Anatomy and Functions of the Pelvic Floor Muscles
Today, I’m going to be talking about the anatomy and the functions of the pelvic floor muscles. In my hands, I am holding a model of the female pelvis.
Anatomy of the Pelvic Floor
First, let’s go over structure of the pelvis that kind of give us some landmarks. We have the pubic bone in the front, and then in the back towards the end of our spine, we have the tail bone. If we flip it so it is as if somebody’s lying down on their back, on both sides we have the sit bones. These are sometimes what may feel a little bit uncomfortable if we’re sitting for too long or if we’re on a hard surface, such as bleachers.
These structures or “bony landmarks” show us where the pelvic floor muscles live. They are from the pubic bone in the front to the tail bone in the back, and from sit bone to sit bone on either side. It forms a hammock-like structure.
Pelvic Floor Muscles Support Organs and Functions
The pelvic muscles are comprised of three layers, so it’s not just one muscle. There’s a layer that’s more on the outer surface, one that’s in the middle, and then a deep layer. The pelvic floor muscles, when we’re talking about their functions, play a role in helping us maintain continence so that we don’t leak urine or leak stool. Some of these muscles are circular in nature to help close off the opening.
The pelvic floor muscles also have to be able to relax fully to allow us to empty our bladder all the way and to empty our stool. They also play a role in sexual function with the nature of where they are located. The pelvic floor muscles provide support to some very important organs within our pelvis. They are also considered a postural stabilizing muscle, so they are part of our core system.
Breathing and Pelvic Floor Muscles
Also, interestingly, the pelvic floor plays a role in our breathing, or maybe I should say that it coordinates with our breathing. Think about the diaphragm. Our diaphragm lives underneath our rib cage, or underneath the lobes of our lungs, and it’s kind of dome shaped. When we breathe in, the diaphragm drops down to bring in all of that good air and oxygen. The pelvic floor, obviously a lot lower, takes that pressure down through the system and relaxes a little bit. And then when we exhale or let that air out, everything kind of goes back up to that resting position. There’s a piston relationship between the diaphragm and the pelvic floor, where when we breathe in, things dropped down, and when we exhale, they come back up. Interesting, right?