The pelvic floor sits in an area in the lower part of the pelvis, the area in and around where you sit and cannot be seen with the naked eye. It has a hammock-like structure and consists of many blood vessels, nerves and strong connective tissues. Pelvic floor or pelvic diaphragm consists mainly of two paired muscles:
- Levator Ani which acts as the principal pelvic floor muscle. It actively aids and maintains the position of the pelvic internal organs in the main cavities of the body especially in the abdomen such as the bladder, rectum and anal canal.
- Coccygeus muscle is the secondary muscle and its main job and function is to reinforce the pelvic floor underneath i.e. posteriorly. It arises from an area called Ischial Spine (the “sit-down” bone) which is a thin and pointed triangular eminence that comes from the border of the three major bones that constitute each half of the pelvis.
What are the differences between pelvic floor muscles in men and in women?
The external genital sex organs in men (penis and testis) and women (vulva and vaginal entrance) lie just outside or underneath the pelvic floor muscle. It has an opening in both men and women through which the urine tube, vagina and back passage pass through. There are obviously some differences in the structure of the pelvic floor muscles between men and women, these differences can make the female pelvic floor muscles more prone stress. Why? In women the bones are naturally set wider than those of men to allow for childbirth, this means that their pelvic floor muscles span a wider area and so the effects of pregnancy, childbirth and menopause can make it more prone to damage, strain, and consequent dysfunction. But pelvic floor dysfunction is not just a woman’s thing! Men can also experience pelvic floor dysfunction which if not dealt with can lead to erectile dysfunction, pelvic pain and bladder and bowl problems. There are at least eight different reasons why men’s pelvic floor can weaken over time. These range from repeated straining when emptying your bowels to neurological damage after a stroke or spinal injury or even as a result of Multiple Sclerosis or diabetes. Operations for an enlarged prostate gland and/or being overweight is not considered good for the pelvic floor muscle either because that does put a strain on it.