Pelvic floor involvement in male and female sexual dysfunction and the role of pelvic floor rehabilitation in treatment: a literature review

J Sex Med. 2007 Jan;4(1):4-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2006.00393.x.


Introduction: The sphincteric and supportive functions of the pelvic floor are fairly well understood, and pelvic floor rehabilitation, a specialized field within the scope and practice of physical therapy, has demonstrated effectiveness in the treatment of urinary and fecal incontinence. The role of the pelvic floor in the promotion of optimal sexual function has not been clearly elucidated.

Aim: To review the role of the pelvic floor in the promotion of optimal sexual function and examine the role of pelvic floor rehabilitation in treating sexual dysfunction.

Main outcome measure: Review of peer-reviewed literature.

Results: It has been proposed that the pelvic floor muscles are active in both male and female genital arousal and orgasm, and that pelvic floor muscle hypotonus may impact negatively on these phases of function. Hypertonus of the pelvic floor is a significant component of sexual pain disorders in women and men. Furthermore, conditions related to pelvic floor dysfunction, such as pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse, and lower urinary tract symptoms, are correlated with sexual dysfunction.

Conclusions: The involvement of the pelvic floor in sexual function and dysfunction is examined, as well as the potential role of pelvic floor rehabilitation in treatment. Further research validating physical therapy intervention is necessary.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise Therapy / methods
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Pelvic Floor*
  • Pelvic Pain / complications*
  • Pelvic Pain / prevention & control
  • Pelvic Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Quality of Life
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / etiology*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / prevention & control
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / rehabilitation*