What Do The Pelvic Floor Muscles Actually Do?

Anyone who knows me well knows that I absolutely LOVE to talk about the function of the pelvic floor muscles.  I make a point of explaining the role of the pelvic floor muscles to each and every one of my clients so that they may fully appreciate just how important these muscles are for our bodies to function optimally.  It is helpful to categorize the role of the pelvic floor into the “5 S’s”….

  1.   The pelvic floor muscles create a sling or hammock of support at the bottom (floor) of our pelvis to help hold up and keep our organs such as our rectum, bladder, and vagina in the pelvic cavity.  These muscles are working all the time as we walk and move around in order to meet the demand of gravity pulling down on our pelvic organs.
  2. Sphincteric control.  A sphincter is a ring of muscle that opens and closes a tube.  The pelvic floor muscles have the capacity to contract to keep our urethra and rectum closed so that we may go about our daily lives and remain completely continent (no leaks from our bladder or bowels!).  However, upon deciding that it is the right time to have a bowel movement or to void, the pelvic floor muscles can reciprocally relax their tone around the rectum and urethra.  This opens the tube and allows for uninhibited passage of urine and stool.
  3. Sump pump. The pelvic floor muscles dynamically contract and relax with our daily movements in order to create an efficient mechanism that pumps and promotes circulation of blood and lymphatics from our pelvis up towards the heart.
  4. The pelvic floor muscles coordinate and contract with our deep inner core muscles such as the transverse abdominals, diaphragm, and multifidus to support the lumbar spine, hips, and sacroiliac joints.
  5. The pelvic floor muscles are very important in that their strength, coordination, and tone play an important role in promoting sexual sensation, orgasm, penile erection, and allowing comfortable penetration.

I’m hoping that by gaining a better understanding of the 5 S’s, you can appreciate an underlying theme that plays out throughout each description.  It is important to visualize the muscles of the pelvic floor as a group of dynamic, mobile, and flexible muscles that have the capacity to strongly contract and effectively relax or lengthen.    These qualities keep the pelvic floor muscles healthy and ensure all the “5 S’s” are working optimally as well.

By Leeanna Maher
Registered Physiotherapist