World Continence Week has just passed, however this article isn’t about incontinence – it’s about simple pelvic floor exercises to help you strengthen your pelvic floor.
Many women don’t realise that pelvic floor exercises can help manage and overcome a range of pelvic floor problems including prolapse symptoms, bladder or bowel leakage and even constipation.
This Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist information teaches you:
- How to find your pelvic floor
- How to feel your pelvic floor exercises
- Training guidelines for pelvic floor strengthening
- How to progress your pelvic floor exercises
- How long to notice results
When Are Pelvic Floor Exercises Important for Women?
Pelvic exercises are important throughout life.
There are times and events in a woman’s life when they become even more important for pelvic health:
- During and after menopause
- During pregnancy and after childbirth
- Preparing for incontinence, hysterectomy or pelvic prolapse surgery
- After incontinence, hysterectomy or prolapse surgery
- How To Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor
- How To Find Your Pelvic Floor
(A) Positioning your body
Set the correct posture:
- Sit upright on a firm chair or on an exercise ball
- Lean slightly forwards and support your upper body by placing your hand close to your knees
- Maintain the inwards curve in your lower back
(B) Locating your pelvic floor
To find where your pelvic floor sits in your body, feel the area in and around where you are sitting:
- Between your sit bones side to side
- Between your pubic bone at the front and your and tail bone at the back
- Against your 3 pelvic openings (i.e. urethra or urine tube, vagina and anus)
This is the area where you should feel your pelvic floor exercises.
- How To Feel Your Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pelvic floor exercises involve repeatedly contracting and then relaxing the pelvic floor muscles.
Pelvic floor exercises feel like squeezing and lifting inwards, in and around all 3 pelvic openings together followed by a distinct letting go sensation as you lower your pelvic floor back to resting position.
Correct technique for pelvic floor exercises involves squeezing and lifting in & around all three pelvic openings; the anus, vagina & urethra (urine tube)
You should never feel discomfort or bulging/bearing down with pelvic floor exercises. In the unlikely event that you do, stop your exercises and consult with a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist or doctor.
- Training Guidelines For Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
- How To Progress Pelvic Floor Exercises
- Make each pelvic floor muscle contraction as strong as possible when you’re confident you know how to do your exercises correctly
- Maintain every exercise for 3-10 seconds
- Repeat up to 8-12 strong exercises in a row(this is one full set of exercise)
- Rest your pelvic floor muscles until recovered 1-2 minutes between each effort
- Perform 1-3 sets of pelvic floor exercise every day
- Adhere to the correct pelvic floor exercise technique
- Perform full pelvic floor muscle action lifting your pelvic floor as high as you are able to and then relaxing your pelvic floor with each attempt
It’s important to progress your exercises to challenge your pelvic floor and promote ongoing strengthening.
To progress your pelvic floor exercises
- Increase how long you hold each exercise (up to 10 seconds)
- Increase the strength and effort you use with every exercise
- Decrease the rest time between consecutive pelvic floor exercises when you can
- Progress the positions to increase the challenge of lifting the pelvic floor muscles against gravity from lying down to sitting and standing positions.
How Long To Notice Results?
There are initial rapid gains with pelvic floor exercises – even over the first month of training. Some women notice improvements during these early stages including better bladder control or decreased prolapse symptoms.
Most women need a minimum 4-5 months of strength training. Studies show that in women with weak pelvic floor muscles, pelvic floor strength increases over 6 months of training (Bo et al 1990).
Michelle Kenway is a Physiotherapist and author of the Inside Out women’s safe exercise program. Michelle’s Inside Out Strength exercise DVD shows women how to strengthen safely with a physiotherapist guides workout.
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