THE PELVIC FLOOR-WHAT IS IT AND WHAT DOES IT DO?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and elastic tissue running from your tailbone to your pubic bone and out to the sitting bones at the sides. It is a group of muscles, not just one muscle. The openings to your urethra ( the tube you wee through) vagina and anus ( from the bowel) all pass through your pelvic floor. These muscles and elastic tissue work in co-ordination with each other and your deep abdominal muscles to perform some important jobs:
- support your bladder neck and anus to help them stay closed .They actively squeeze when you cough / sneeze / lift / bend to help avoid leaks from the bladder or bowel.
- support the pelvic organs within the pelvis
- working in co-ordination , they form your ‘core’ which stabilizes you spine and pelvis
- Provides sexual response and awareness both for yourself and your partner during sexual intercourse.
So you can see they are very busy muscles and are often called upon to perform more than one job at a time – you may have a full bladder standing at the bus stop when you cough – you need to trust that they will perform as they should !
PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES – WHY EXERCISE THEM?
Poorly toned, weak muscles will not do their job properly. Poorly toned, weak pelvic floor muscles contribute to incontinence ,pelvic organ prolapse and reduced sexual response. Research has shown that the pelvic floor responds to regular exercise just like other muscles. The only difference is that we can see our other muscles working .. It is never too early, or too late to begin to exercise your pelvic floor. Correct pelvic floor muscle exercises can also provide relief from chronic pelvic pain. Learning to relax the pelvic floor correctly is as important as learning to contract it correctly.
Pelvic floor exercises are often also called Kegel exercises, after their originator, Dr Arnold Kegel
HOW TO DO PELVIC FLOOR OR KEGEL EXERCISES
Exercise 1: BUILDING STRENGTH so you can hold on longerBreathe in – and as you breathe out ( as if blowing out a candle or misting your glasses to clean them – long and slow) and as you do this : close the muscles around your anus, vagina and urethra as if trying to stop passing wind and urine at the same time then lift your perineum ( the bit between the anus and vagina)
* It is very easy to cheat – especially if the muscles are weak .
What NOT to do
DO NOT suck your tummy in
DO NOT squeeze your thighs or buttocks together
DO NOT hold your breath. These bigger muscles will override and take over from your pelvic floor if you let them.
DO NOT TRY TOO HARD
How many seconds can you hold the pelvic floor squeeze and lift without cheating or using the DO NOTs ? If you feel these other muscles tightening, you are trying too hard – try more gently. It is better to do a more gentle contraction correctly than a harder one using the wrong muscles.
HOLD Build up to a maximum of 10 seconds for each pelvic floor exercise or kegel exercise
REST for 5-10 seconds
REPEAT up to 10 times
Try to do these exercises in a slow and controlled way. Practise your maximum number of held contractions (up to 10) about 3 times each day.
Exercise 2: BUILDING SPEED The ability to work these muscles quickly helps them react to sudden stresses from coughing, laughing or exercise. Practise some quick contractions, squeeze and lift the pelvic floor quickly holding for just a few seconds before releasing.
FAST SQUEEZES x5
Try to do one set of slow contractions (exercise 1) followed by one set of quick contractions (exercise 2) three times a day.
Exercise 3: BUILDING ENDURANCE It is important that your pelvic floor muscles work as part of the CORE team that they are a part of. To ensure this happens, your posture is important – good posture encourages automatic activation of the pelvic floor in its core function. Stand and sit tall, but not rigid. Imagine a piece of string gently drawing you up through the top of your head. Try to align your head over your chest and chest over hips – if you feel with your hand above your pubic bone as you do this , you will feel the automatic gentle tensioning of your deep abdominals this will mean you are also slightly tensioning your pelvic floor muscles.
Exercise 4: FUNCTIONAL USE OF YOUR PELVIC FLOOR or in other words… using it when it is most needed. Your pelvic floor should contract and tighten to protect against increases in abdominal pressure – when you cough, sneeze, jump or lift . If they don’t come in quickly or strongly enough, the pressure pushing down overcomes the pressure holding around your urethra and the end result can be a leak. Remind them to work ….tighten, hold cough….tighten,hold lift …. Tighten, hold stand up etc.
How hard you need to hold depends on the downward force- a sneeze creates more force than a cough which creates more force than standing up ………use enough force to counteract or balance it.
Exercise 5 : RELAX IT!
Pointless tightening it if you don’t relax it - if you do quads exercises at the gym you relax the muscles in between reps – do the same with your pelvic floor muscles.
Do not reinforce bad habits or poor technique - you wouldn’t stand for this with your pec or quad exercises so why stand for it with your pelvic floor or kegel exercises?
Happy exercising of your pelvic floor muscles check out our extensive range of vaginal weights and feedback devices to assist your pelvic floor strengthening.