Pelvic floor

November 12, 2012

Pelvic floor

The pelvic floor consists of a group of muscle fibers crossing the area beneath the pelvis. This area is important as it provides support for the bladder, uterus and intestines. This means itsÂ’ health and strength is vital since it maintains continence and is also important during childbirth. Childbirth may also be a contributing factor to damaging the pelvic floor and in extreme cases this damage may lead to the need for a hysterectomy. A damaged pelvic floor may lead to incontinence and even prolapse. One way to avoid these problems is to do regular Kegel exercises – these exercises are known to improve the tone and function of the relevant muscles – but those sticking to a regular routine are few.

Trials have shown that women who regularly practise Kegel exercises have seen a marked improvement in their continence – compared to those who underwent electrical stimulation, used vaginal cones or did nothing.

Kegel exercises are designed to help tighten the pelvic floor muscles before we cough, laugh or sneeze – these activities cause a pressure increase in the abdomen and thus possible stress incontinence.

The exercises are easy to do and unobtrusive – so they can be practiced almost anywhere. It is best, initially, to consult the relevant medical practitioner so that they can help with identification of the muscles, guide through correct contractions of those muscles etc.

In order to find the right group of muscles it is helpful to stop oneself in the middle of urination, or to prevent the passing of wind. As the muscles are tightened in these processes so we are tightening our pelvic floor muscles. When doing the exercises it should be possible to feel some squeezing of the vagina.

When tightening the right muscles in this way it should be possible to carry on a conversation – so do not hold your breath. Neither should the stomach, buttocks or thigh muscles be tightened. Squeezing the legs together should also be avoided.

Once you have learned how to tighten the correct muscle group in the correct way it is then possible to exercise on a regular basis much as you would exercise other muscle groups when at the gym. The use of fast and slow contractions will be the same.

Slow contractions will help the muscles to hold back urine and also increase the strength in the pelvic floor. The muscles should be lifted as discussed to a count of ten, then hold that contraction for as long as possible – concentrate on lifting the muscles and then, again to a count of ten, gradually relax and rest. These slow contractions should be repeated ten times and then carried out at least six times throughout the day.

A fast contraction occurs when we laugh, sneeze or cough – this works the muscles which will rapidly stop the flow of urine. For the fast contraction section of your exercises the floor muscles need to be quickly lifted, held for one second and then relax and rest for one second. Again this exercise should be repeated at least ten times and the set of carried out six or more times during the day.

It is a good idea to practice the fast contractions when rising out of a chair or the bed and just prior, if possible, to a sneeze or a laugh.

Kegel exercises are cheap and easy to do for everyone as well as being beneficial and effective. No special equipment is needed and they can be done almost anywhere and any time. It is also easy to tell if muscle tone and strength is improving – how easy is it to stop the flow of urine half way through?

Some people are discouraged by the thought of doing these exercises for the rest of their lives and also by the amount of time it takes to see a marked difference – this may be up to 15 weeks. However for most people pelvic floor exercises are an easy way to improve quality of life.

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