Pelvic Floor Exercises

Pelvic Floor Exercises

Article by Nadine Stewart

Pelvic Floor Exercises

What Are Your Pelvic Floor Muscles?

The floor of the pelvis consists of layers of muscle and other tissues. These layers stretch like a hammock from the tail bone at the back to the pubic bone in front.

Female Pelvic Floor

A woman’s pelvic floor supports the bladder, the womb (uterus) and the bowel. The urethra (front passage), the vagina (birth canal) and the rectum (back passage) pass through the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles play an important role in bladder and bowel control and sexual sensation.

Male Pelvic Floor

A healthy pelvic floor muscle is equally important for men. It is just as vital for men to be encouraged to exercise their pelvic floor muscles, especially for men with specific health conditions.

How Do You Know If Your Pelvic Floor Is Weak?

The pelvic floor muscles can be weakened by:

  • pregnancy and childbirth;
  • continual straining to empty your bowels (constipation);
  • persistent heavy lifting;
  • a chronic cough (such as smoker’s cough or chronic bronchitis and asthma);
  • being overweight;
  • changes in hormone levels at menopause (change of life);
  • surgery (e.g. prostate or episiotomy),
  • weak core muscle strength and
  • a lack of general fitness.

What Are The Benefits Of Pelvic Floor Exercises?

Both women and men of all ages need to maintain pelvic floor muscle strength.

Women and men with stress incontinence, who regularly lose urine when coughing, sneezing or exercising, should significantly benefit from these exercises.

For pregnant women, these exercises help the body to cope with the increasing weight of the baby. Healthy, fit muscles pre-natally will recover more readily after birth.

In particular, as women grow older, it is vital to keep the pelvic floor muscles healthy because, at menopause, the muscles change and may weaken. A pelvic floor exercise routine helps to minimise the effects of menopause on pelvic support and bladder control.

Likewise, men are more likely to have age-related onset on pelvic floor weakness.

Pelvic floor exercises may also be helpful in conjunction with a bladder training program to improve bladder control in people who experience the urgent need to pass urine frequently (urge incontinence).

How To Test Your Pelvic Floor Muscles

The first thing to do is to identify the muscles are exercised correctly.

  • Sit or lie down comfortably with the muscles of your thighs, buttocks and abdomen relaxed.
  • Tighten the ring of muscle around the back passage as if you are trying to control diarrhoea or wind. Relax it. Practice this movement several times until you are sure you are exercising the correct muscle. Try not to squeeze your buttocks.
  • When you are passing urine, try to stop the flow mid-stream, then restart it. Only do this to learn which muscles are the correct ones to use and then do it no more than once a week to check your progress, as this may interfere with healthy bladder emptying.
  • If you cannot feel a definite squeeze and lift action of your pelvic floor muscles, you should seek professional help to get your pelvic floor muscles working correctly. Likewise, if you cannot slow the urine stream as described above, please seek professional advice.

Women and men with weak pelvic floor muscles should have pelvic floor exercises prescribed, preferably by a physiotherapist or continence advisor with expertise in this area.

The good news is that your pelvic floor muscles can be tested and treated in the vast majority of cases without the need for internal examination or techniques.

How Do You Do Pelvic Floor Exercises Correctly?

Your quickest and most effective way of training your correct pelvic floor muscles is with the assistance of a physiotherapist with a particular interest in pelvic floor conditions. They will help you to:

  • assess your current pelvic floor function,
  • confirm a diagnosis of urge or stress incontinence, or other health condition,
  • identify your correct pelvic floor muscle contraction,
  • provide you with home exercises, guidance and re-assessment,
  • offer real-time ultrasound physiotherapy as an option to assist your pelvic floor retraining.

Where To Seek Help For Your Pelvic Floor

We highly recommend that you seek the advice of a physiotherapist with a particular interest in pelvic floor rehabilitation. Good results take time, and it will take less time with the right information.

To build up your pelvic floor muscles to their maximum strength, you will need to work hard at these exercises under the guidance of your pelvic floor physiotherapist.

What Else Can You Do To Help Your Pelvic Floor Muscles?

It is important to avoid activities that stress your pelvic floor. We suggest that you should:

  • Share the lifting of heavy loads;
  • Avoid constipation and prevent any straining during a bowel movement;
  • Seek medical advice for hay-fever, asthma and bronchitis to reduce sneezing and coughing;
  • Keep your weight within the right range for your height and age.

Related Articles

  1. Male Pelvic Floor Exercises: A Physiotherapist’s Insights – Provides insights into strengthening the male pelvic floor, highlighting its importance for men’s health and wellbeing​​.
  2. Underactive Pelvic Floor – Discusses conditions related to an underactive pelvic floor and the significance of exercises for improvement​​.
  3. Pre & Post Prostatectomy Rehab – Highlights the importance of pelvic floor exercises before and after prostate surgery for men, aiming at faster recovery and better control​​.
  4. Pregnancy Exercises: Safe Workouts For Expectant Mothers – While not directly linked, this article includes pelvic floor strengthening as a crucial aspect of pregnancy exercises​​.
  5. Pelvic Floor Conditions – Addresses various conditions affecting the pelvic floor, underscoring the role of targeted exercises in management and recovery​​.

Article by Nadine Stewart

Women's Health Physiotherapy Conditions

Addressing a diverse range of women-specific concerns, Women’s Health Physiotherapy focuses on assessing and treating various conditions. These encompass issues like constipation, faecal incontinence, mastitis, pelvic floor exercises, pregnancy-related back pain, and massages, along with concerns such as prolapse, abdominal separation, stress incontinence, and underactive pelvic floor. Moreover, the discipline encompasses managing urge faecal incontinence, urgency/overactive bladder (OAB), and urge incontinence, while also offering pre and post-pregnancy exercise prescription and rehabilitation.

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