Matches Pelvic Floor Muscles: What to Know

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on October 04, 2022

A combination of muscles forms a dome near your pelvis. Although you may not always notice them, these muscles perform many vital tasks. For example, simply standing up from a sitting position requires using your pelvic floor muscles. 

So, what are the pelvic floor muscles? What do the pelvic floor muscles do? First, we'll look at the pelvic floor muscles more in-depth, discovering where they are located and some common conditions that can affect them. Then, we'll look at ways to keep your pelvic floor muscles in better shape.

What Are the Pelvic Floor Muscles?

The pelvic floor gives support to the organs in your core. These muscles also participate in regular bodily functions and sex.

Differences between men's and women's pelvic floor muscles have to do with their reproductive organs. They support the vagina in women and protect the prostate in men. They also support non-reproductive organs:

  • Urethra
  • Bowel
  • Bladder
  • Rectum
  • Anus

Many of your pelvic floor muscles combine to form a layer of muscles surrounding your anus, urethra, vagina, or penis.

The pelvic floor muscles form the base of your core muscles, beginning at the base of your spine and attaching to your pelvis. Your pelvic muscles are stretchy and connect your pubic bone to your tailbone. 

Your diaphragm, back, abdominal, and pelvic floor muscles all work together to stabilize the center of your body.

Some interesting things about the pelvic floor muscles

  • One of the jobs of your pelvic floor muscles is to respond to sensations during sexual intercourse. These muscles help you contract and release during your orgasm.
  • The female pelvis is wider and has more of a circular shape than the male pelvis. Due to this wider pelvis, a woman is more susceptible to pelvic floor weakness.
  • The "hammock hypothesis" illustrates how the pelvic floor muscles attach to and support the urethra alongside fascia and other connective tissues. This collection of working parts may account for the continence mechanism, so if one of these functional parts fails, you may develop stress incontinence.

What Do the Pelvic Floor Muscles Do?

The pelvic floor muscles' function is primarily to support your pelvic organs. They help to keep pelvic organs and pelvic viscera in place. They support the uterus in women and the bladder and bowels in both men and women.

They maintain your urinary and fecal continence until it is time to allow these waste products to be released. For example, the puborectalis is a u-shaped muscle. When contracted, it holds fecal matter back so it doesn't constantly flow out. 

There are two primary groups of muscles in the pelvic floor muscles anatomy: the levator ani and the coccygeus muscles. These include:

  • The external anal sphincter, which is capable of long-squeeze contractions and assists the internal in controlling stool release in the body. Pelvic floor muscle exercises of this muscle have helped people with fecal incontinence.
  • The compressor urethra is a striated muscle that helps constrict the urethra.
  • The bulbospongiosus muscle is one of the muscles that expel seminal fluid and urine from the penis in males. In females, it plays a role in the erection of the clitoris as well as helping the vagina to constrict.
  • The superficial transverse perineal muscle This superficial muscle runs from the anus to the front of the perineal body.
  • The deep transverse perineal muscle is vital for stabilizing the pelvic perineum region.
  • The pubococcygeus muscle works to close the genital hiatus.
  • The puboperineal muscle is a levator ani muscle that has a role in supporting organs and controlling urine output.
  • The puborectalis muscle forms a sling around the rectum to support it.
  • The Iliococcygeus muscle is a levator ani muscle that extends from the tendinous arch and forms a supportive sling for the pelvic canal.
  • The ischiococcygeus muscles (or, the coccygeus) are a pair of muscles that stem from the ischial spines and extend to the coccyx in a triangular shape, stabilizing the core.
  • The internal urethral sphincter is made up of smooth muscle and is managed by the autonomous nervous system.
  • The external urethral sphincter is made up of skeletal muscle and is managed by the somatic nervous system. In females, it is positioned near the distal inferior, and in males, the membranous urethra. Both the internal and external urethral sphincters work together to control the flow of urine.

Signs Something Could Be Wrong With Your Pelvic Floor Muscles?

If you are worried that something may be wrong with your pelvic floor muscles, there are a few common symptoms you can look out for, such as:

  • A constant urge to use the bathroom
  • Painful urination
  • Pain in your lower back 
  • Persistent pain in your pelvic area, rectum, or genitals 
  • Constipation and painful straining during your bowel movements 
  • Leaking urine or stool

You may want to see your healthcare provider if you experience any of these symptoms, as they could signify a serious health problem.

What Conditions Affect the Pelvic Floor Muscles?

Most pelvic floor disorders occur because you have weakened pelvic floor muscles or muscles that are excessively tight.

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction encompasses many problems that can impact pelvic floor muscle function. Often, people assume only women have pelvic floor issues, but 16% of men are also diagnosed with pelvic floor dysfunction at some point. 

Some common types of pelvic floor dysfunction cause the following issues:

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Pain during sex
  • Constipation
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Rectal prolapse
  • Pelvic pain

Urinary incontinence occurs when you accidentally leak urine. It affects around 25 to 45% of women.

Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when significant organs in the pelvic region bulge into the vagina. Around 5 to 20% of women develop this condition.

How Can You Keep Your Pelvic Floor Muscles Healthy?

Some lifestyle changes can help prevent pelvic floor muscle issues.

Some ways to help keep your pelvic floor muscles healthy include:

  • Avoid drinking alcohol.
  • Reduce caffeine intake.
  • Limit artificial sweeteners.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Practice core-strengthening exercises.

Show Sources

American journal of physiology. Gastrointestinal and liver physiology: “Fatigability of the external anal sphincter muscles using a novel strength training resistance exercise device.” 
Cleveland Clinic: “Pelvic Floor muscles.”
Fahmy MW, Sanganeria T, Munakomi S. StatPearls “Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis, Superficial Perineal Space,” StatPearls Publishing, 2022  
Grimes WR, Stratton M. StatPearls, “Pelvic Floor Dysfunction,” StatPearls Publishing, 2022.
International neurourology journal: “Clinical and functional anatomy of the urethral sphincter.” 
Int Urogynecol J: “. Pelvic floor muscle function in the standing position in women with pelvic floor dysfunction.”
Obstetrics and gynecology: “Levator ani muscle anatomy evaluated by origin-insertion pairs.” “Bulbospongiosus muscle,” “Coccygeus muscle,” “Deep transverse perineal muscle.”
Reviews in urology: “Female pelvic floor anatomy: the pelvic floor, supporting structures, and pelvic organs.” 
The Journal of Urology: “Functional Effects of Bulbospongiosus Muscle Sparing on Ejaculatory Function and Post-Void Dribbling after Bulbar Urethroplasty.”
University of Washington: “What Is Your Pelvic Floor and Why Should You Care?”

© 2022 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info