Looking After Your Pelvic Floor
Sometimes it’s good to go back to basics and not assume that everyone knows what the Pelvic floor muscles are, where they are located, how they function or how to exercise them. Unfortunately, this is something most of us were not taught at school and possibly have not been told about since. Let’s dispel some myths and give you some basic facts.
Pelvic floor facts
- No, you don’t have to ‘get on the floor’ to do your exercises
- Yes, men have pelvic floor muscles too
- You’re never too old to do pelvic floor exercises
What is the Pelvic Floor?
It is a group of muscles going from the coccyx at the base of your spine to the symphesis pubis, (pubic bone) at the front of your pelvis. It forms a sling or hammock of muscle which effectively creates the ‘floor’ of your pelvis. It has 3 holes in it, the urethra at the front, the vagina in the middle and the anus at the back and the muscle wraps around each of these openings.
What does the pelvic floor do?
The pelvic floor has multiple functions, which include supporting the pelvic organs; the bladder, bowel and uterus. It keeps us continent, tightening the sphincters, both bladder and bowel, assists in pelvi-spinal stability by stabilising our core, and of course contributes to sexual function for sex and orgasm.
Pelvic floor dysfunction
This is extremely common and can range from mild symptoms to life changing, serious issues. Most women at some point in their lives experience some form of pelvic floor dysfunction for various reasons.
Dysfunction can cause problems such as incontinence (bladder or bowel – including little leaks when you laugh or difficulty controlling wind), pelvic pain, painful intercourse, prolapse and overactive bladder.
What causes pelvic floor dysfunction?
There can be many different reasons why someone may experience an issue with their pelvic floor. These may include hormonal changes such as during pregnancy, breast feeding, menopause, childbirth, chronic coughing or respiratory problems, constipation, heavy lifting, high impact exercise, obesity, genetic factors or trauma (physical and or emotional). That does not mean that these will always create pelvic floor dysfunction, but they could, and often it is a combination of factors that may create a problem.
The good news…
In many cases, pelvic floor dysfunction can be successfully treated. Conservative treatment such as physiotherapy with a specially trained therapist can alleviate and often cure symptoms without the need for further medical intervention. In cases where conservative treatment is not enough, it can make medical treatment more successful or last longer. As with many problems like this, it is easier to treat when symptoms begin and are still mild, so it is best to seek help before the problem becomes more serious.
Is it all about pelvic floor strength?
No. It is important to have a strong pelvic floor yes, but it also needs to release and let go so it is not in spasm, which can cause pain. It also needs to be able to ‘kick in’ quickly when needed such as if you cough or sneeze, so coordination is also important. We also need to think about endurance. It’s no good if our muscle is strong but fatigues too quickly.
Women’s health physiotherapy
A women’s health physiotherapist is specially trained in assessing and treating the pelvic floor. They can help you learn how to do pelvic floor exercises correctly and effectively, but more importantly, give you specific exercises suited to you personally. If you would like advice from a specialist to improve your pelvic floor. It’s never to early or too late. Contact us now on 01242 522136