Pelvic Floor Exercises

Pelvic Floor Exercises

We all think that the pelvic floor muscle weakens after childbirth, however, the truth is that there are many factors that cause our pelvic floor muscles to weaken, such as age, obesity, heavy lifting, and chronic coughing.

What are the functions of the pelvic floor and core muscles around them?

The pelvic muscles support the bladder, bowel, and uterus. When they contract, the organs are lifted and the openings to the vagina, anus, and urethra are tightened. When the muscles are relaxed, urine and faeces can be released from the body.

Pelvic floor muscles also play an important role in sexual function. Strengthening these muscles can reduce pelvic pain during sex and increase the ability to achieve pleasurable sensations. During pregnancy, pelvic floor muscles support the baby and assist in the birthing process.

There are four main functions of the pelvic floor area.

  1. Support: The pelvic floor area supports and holds the bladder, uterus, and intestine in place within the pelvis.
  2. Buffer: The pelvic floor area works to lessen the pressure from the abdomen from coughs, sneezes, and the weight of pregnancy.
  3. Closing: This function works to prevent bladder and anal leakage.
  4. Opening: This function helps to relax bodily openings to help facilitate entrance and exit to the vagina and anus. This affects not only sex but also the digestive system.

How to identify your pelvic floor muscles

The pelvic floor area encompasses your core as they work together to help with these main functions. In front your have the pubic bone and the abdominal muscles. Behind you have the spinal column. On top is the diaphragm and at the bottom are the pelvic floor muscles. The Pelvic floor muscles are a web of muscles and tissues that circle around the areas that allows matter to pass through the body, When in its relaxed state, it allows urine to pass from the bladder to the urethra, defecation to pass from the rectum to the anus, and eases childbirth as the baby passes from the uterus and out the vagina.

In order to locate these structures yourself, below are a few quick exercises that can help you in locating each section. The best way to do this is to find a comfortable place where you can be alone, without any interruptions or distractions for the next few minutes.

While standing, follow the steps below.

EXERCISE 1 OF 5: THE POSTERIOR PELVIC AREA

Place your hands on the back of your spinal column at your waist. Then slide your hands to your hips, cough and feel how your muscles contract.

EXERCISE 2 OF 5: ABDOMEN

Now place one hand on your stomach right below your ribs and the other on your navel. Cough again and feel how the movement changes the contraction of your muscles.

EXERCISE 3 OF 5: RESPIRATION – DIAPHRAGM

Next, place your hands in what I like to call the singer’s position. This is where you place your hands right under your chest in the center of your ribs. Breath deeply in and out feeling how the muscles stretch to fill the cavity with air, as you breath in, the diaphragm expands while when you release the air your diaphragm compresses.

EXERCISE 4 OF 5: PELVIC DIAPHRAGM/PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES

This is where it gets a little more personal. But this will help you better understand the positioning of your pelvic floor in the pelvic area. You want to place one hand on the vulva. The vulva is the area from the anus to the pubis. The pelvic floor muscles extend horizontally from this area. Cough again and feel how the area your fingers are touching swells.

EXERCISE 5 OF 5: IDENTIFYING YOUR PELVIC FLOOR

For this exercise you will be putting your hand back on the vulva. Once there, use the contraction that you use when you want to stop the flow of urine while using the bathroom. (It is very important not to do this while urinating, and always empty your bladder before practicing these types of exercises.) Those are the pelvic floor muscles. Note how it contracts and relaxes.

Just like any other muscle in our body, it’s important to exercise it.

Causes of Pelvic Floor Damage

1. Excessive impact

From:

  • Episodes of intense sneezing or coughing.
  • Regularly taking part in high impact sports like running.
  • Chronic constipation that strains the abdominal area to push downward.

All of these factors result in the pelvic floor taking on excess stress which can cause damage.

2. Excess weight on the organs found within the pelvic area sphere

The pelvic floor takes on a lot of the weight from both pregnancy (with the uterus growing in both size and weight) and intestinal constipation. If not exercised the pelvic floor can weaken and let the weight of the organs bulge into the vagina and bladder (pelvic organ prolapse).

3. Injury/Damage to the muscles and/or tissues.

  • Perineal tear during childbirth
  • A surgical cut such as an episiotomy, or a cesarean (C-section).

In this case the muscles and tissues suffer an injury that can bring consequences later, such as urine leakage and pelvic organ prolapse.

4. Overstretching a nerve or ligament

When the nerves and internal tissues suffer an injury, this affects other structures of the pelvic area sphere including the pelvic floor. Through situations such as:

  • Surgeries
  • Injuries
  • Childbirth
  • Neurological injuries.

5. Bad posture

Body posture greatly affects the health of the pelvic area. For example, the tendency to hunch your back makes the chest sink and the ribs sink causing the pelvic area sphere to take on the excess pressure causing it to strain and weaken. Continuous bad posture will then start to damage the pelvic floor.

 

WHAT EFFECTS DO EXCESS PRESSURE AND TENSION IN THE PELVIC AREA TRIGGER?

Excess pressure and tension in the pelvic area can cause the bladder and uterus to slip out of place, creating a feeling of pressure that could lead to a loosening of the organs called prolapse.

The descent of the bladder can also cause urinary incontinence. It is possible to prevent damage to the pelvic floor and these health problems by using pelvic area exercises to strengthen the abdominals and pelvic floor.

Pelvic Floor Exercises

Kegels

Pelvic muscle training, or Kegels, is the practice of contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles. You may benefit from Kegels if you experience leakage of urine during sneezing, laughing, jumping, or coughing, or have a strong urge to urinate just before losing a large amount of urine.

Main muscles worked: pelvic floor

Equipment needed: none

  1. Identify the right muscles. The easiest way to do this is to stop urination midstream. These are your pelvic floor muscles.
  2. To perform Kegels, contract these muscles and hold for 5 seconds. Release for 5 seconds.
  3. Repeat this 10 times, 3 times a day.

Bridge

The bridge is a great exercise for the glutes. But if done correctly, it also activates the pelvic floor muscles in the process. Even without weight, the pause and pulse of this move will have you feeling it.

Muscles workedglutes, hamstrings, pelvic floor

Equipment needed: none

  1. Lie on the floor. Your spine should be against the ground, with knees bent at a 90-degree angle, feet flat, and arms straight at your sides with palms facing down.
  2. Inhale and push through your heels, raising your hips off the ground by squeezing your glutes, hamstrings, and pelvic floor. Your body, resting on your upper back and shoulders, should form a straight line down from the knees.
  3. Pause 1-2 seconds at the top and return to the starting position.
  4. Complete 10-15 reps and 2-3 sets, resting 30 to 60 seconds between sets.