Pelvic Floor Health – what is it and how to maintain it?

Where is the Pelvic Floor ?

You have four pelvic floor muscles that run from your pubic bone at the front of your body to your lower spine at the back. Think of these muscles as a hammock that supports and holds your pelvic organs in place.

Why is the pelvic floor important??

The pelvic floor is working all the time, even when you are asleep, to keep you continent and to keep the bladder and bowel from leaking. You can use your pelvic floor muscles to control the urge to empty the bladder and bowel. The pelvic floor muscles also anticipate when you are about to cough and sneeze.

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PFD) – what is it ?

If you are unable to correctly coordinate and relax your pelvic floor to have a bowel movement, or, if you have urine leakage then it may be that you have a PFD. Common conditions often caused by PFD include incontinence (urge or stress) and pelvic organ prolapse (of the bowel, bladder or uterus).

These common conditions can be caused by many factors including:

  • Overuse of muscles (going to the bathroom too often or pushing too hard)
  • Pregnancy
  • Being overweight
  • Pelvic surgery
  • Traumatic injury
  • Advancing age including menopause
  • Hereditary factors
  • Inability to release pelvic floor

What can you do to help prevent / treat PFD?

There are many things you can do to alleviate the symptoms of / help prevent this condition.  

A women’s health physiotherapist is trained to teach you how to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, usually(but not always) using exercises called Kegels, breath work or ideally a combination of both. They can give you the feedback you need to make sure you are properly engaging and releasing

Lifestyle changes, like losing weight or cutting down on caffeine and alcohol, can also make a big difference.

What are the best exercises that I can do to keep my pelvic floor muscles healthy?

Like any healthy muscle, your pelvic floor needs to be able to engage and fully release. This is really important! And while traditional Kegel exercises are useful, once you know that you are properly engaging the pelvic floor it can be useful to incorporate them into more functional exercises so that they work in synergy with the rest of the body.

Two really effective exercises for doing this are squats and bridging as they incorporate the gluteal muscles with a pelvic floor contraction, as well as a release! So in an additional to keeping our pelvic floor muscles healthy you will also be strengthening the hips, something most of us need to do!

To learn how to do both of these exercises correctly please check out our video on our Youtube channel and our upcoming postings on our social media pages.