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The Pelvic Floor Has Layers

Hi friends! If you’ve ever seen the movie Shrek you know that ogres are like onions. Not because they stink or make you cry, but because they have layers. The pelvic floor does, too! Note: if your pelvic floor does have a smell or does make you cry, that’s a sign of underlying issues.

Many people are often surprised to find out that the pelvic floor is made up of several different muscles (not just one) and other support structures like fascia and connective tissue. The pelvic floor is made up of 17 different muscles—depending on how you count them. In today’s blog, we’re going to talk about the different layers of the pelvic floor muscles.

Before we talk about each layer, let’s briefly talk about what the pelvic floor does. The pelvic floor muscles work to provide us with four main functions.

  1. The muscles work to provide stability as part of the core.

  2. They work to support our pelvic organs from below.

  3. They control the sphincters (or openings) to keep pee, poop, and gas in or out.

  4. They play a large role in sexual function.

To learn even more about what the pelvic floor muscles do watch this video below.

The pelvic floor is often split into two (or sometimes more) layers. The superficial, or outermost, layer and the levator ani, which sits deeper in the pelvis.

The superficial layer plays a big role in controlling pee and poop, as well as sexual function. It is made up of several muscles including:

  • External anal sphincter (helps control poop and gas)

  • External urethral sphincter (helps to control pee)

  • Transverse perineal (supports the perineum)

  • Ischiocavernosus (erects the clitoris/penis)

  • Bulbocavernosus/Bulbospongiosus (erects the clitoris/penis)

The muscles that sit deeper are grouped together and called the levator ani. This layer plays an important role in supporting the pelvic organs and helping to control pooping. This group is made up of the following muscles:

  • Pubococcygeus

  • Puborectalis

  • Iliococcygeus

  • Coccygeus

Unless you are a clinician it is not crucial to know where each individual muscle of the pelvic floor is and what it does, as they work together for many functions. What can be more important is knowing how to find your pelvic floor muscles and knowing how to control them (like contracting/engaging and lengthening/relaxing at the right times). Watch the video below to learn how to find the pelvic floor muscles.

Ready to learn more about your pelvic health? Here are some helpful resources:

For providers, join our Ambassador Program and most of our courses are included with your membership!

  • New Structure for PFM Assessment Using ICS Terminology with Beth Shelly, PT, DPT, WCS, BCB-PMD

  • Pelvic PT Evaluation of the Pelvic Floor Muscles with Dr. Samantha Richter, PT, DPT, WCS

  • The 3D Pelvis with Hayley Kava, PT, MPT, Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist

Written by Emily Reul, PT, DPT

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1 Comment

Oct 10, 2023

It's a great article, you have written everything very cool and detailed, it deserves respect, because it's not every day that you can find such a detailed article. For example, when I was studying at medical college, I skipped some topics due to my lazy nature, but I never skipped nursing essay writing because I always had something to say, and even more, so I could cover those topics that were not covered. In general, I have always been quite interested in female anatomy, it is more complex and multifaceted, which is not the case with male anatomy. That's why I was interested to read your article, it's very interesting and useful for the female part of your blog.

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