How Improving Your Pelvic Floor Health Will Change Your Life
Even if you don’t have pelvic floor problems, understanding how your pelvic floor works can help improve your function day to day as well as when you’re exercising. It’s an Integral part of our “core”—along with abdominals, back muscles, and respiratory diaphragm. Let’s go over some of the ways your pelvic floor is impacting your life.
- Digestion: If your pelvic floor is overactive, or the muscles are too tight, you may have problems with constipation, which will have an effect on your overall gut health and digestion.
- Sexual function: There have been multiple studies that show men and women who had better pelvic floor strength/control reported a more satisfying sex life and improved sexual function
- Voiding: Urinating and defecating actually requires relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles
- Managing pressures: when we brace our muscles to lift something or transfer energy in some way (push open a heavy door), the pelvic floor need to be able to apply a counter pressure against the abs, so your guts don’t fall out or you don’t pee yourself
- Dysfunction of the pelvic floor has been tied to hip, lower back, groin and SIJ pain
It’s Not All About the Kegel
If you’ve ever had problems with leakage, or heard anything about the pelvic floor, you always hear, “do your Kegel’s!” However, that’s not always appropriate.
Some types of incontinence (leakage) and other dysfunctions (pain) results from pelvic floor muscles being too tight and unable to relax, therefore further strengthening them is less beneficial than working on how to relax them. If you’re having any type of low back, hip, groin or SIJ pain, it may be worth getting evaluated for pelvic floor dysfunction, in addition to any sexual dysfunction, incontinence or known history of prolapse if you’ve never been evaluated.
Now, let’s go over the basics of pelvic floor movement. Being able to contract and relax these muscles can be very challenging—then adding it on top of a deep abdominal contraction and continuing to breathe can feel like trying to pat your head while you rub your belly.
Pelvic Floor Contraction
Imagine as you’re sitting in a chair, with feet flat on the ground. Try to lift up your pelvic floor off the chair without squeezing your butt cheeks (you shouldn’t feel your whole body rise). It’s as if you’re trying to sip a martini out of a straw with your who-ha (you’re welcome for that rhyme). Don’t worry gentlemen, I didn’t forget about you. Imagine you’re walking into cold water and it’s just able to hit the boys down there, and you try to lift up them up to avoid the frigid water.
Another way to think about it is as if you’re trying to pull your sit bones together, or your pubic bone toward your tail bone.
You can use your hand right up against your pelvic floor to feel if you’re able to lift the muscles up and away from your hand. It’s a very subtle movement, but you should feel the pelvic floor lift away from your hand rather than pushing down into your hand. Another helpful way to VISUALIZE this is to actually use a mirror, yes I said it. Use a hand mirror or lay in front of a floor length mirror to WATCH your pelvic floor. With a contraction, it should look like your pelvic floor is “pulling in” and not “pushing out” toward the mirror.
Pelvic Floor Relaxation
-Creating a gentle pressure or “bulge” as if you’re trying to push out gas. You should be able to do this without bearing down through your abs or holding your breath.
-Once again, you can use your hand in between your legs to see if you can feel your muscles gently push out into your hand.
Putting It All Together
-When exercising the pelvic floor, practice not only sustained contractions (holding as long as you can), then practice fulling relaxing. Also practice quick flicks, but making sure you fully relax in between each contraction.
Now, try lying on your back with your knees bent up, and do a deep abdominal contraction (feel just inside your hip bones) as you contract your pelvic floor, and maintain normal breathing. Make sure to fully relax your pelvic floor in between contractions.
I wanted to go over the basics of how to work your pelvic floor, and bringing awareness to how to do that. If you’d like Dr. Megan to evaluate you for any pelvic floor issues, complete the form below or call us at 619-210-0945 x 1.