Pelvic floor

There are many different types of problems both men and women can have with their bladder, bowels or other pelvic organs. Poor bladder or bowel control, any kind of pelvic pain, and pelvic organ prolapse are the most common problems in this area. Pelvic floor muscles may play an important part in treatment.

How do I know if my issues require physiotherapy or other medical attention?

If you experience a sudden loss of control of your bladder and bowels (incontinence and/or constipation of bladder or bowels), severe back pain, and numbness in your ‘saddle’ area (ie, the part of your groin, bottom and inner thighs that would touch a saddle), you need to seek medical attention immediately. These symptoms can be due to a rare, but serious, condition that involves extreme swelling around the nerves of the spinal cord. Otherwise, your physiotherapist specially trained in bladder and bowel health will be able to diagnose and treat you, as well as communicate with other medical professionals as needed.

How effective is physiotherapy for bowel and bladder conditions?

Research shows that doing pelvic floor muscle training helps bladder and bowel control in both men and women.

Some women who have urinary incontinence have found that using a specific type of vaginal pessary that is worn inside the vagina helps with their bladder control and sometimes symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse.

Specific assessment and treatment tools that physiotherapists use in bowel problems (such as certain types of constipation and incontinence) have been shown to improve symptoms and make a difference in their quality of life.

How can physiotherapy help my continence issues?

Pelvic floor physiotherapy can help continence issues through:

Education and advice

Explaining why this is happening and working out how to change some lifestyle habits if they are contributing to the problem

Pelvic floor muscle and abdominal exercises

These can help by strengthening or relaxing the muscles that support and close off the bladder and bowels.  Abdominal muscle exercises may be important for proper breath control, core strength or helping the pelvic floor muscles. A strengthening or relaxation program will be specifically designed for you, including how to include them into your general daily activities or other exercises you enjoy doing


Some women may be able to use a silicone device that sits up inside the vagina and helps bladder control. It can be like a tampon where it is placed inside the vagina and you don’t feel it once it is in place. This can be used daily or just when needed in exercise.