The importance of our PELVIC FLOOR - for both men and women!
Hi team, I stress the importance of PELVIC FLOOR STRENGTH AND FUNCTION a lot, in classes, in my social media posts and at the mum groups I speak at, so I've decided the pelvic floor deserves it's own page here!
The PELVIC FLOOR is part of our 'CORE' muscles, which is what HardCORE Fitness is all about.
Our current statistics on pelvic floor dysfunction are 1 in 3 women - with 1 in 2 of those having prolapse. This is a HUGE number, and it's my main drive for running pre and postnatal classes and raising awareness of common postpartum issues.
As always, any questions please get in touch. Lisa
WHAT IS IT?!
Our pelvic floor is a group of muscles that stretch like a hammock from the pubic bone at the front, to the tailbone at the back, and from one 'sitting bone' to the other.
A female's pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, bowel and uterus. They wrap firmly around the openings from these organs (urethra, vagina, rectum) to help keep these passages shut. When the pelvic floor muscles are strong and FUNCTIONING they help prevent the leaking of urine and faeces, and prevent prolapse. They also help with sexual sensation and function. In pregnancy, they help the body support the growing baby and reduce the risk of bladder or bowel problems after birth.
A male's pelvic floor supports the bladder and bowel. Just like a women's pelvic floor, the pelvic floor muscles wrap firmly around the openings of these organs (urethra, rectum) to help keep these passages shut - continence of bladder and bowel. It is also important for sexual function. Sexual dysfunction is surprisingly common in the general male population, with rates of erectile dysfunction estimated at 52 per cent and premature ejaculation at 30 per cent. Pelvic floor training is one component that may help with sexual function.
THE BENEFITS OF A STRONG, FUNCTIONING PELVIC FLOOR!!
IMPROVES BLADDER AND BOWEL CONTROL
REDUCE THE RISK OF PROLAPSE (for both men and women).
IMPROVES SEXUAL FUNCTION - Increase sexual sensation and orgasm intensity. A flexible and strong pelvic floor will allow BOTH MEN AND WOMEN to experience deeper, more intense orgasms as the muscles are able to have a larger range of motion in contraction. It is important to note here too, women with a hypertonic pelvic floor will often find sexual intercourse painful or uncomfortable and will benefit greatly from CORRECT and SUITABLE pelvic floor work (including relaxation techniques).
IMPROVE RECOVERY - For women, from pregnancy/childbirth and gynaecological surgery. For men, recovery after prostate surgery.
MAY ALLEVIATE LOWER BACK/HIP/BACK PAIN - by improving stability of the core.
INCREASE CONFIDENCE AND QUALITY OF LIFE
Pelvic floor dysfunction can occur when the pelvic floor muscles are stretched, weakened or too tight (hypertonic).
You may have heard someone say their pelvic floor was too strong/tight so they couldn't push out baby, or that you shouldn't do pelvic floor exercises in PREGNANCY??
Pelvic floor exercises are extremely beneficial in pregnancy!! Not only do they help our body to support the growing baby, but strong and functioning pelvic floor muscles BEFORE birth will regain their strength much quicker afterwards and reduce the risk of prolapse postpartum.
When people say their pelvic floor was too tight, this is a HYPERTONIC pelvic floor... this means that the muscle doesn't relax and 'let go' which ultimately makes it non functioning. This can be caused by many different things, including doing incorrect pelvic floor training, or from working out and holding their core, so that the muscles are 'on' all the time. This is NOT the same as a STRONG and FUNCTIONING pelvic floor.
If you have a hypertonic pelvic floor during pregnancy, keeping on doing traditional 'kegel' exercises and holding up the pelvic floor will likely not be beneficial, but learning to relax and practice the 'let go' or release will help. So even with a hypertonic pelvic floor, pelvic floor training is very beneficial - it just needs to be tailored to your particular needs.
We go over this in our ONLINE PREGNANCY FITNESS 6 week course.
This includes pregnancy and birth, being overweight, constipation, persistent heavy lifting, high impact exercise, long term persistent coughing, pelvic surgery (including hysterectomy, prostate surgery or radiotherapy treatment), ageing/hormone changes.
Some habits/activities can lead to the pelvic floor muscles tightening up:
Incorrect training of the pelvic floor - practicing drawing up exercises without a strong 'letting go' sensation, or continually gripping core muscles when working out can develop tension in the pelvic floor so the muscles don't have time to relax and let go.
History of holding on to bladder or bowels so the pelvic floor muscles are tightened for long periods of time.
High levels of stress, fear or anxiety.
Health conditions such as endometriosis or irritable bowel syndrome - developing tense pelvic floor muscles due to the chronic pelvic or abdominal pain and inflammation.
Birth trauma and scar tissue - when the pain and scarring can cause the pelvic floor muscles to tighten protectively. To note, one sided pelvic floor tears can cause the opposite side of the pelvic floor to tighten due to overactivity.
Reasons the pelvic floor muscles can weaken
Causes of a hypertonic pelvic floor (too tight, 'gripping')
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF PELVIC FLOOR DYSFUNCTION?
Leaking/wetting when coughing, sneezing or when active.
Urgent need to pass urine more often.
Trouble with bowel control.
Pelvic muscle pain, pressure/dragging feeling in pelvic floor.
Difficult or painful intercourse.
Incomplete emptying of the bladder or bowels.
REGULAR pelvic floor exercises are beneficial for both men and women - but it is important to make sure they are being performed correctly. If you have any pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms, where possible I absolutely recommend a check up with a pelvic floor physiotherapist so you have a diagnosis.
Weakened pelvic floor muscles usually respond really well to rehab exercises (that we do in our sessions - both online CORE RECOVERY and in group classes!). A hypertonic pelvic floor can also be helped with breathing techniques, relaxation and pelvic floor exercises (we do this in all our sessions to).
I can't stress enough how important CERTIFIED Pre and postnatal guidance is when it comes to pelvic floor and exercising!!
Doing these incorrectly, or doing inappropriate exercise that is too much for the pelvic floor, can CAUSE or EXACERBATE postpartum issues.