Do you know much about the pelvic floor? The pelvic floor muscles are in the pelvis between the tailbone (coccyx) and the pubic bone. They provide assistance to the bowel and bladder (as well as the uterus and vagina in females). A weakened pelvic floor can come from pregnancy, childbirth, prostate cancer treatment in males, obesity and as a result of chronic constipation. It is an incredibly normal and common condition; however, it isn’t talked about enough. So, let’s dive into all things, pelvic floor.
The urethra, vagina, and anus are encircled by muscular bands (sphincters) as they pass through the pelvic floor. When the pelvic floor muscles contract, the internal organs are lifted and the vaginal, anus and urethral sphincters close. By relaxing the pelvic floor, it is possible to facilitate the passage of urine and faeces. The pelvic floor muscles play a critical role in sexual function, allowing for enjoyable and pleasurable sex through a relaxation/contraction combination.
If the pelvic floor muscles do not function properly, the internal organs will be unable to function normally. This may result in you losing control of your urine, faeces, or wind.
Pelvic floor exercises are designed to increase muscle tone on the pelvic floor. Additionally, they strengthen the connection between your brain and these muscles. By performing these exercises, you may be able to avoid the need for corrective surgery.
Symptoms of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction:
- Leakage of urine when coughing, sneezing, laughing, or running
- Inability to reach the toilet in time
- Passing wind from the anus or vagina when bending over or lifting
- Reduce sensation in the vagina
- Tampons that dislodge or fall out
- A distinct bulge at the vaginal opening
- A sensation of heaviness in the vagina
- A heaviness or dragging in the pelvis or back
- Recurrent urinary tract infections
- Recurrent thrush vulval pain
Causes of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction
- Supporting the uterus’s weight during pregnancy
- Vaginal childbirth, which may cause the muscles to become overstretched
- Obesity-related pressures
- Constipation and straining to poo
- Constant coughing
- Certain types of surgery that require muscle cutting (including prostate cancer treatment in males)
- Reduced oestrogen levels following menopause
- Pelvic floor muscle tension due to painful periods, endometriosis
Complications of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction
A typical symptom of pelvic floor dysfunction is a loss of bladder control. People with anal incontinence (inability to regulate the passage of wind or faeces) have this condition (poo).
Sexual issues such as decreased vaginal feeling can be caused by weak pelvic floor muscles. The inability to control one’s bladder or sex might be exacerbated by weak muscles that are hyperactive (or straining too hard).
These internal organs (the bladder and uterus) may be at risk of falling into one’s vagina in some instances. It’s referred to as a “prolapse.” Symptoms include a noticeable protrusion in the vagina and profound vaginal discomfort.
Familiarising yourself with the pelvic floor
The muscles of the pelvic floor can be strengthened by performing workouts that target the pelvic floor. It is possible to work out the vaginal, urethral, and anal sections separately. These muscles can be trained to contract at will if you become familiar with them. Because of weak pelvic floor muscles, it may be hard to notice muscular movement at first.
You must feel the full relaxation of the muscles, which are circular in shape, and it’s helpful to think of the release as ripples in the water when you release the muscles.
To identify your sphincters:
Vaginal – insert one or two fingers into your vagina and try to squeeze them
Urethral – imagine you are passing urine and try stopping the flow in midstream (do not do this while urinating)
Anal – pretend you are trying to stop yourself from passing wind and squeeze tightly.
Pelvic floor exercises:
While laying down, sitting, or standing, you can perform pelvic floor exercises. While you’re learning the exercises, you should try to get in five or six sessions per day. Once you’ve mastered the exercises, three sessions per day should suffice.
Take a moment to focus on the muscles in your pelvic floor before you begin. Try to loosen up your abdomen. You don’t have to hold your breath, so don’t worry. To stop the flow of urine or the escape of wind, slowly rise and squeeze your pelvic floor muscles. Slowly and gently let go. Perform the following exercises:
- Slowly squeeze and lift, ensuring that you may fully release each time you do so. When you’re certain that you can lift and release, try holding on. Hold firmly for five seconds, gradually increasing to ten seconds, and continue to breathe normally. Slowly release. Repeat as many times as you like for as long as you like. After each one, take a few seconds to take a breather.
- Squeeze and lift quickly and firmly. Do this ten times. To be on the safe side, be certain you can release fully each time you use the device.
- When you sneeze, cough, or clear your throat, squeeze and elevate the muscles.
Correct execution of these exercises is critical. Ask your pelvic health therapist, doctor, or continence advisor to be sure you’re doing them correctly before beginning any exercise programme.
It may take a few weeks before you notice much of a difference, but in around four to five weeks, things should start to look up. A pelvic physiotherapist or your family doctor can help if you don’t have access to one. A typical physiotherapist with additional training in pelvic floor disorders can be sent to you by your GP, and you can visit them at the same time as your GP makes a referral to a specialist.
Here are some helpful YouTube videos surrounding explanations on a weakened pelvic floor and step-by-step exercises to begin strengthening it.