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Why Pelvic Floor Issues Can Mess Up Your Back

It’s never a “good thing” when a celebrity (or anyone else) encounters a health issue. But when they share their health struggles, good can come from it. Celebs have the unique power to raise awareness and reduce stigma around health conditions in a matter of seconds — and they can instantly give people the courage they need to get the care they need.

That's why when Brittany Mahomes turned to social media to discuss a recent back injury and included a PSA to “Please take care of your pelvic floor,” we took it as a rare opportunity to highlight a key health connection: Pelvic floor dysfunction can increase your risk of back injury and is often the cause of lingering, chronic low back pain.

Pelvic floor dysfunction can increase your risk of back injury and is often the cause of lingering, chronic low back pain.

Some research shows that 95% of people with low back pain have pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. There's also a connection between stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and low back pain — one study shows that people with chronic low back pain have 44% higher odds of having SUI. Another study reports that 79% of those with postpartum SUI have low back pain. So what's the connection?

Your pelvic floor sits at the bottom of your pelvis, which is directly connected to your back through your sacrum and tailbone. The pelvic floor muscles provide a foundation for all of your pelvic organs and your core. That means when your pelvic floor is weak and/or overactive, the negative effects can extend to your back. Keep reading to find out more — and what you can do to keep your back strong and safe.

The low back and pelvic floor connection

Your pelvic floor muscles provide critical support to your pelvic organs. They also maintain bowel and bladder continence and stabilizing the pelvis, which directly connects to the low back through the sacrum and tailbone. When these muscles aren't working properly, it can lead to various problems, including urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and low back pain.

Whether pelvic floor dysfunction is a result of muscle weakness or muscle tightness, there are many ways that pelvic floor dysfunction can contribute to low back pain or increase risk of future injuries:

Muscle Imbalance

Pelvic floor dysfunction can result in muscle imbalances within the pelvic and low back area. These imbalances can impact your pelvic alignment, posture, and contribute to increased stress and demand on the lower back.

Core Instability

Although we tend to think of the “core” as just the abdominal muscles, the pelvic floor muscle group is a hugely important part of the core. In fact, along with the low back muscles, glutes, diaphragm, and abdominals, the pelvic muscles literally form the floor of your core. Weakness or dysfunction in the pelvic floor muscles can compromise core stability, which is essential for supporting the spine and preventing low back pain.

Postural Dysfunction

Pelvic floor dysfunction can alter pelvic alignment and posture. And when your joint alignment and posture are off, it may increase your risk of adopting painful movement patterns, overworking certain muscles in the low back and pelvis, and engaging in harmful body mechanics. All of these can result in pain and low back injury.

Trigger Points and Nerve Irritation

When you have pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, it's common to develop what are known as trigger points, tight points within the muscle that can irritate nerves and refer pain to other areas of the body. It is common for trigger points in pelvic floor muscles to refer pain into the lower back.

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Why caring for your pelvic floor is so important

Luckily, pelvic floor muscle dysfunction is highly treatable. There are many ways that pelvic floor physical therapy can support and rehabilitate pelvic floor muscle function, ultimately reducing pain and risk of future injury. Here are some of the top treatments PTs use to address dysfunction:

Pelvic Floor Exercises

Performing regular pelvic floor exercises, including kegels, can help strengthen these muscles and improve their function. Pelvic floor exercises can help prevent low back pain by improving core muscle stability and restoring muscle coordination to reduce risk of pain and injury.

Manual Therapy

By restoring normal range of motion, blood flow, and nerve health in the muscles and fascia in the abdominal, hip, low back, and pelvic floor areas, manual therapy can be particularly helpful for those who have a tight and overactive pelvic floor.

Postpartum Care

The postpartum period is a particularly vulnerable time for your pelvic floor muscles and entire body. Due to the extreme strain of pregnancy and childbirth on the body, pelvic floor muscle injury and dysfunction are common, as is lower back pain. Postpartum physical therapy can reduce your risk of long-term injury. Pelvic floor rehabilitation, in particular, is essential for restoring muscle function and preventing complications like low back pain.

Whole Body Care

Pelvic floor physical therapy for your low back pain involves addressing not only the pelvic floor muscles but also muscles throughout the body. This often includes assessing posture, joint alignment, muscle strength, flexibility, and daily movement patterns to find and resolve imbalances.

Education

If you have low back pain, pelvic floor physical therapist can provide you with all of the information that you need to understand the root of your pain. They’ll also make sure you understand how caring for your pelvic health can improve your low back symptoms now and in the future.

Get the expert support you need for low back pain

Unfortunately, the connection between the pelvic floor and back is often missed — even by orthopedic physical therapists who have plenty of experience with low back pain, but less experience with pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. This is why we are so glad that Brittany Mahomes is bringing attention to pelvic floor care for low back pain. The physical therapists at Origin understand this critical connection, so if you or someone you love has an aching back that won't get better, don't hesitate to come see us virtually or in-person at one of our clinics.

Ashley Rawlins Headshot
Dr. Ashley Rawlins, PT, DPT

Dr. Rawlins is a physical therapist at Origin who specializes in the treatment of pelvic floor muscle dysfunctions including pelvic pain, sexual dysfunction, pregnancy related pain, postpartum recovery, and bowel and bladder dysfunction. In addition to being a practicing clinician, she is a passionate educator and author.

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