The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that form the bottom part of the ‘core’. Their function is to play a part in the control and support of the pelvic organs, including the bladder, bowel and uterus.
When the pelvic floor is weakened, the internal organs may not be fully supported and there may be some difficulty in controlling the release of urine, faeces or wind.
What can make these muscles weaken?
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Straining when using the toilet
- Conditions which cause chronic coughing, such as emphysema or COPD
- High impact exercise
- Being overweight or obese
- Increasing age
- Lifting heavy loads frequently
How do I know if I have a pelvic floor problem?
Pelvic floor weakness is a common problem among women of all ages, with 50% of women under 50 suffering from pelvic floor weakness at some point. Common symptoms may include:
- Pain in your pelvic area
- Accidental leaking of urine while exercising, playing sport, sneezing, coughing, etc.
- Urgency to use a toilet
- Finding it difficult to completely empty your bladder or bowel
- A prolapse
- Accidental or uncontrollable flatulence
- Pain during sex
Are there any exercises I should avoid?
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to avoid exercises that are high intensity or high impact and place a strong downward pressure on your pelvic floor. These may include:
- Jumping (including start jumps)
- Sit ups or crunches
- Deep or wide legged squats
- Deep lunges
- Lifting heavy weights
So what can I do to improve my pelvic floor strength?
Pelvic floor strengthening exercises (also known as ‘kegals’) are an effective way of improving and maintaining the strength and day-to-day functioning of these muscles.
There are many brochures and pamphlets that can assist women in learning how to contract their pelvic floor muscles, however research has found that only about half of women are able to learn the method effectively in this way. The best way to ensure you are contracting the correct muscles and performing the exercises right is to see a health professional such as an Exercise Physiologist (EP). Not only will this session educate you in the correct technique, the EP will be able to show you some other safe pelvic floor exercises and design a program suited to your current situation.
Participating in regular pelvic floor safe exercise will also assist in strengthening your pelvic floor and trunk muscles, as well as improving your general fitness. Pelvic floor safe exercises are those that place limited stress on your pelvic floor, these may include walking, seated cycling and low impact exercise classes.
If you want to learn more about your pelvic floor and perform some safe pelvic floor exercises, join our Pelvic Floor Strengthening Group. This group runs every Tuesday from 2:15pm and is only $10 for non-Fernwood members.
We also have 1-1 sessions available for pelvic floor assessments and personalised programs, suited to your situation and current pelvic floor strength level.
Call (03) 5441 8008 to book in your 1-1 or group session now!