, its primary function is to tense the vagina during orgasm, as well as maintain the erection of the clitoris.
Transverse Perineal Muscles
The transverse perinea muscles consist of two different pelvic floor muscles – the superficial transverse perineal muscle, and the deep transverse perineal muscle.
Superficial Transverse Perineal Muscle:
This pelvic floor muscle is crosses between the front of the anus and through the perineal space (in women between their vagina and anus, and in men between their scrotum and anus).
Deep transverse perineal muscle
This pelvic floor muscle lies in the perineum and is part of the pelvic floor group of muscles. Both the superficial transverse perineal muscle and the deep transverse perineal muscle support the base of the pelvic floor and function to support the pelvic floor, as well as expulsion of semen in men, and assisting with bladder expulsion in both men and women
The Levator Ani Muscles
This group of muscles called the levator ani muscles consist of three main groups of muscles, all supporting the pelvic floor and part of the pelvic floor muscles. They are: puborectalis muscle, pubococcygeus muscle, and the iliococcygeus muscles.
The function of all of these muscles is crucial in pelvic floor health, as they stabilize the abdominal and pelvic organs. These muscles primary function is to prevent your organs from falling out of your pelvis and abdomen. Let’s review all three of these muscles:
This muscle is the most famous of the 3 muscles of the levator ani muscle group. It is often short formed into the “P.C. muscle” – short for the pubococcygeus muscle. The pubococcygeus muscles control the flow urine in both men and women. They also assist in ejaculation in men. This muscle assists in childbirth. Finally, the pubococcygeus muscle aids in core stability in the body. A strong pubococcygeus muscle has been linked to a reduction of urinary incontinence in studies.
This muscle arises from the spine and is thin. Working with the other muscles of the Levator Ani muscles, it works to support your internal organs and pelvic cavity, called the viscera.
Puborectalis muscle wraps around the lower rectum and passes through the pelvic floor. It helps maintain fecal continence and is important muscle during the act of having a bowl movement. At rest, the puborectalis muscle is contracted, pulling the rectum forward. This prevents passage of stool. During the process of deification, the puborectalis reflexively relaxes and straightens out, allowing stool to pass easily.
I hope this article helped you answer the question: "What is the pelvic Floor?" in a way that makes sense. The pelvic floor is a series of internal muscle with many different responsibilities, and their optimal function is very important in many ways for your body.
Peace and Love,