Pelvic Floor Muscles
What are they?
Watch the video below. Mary O’Dwyer lead women’s health physiotherapists speaking about what is the pelvic floor.
The pelvic floor muscles form a hammock in the pelvis, helping to support the bladder, vagina and rectum, which stretch from front to back of your body. The whole network is known as. The whole network is commonly known as ‘the pelvic floor’.
The bladder neck, the area where the bladder and urethra meet, is partly supported in its position by the pelvic floor muscles.
The pelvic floor helps to hold the urethra in position on the underside of the pelvic bone. In this position, the increased pressure in the abdomen caused when you cough, sneeze or exercise is transmitted to the urethra, as well as the bladder, and has an equal effect. This is known as the pressure transmission theory and forms the basis of our understanding of continence. The pressure transmission theory is also the principle on which most surgical operations are based.
Why do the pelvic floor muscles stop working?
The muscles can be damaged in many ways. Like any muscle it is susceptible to injury and damage. The following could place considerable strain on the pelvic area:
- Damage caused during pregnancy
- A chronic or smoker’s cough
- After childbirth
- Lack of general fitness
- Changes due to the menopause and age
- Repeated heavy lifting
- After prostate surgery
- Chronic constipation
- Being overweight
If your pelvic floor is damaged you may leak urine when you:
- Blow your nose
- Get up from a chair
- Bend or stretch
Differences between the strong and weak pelvic muscles
Weak pelvic floor muscles may be the cause of bowel and bladder control. Pelvic floor muscle exercises may help. The bladder, womb and bowels rest on the pelvic floor muscles. They may drop down in the pelvis if these muscles are weak. If those organs push against the walls of the vagina, this is called a prolapse.
Keeping them in shape!
A good exercise to practice is to deliberately stop urination midstream. This controls the front pelvic muscles.
The rear muscles can be identified by squeezing the back passage in and upwards. The muscles work as a team and coordinate around both the bladder and bowel.
How to Exercise Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
If you experience any bladder weakness, you should consult your doctor or health care professional before starting any sort of pelvic floor exercise.
Which Type of Pelvic Floor Exercises should I do?
There are 2 types of pelvic floor exercises:
- Quick pelvic floor exercises are when the muscles are rapidly tightened then relaxed repeatedly. This helps the muscle to stop the urine leaking when your sneeze, laugh or exercise (typical in stress incontinence)
- Slow pelvic floor exercises are when the muscles are tightened and held for at least 10 seconds then relaxed. Never strain of force the exercise. This helps the muscles provide support for your bladder and bowel.
NO PAIN DOES NOT MEAN NO GAIN! Exercises work, pain does not.
How many times a day should I exercise?
Your pelvic floor workout builds up. 10 slow exercises and 10 fast exercises – 4 times each day.
How to carry out the exercises
You can take any comfortable position for you. Sit, stand or lie down with your legs slightly apart and the muscles in your thighs, buttocks and abdomen relaxed.
- Tighten the ring of muscle around your front and back passages drawing the muscles up inside
- Try to complete up to 10 slow squeezes and up to 10 fast squeezes
- Try once in the morning and once at night to begin with then try to build up to a routine at least 4-5 times a day
- Pelvic floor exercises may be done with other activities, such as watching television, waiting for a bus, or relaxing. The great thing about this is no one will ever know you are exercising.
- Do not hold your breath
- Do not push down instead of squeezing and lifting up
- Do not tighten your stomach, bottom or thigh muscles
- This is a gradual routine. Build up slowly to your own pace
- See your continence nurse or women’s health physiotherapist for information and correct pelvic floor training.
- There are several aids available to exercise the pelvic muscles. Incostress has been validated by research at Singleton Hospital and Cardiff University hospital in cooperation with the University of Glamorgan in South Wales. It has also been validated and clinically tested by Dr Bruce Crawford lead gynaecologist in Nevada USA. Many other brands have not been validated by any research or academic establishment, which is what makes IncoStress a market leader as a medical device to control incontinence and support the pelvic floor muscles.
How will I know if I am getting better?
IncoStress gives you instant results. It supports the urethra and controls the loss of involuntary urine. The pelvic floor muscles need time to increase the pelvic floor strength. This depends on your personal commitment to exercises them. We would expect to see improvement between 1 month and 6 weeks with regular pelvic floor training.
It is advisable to seek medical assistance if there is no improvement after 3 months. You may need to exercise for up to 6 months before you see a full improvement. Remembering to do the exercises is a problem with a lot of people. Breaking bad habits and routinly forming good habits for the pelvic floor is key.
Choose something that you do about 4 times a day. Do your pelvic floor exercises every time you do this activity. For example, you could choose to do the exercises each time you switch on the kettle. Strong pelvic floor muscles may improve your sex life. Your muscles should become stronger and you will stop leaking urine. You must still do the workout 3 times a week for the rest of your life. If you do not, your muscles may become weak again.
How can I cope with leaks of urine while building up the strength of the muscles?
Incostress® is a new medical device to control stress incontinence in women. It is made from a medical grade silicone and worn inside the vagina the same way as a tampon.
You may need to use incontinece pads during the pelvic floor strengthening period. These are placed in your underwear to absorb involuntary urine. There are different sorts of incontinence pads, throw away and washable. There are also special pants (underwear) with pads already in them.
We recommend following Dr Bruce Crawfords clinically proven Pfilates program. Pfilates is a gentle EMG program which is a cross between yoga and pilates. The program is easy to follow allowing you full control over the different levels of intensity. For more information please go to our Pfialtes page.
Mary O’Dwyer speaks about what is the pelvic floor.