Most women have heard of the pelvic floor and been told to do their daily ‘exercises, but the importance of the pelvic floor muscles is often overlooked until people experience problems after giving birth or later in life. Below is a brief introduction to the pelvic floor so, whether you have problems or not, you can start to take control!
The Pelvic Floor is a sling of muscles which run from the pubic bone at the front to the tail bone or coccyx at the back. They form the ‘floor’ that closes the outlets of the bladder, bowel and the vaginal entrance.
The role of the pelvic floor is to:
- Maintain urinary continence (i.e help prevent leakage)
- Protect the spine by working as part of a ‘corset’ of muscles that help stabilise your lower back
- Support the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, bowel)
- Control sexual sensation
As you can see it is a pretty important little set of muscles! So what can happen when it’s not working properly?
- Urinary leakage with sneezing or exercise
- Bladder/bowel urgency
- Night time urinary frequency
- Sexual dysfunction
- Ongoing sacroiliac or low back pain
Finding your Pelvic floor
- Start in a comfortable position either sitting or lying with your legs, buttocks and abdominals relaxed.
- Gently squeeze and draw up the pelvis floor muscles as if you were trying to stop the flow of urine, make sure you don’t suck in your breath, breathing should be relaxed.
Quick Strength Exercise (for control when you sneeze or laugh)
- Squeeze and draw up the muscles fast and firmly then relax and repeat until they fatigue.
- Slowly and gently lift the muscles higher and higher then attempt to hold the muscle contraction for 5-10 seconds (remember not to hold your breath!) and slowly let them relax again.
Try doing each exercise about 5-10 times twice a day.
It’s a good idea at first to set aside some time to practise ‘switching on’ these muscles but once you have mastered this you can do your exercises literally anywhere! Pick a daily activity that you do each and every day such as brushing your teeth, or when you stop at a red light in the car, and do your pelvic floor exercises at the same time.
Also remember, it is not only females that need a strong pelvic floor. Men also need to be doing regular pelvic floor exercises to avoid urinary incontinence and other problems later in life.