You’ve probably thought about taking care of your back (improving your posture or getting an ergonomic chair) or strengthening your core (particularly during that tough pilates class), but have you thought about taking care of your pelvic floor?
Your pelvic floor is an important group of muscles and by taking care of them you can help prevent future health problems - like incontinence or a pelvic organ prolapse. Plus, if your planning on having a baby at any stage then a strong pelvic floor is an absolute must!
If you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about then go to Wikipedia for a quick refresher on what these muscles look like and where they are located. Simply put, these muscles act like a ‘sling’ supporting the bladder, bowel (and uterus in women) and keeping everything in place. They also, as we’ve touched on above, prevent leakage and even play a part in sexual function!
Now we know what they do, let’s find out how we can look after them.
Lifting heavy objects/weights, or chronic coughing can all weaken your pelvic floor. To prevent this try using the ‘brace’ technique when you perform these activities. To do this simply ‘squeeze and lift’ your pelvic floor before you lift or cough. For more details on how to perform the ‘squeeze and lift’ see the instructions below.
As my previous post on CrossFit shows, high impact sports and activities can be tough on your pelvic floor. This doesn’t mean you have to avoid them, just make sure you are supporting (or bracing) your pelvic floor throughout the exercises. If you experience any symptoms of dysfunction (like leakage) during exercise, then seek help and treatment - ignoring it won’t solve anything.
Persistent straining or constipation can weaken your pelvic floor muscles. To avoid straining aim for plenty of fibre in your diet. You can also learn better toileting habits from a pelvic floor physio, this includes things like the best way to sit on a toilet – and yes there is a ‘right’ way to do it!
Your pelvic floor is a muscle and just like any other, it’s one that needs to be exercised. Pelvic floor muscle training can help strengthen up these muscles which in turn will help to prevent leakage, reduce the risk of prolapse, prevent problems during pregnancy… the list goes on! To do these exercises correctly you first need to locate your pelvic floor. If you’re unsure at all then seek the help of a pelvic floor physio who can make sure your doing these exercises correctly. With these exercises the idea is to build up to daily sets. Tying them to a daily habit (like brushing your teeth) can be a useful way of remembering how to do them.
Download the free guide below for clear instructions on how to find your pelvic floor and how to perform a complete set of exercises.
If you think you could be suffering from a pelvic floor problem please seek help. You can speak to your doctor or find a pelvic floor physio here using the online tool. I suggest searching for a pelvic floor physio with expertise in pelvic floor, prolapse or continence, who can do a full examination of your pelvic floor and give you the best outcome going forward.
Melissa Davidson is Managing Director and Principal Physiotherapist at Remarkable Physios. Her special interests are in manipulation, acupuncture, cosmetic acupuncture, women's and men's health, breathing, work-site assessments, manual handling courses and NLP (neuro-linguistic programming). Melissa is currently working towards her PhD in Bioengineering at the University of Auckland investigating pelvic floor muscle stiffness during pregnancy. In her spare time she enjoys a variety of sports including running her black labrador and mountain biking.
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