Pelvic Floor or Pelvic Flop?
Whether you are 18 to 80, whether or not you have had children your pelvic floor is one of the most important and complex muscle structures in the body. We all have one, yet few actually know what it is for and where it is and even fewer know how to exercise it. This is just one of the reasons, there are many reasons why this set of muscles can become weak.
Most women are under the illusion that childbirth is the only cause of weak PFM.
The pelvic floor is the most difficult part of the body to exercise, primarily because you can't see it or see it physically getting stronger or see any structure change unlike the other muscles of the body.
It comprises of layers of muscle which attach to the pubic bone (front bone), the sitting bone and the coccyx (tail bone). Its hammock structure supports vital organs such as the uterus (womb), the urethra (the tube which allows urine to flow from the bladder out of the body) and the bladder.
The outer layer of muscles help close the vaginal lips and they direct blood flow to the clitoris. The pubococcygeus muscle is the muscle which contracts during intercourse and it involuntary contracts during orgasm, it is also the muscle which is needed to control the involuntary loss of urine. This is the muscle you squeeze and exercise if you want to stop the flow of urine mid stream.
Most have heard about kegel exercises but do you know how to do them? Some of you may have experienced unexpected urine leaks when, lifting, coughing, sneezing or doing any physical exercise. This is known as stress incontinence. One reason may be due to a weak pelvic floor. The longer you leave it the worse it will become. Hiding the problem with pads will not make the problem go away, you really need to start training those muscles
The first step is to speak to your medical professional. Physiotherapists, midwives and continence nurses are an amazing group of professionals who take the time not only to explain what is going on but also they are trained in how to train you to exercise the correct muscles. Another reason to speak to your healthcare advisor is that you may be over exercising this area and may cause more damage than good. Remember the PFMis a muscle like any other muscle in the body and it can get fatigued and over worked.
3 types of pelvic floor - too tight - too slack and just right. Which type are you?
Imagine your pelvic floor like the levels of a house.
Pelvic floor number 1. The first levelis like a trampoline, taught enough to house and support those vital organs, yet flexible enough that when you lift up your baby, or grocery shopping, when you sneeze, cough or laugh the natural movement is that it lowers and then is able to return back to its natural position. No involuntary leakage with this level.
Pelvic floor number 2. The basement levelsits lower than pelvic floor number 1 and shows signs of weakness when you lift anything, sneeze, cough or laugh by means of losing urine involuntarily. Because pelvic floor number 2 sits lower it is and is unable to return to the first level. This type is prone to prolapse.
Excellent information on prolapse can be found at APOPsa non-profit organisation for helping women with prolapse issues. http://pelvicorganprolapsesupport.org/apops_europefor Europe and
Pelvic floor number 3. The second floor level is probably the one less spoken about and the least known about. The tightness can cause pain on urination and painful sex sensation. You may have heard of Chronic Pelvic Pain syndrome, this is where the pelvic floor has been chronically tensed through possible over working the pelvic floor during exercise. Other causes are due to stress, anxiety or trauma. Victims of rape and child abuse have reported CPPS.
Over working these muscles during exercise is just as damaging as under-workingthem. Those using electrical stimulation to tighten the pelvic floor muscles would be advisedto speak to your medical advisor and let them gaugehow you are fairing with the exercises.
There are many products on the market which all claim to help, only your medical advisor would be able to tell which suits you. Incostressis a medical device clinically approved to control stress incontinence and allows the user to identify the and exercise the correct muscles.
Recommended reading and products
Hold It Sister by Australian lead physiotherapist Mary O'Dwyer (available in WHSmith, Waterstones, Scotts & Co, House of Bath in the UK.
Hold It Mama by Australian lead physiotherapist Mary O'Dwyer
Pelvic Organ Prolapse by Pelvic Organ Prolapse expert Sherrie Palm.
Pfilates by Dr Bruce Crawford.