Intro to your pelvic floor

Education on our own anatomy especially during times of rehabilitation is an important aspect to treatment. When we are educated on our own body, how it moves, how it heals, etc, we gain a better understanding of the human body and improve recovery.

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles in the basin of the pelvis of both males and females. These layers of muscle perform important daily functions such as help support the pelvic organs and help with bowel, bladder, and sexual function. These muscles are not talked about much in the exercise realm, but being muscles they can improve through exercise! They can also become too tight and cause pain just how a tight hamstring can cause pain in the leg or knee.

Many small muscles make up the pelvic floor and all contribute to proper function.

Muscle Layers of the Pelvic Floor

  1. Layer 1 or the Superficial Perineal Pouch
    1. Bulbocavernosus
    2. Ischiocavernosus
    3. Superficial transverse perineal
    4. External anal sphincter
  2. Layer 2 or the Urogenital Diaphragm
    1. External Urethral sphincter
    2. Compressor Urethra
    3. Sphincter Urethrovaginalis
    4. Deep transverse perineal
  • Layer 3 or the Pelvic Diaphragm (deepest layer- furthest from the surface of the skin)
    1. Levator ani
      1. Pubococcygeus
        1. Pubovaginalis
        2. Puborectalis
      2. Iliococcygeus
    2. Coccygeus
  1. Pelvic Wall
    1. Obturator Internus
    2. Piriformis
  2. Perineal body: Central tendon of the Pelvis (space in between the vagina and anus on females and between penis and anus on males)

Wow! There are a lot more muscles that support our pelvis than we realize! Lets break the layers down further and discover how each muscle contributes to function of your pelvic floor


  1. Layer 1 or the Superficial Perineal Pouch
    1. Bulbocavernosus and Ischiocavernosus: moving blood from within the pelvic floor to provide support for erection of the penis and the clitoris
    2. Superficial transverse perineal: stabilize the perineal body
    3. External anal sphincter: closes the anal canal for prevention of fecal incontinence
  2. Layer 2 or the Urogenital Diaphragm
    1. External Urethral sphincter: compresses urethra to stop the urine for continence and relaxes during urination (micturition)
    2. Compressor Urethra: close the urethra to stop or hold the urination for continence
    3. Sphincter Urethrovaginalis: close urethra for continence and closes the vagina
    4. Deep transverse perineal: stabilizes position of the perineal body.
  • Layer 3 or the Pelvic Diaphragm
    1. Levator ani: supports pelvic viscera, maintains the anorectal angle, reinforces external anal sphincter
      1. Pubococcygeus
        1. Pubovaginalis: sphincter to the vagina
        2. Puborectalis: elevates and constricts anal canal
      2. Iliococcygeus: pulls rectum and vagina forward fecal continence
    2. Coccygeus: supports pelvic viscera, pulls coccyx forward after defecation, stabilizes the SI joint (sacroiliac joint)
  1. Pelvic Wall
    1. Obturator Internus, piriformis: hip external rotation
  2. Perineal body: Many muscles attach/intersect through this region

Lets make this easier to understand

The pelvic floor function of all 3 layers of muscles can be summed up into: The 5 S’s

  1. Support: supports the internal organs in the pelvic region
  2. Sphincteric: close the urethra and anus to prevent incontinence urinary and fecal, as well as relaxing to allow urination/defecation
  3. Sexual: support and maintain erection for healthy sexual function; tightness may cause pain during intercourse
  4. Stability: Stabilize the pelvis, SI, lumbar and hip jts as well as posture support and breath support (Inhalation pelvic floor drops, exhalation pelvic floor recoils and lifts up
  5. Sump pump: venous and lymphatic drainage

Schedule a free 15 min consultation with Hillary Jackson, PT, DPT our pelvic floor rehab specialist if you have any questions regarding your pelvic floor function.