A healthy pelvic floor supports the pelvic organs to prevent problems such as:
- incontinence (the involuntary loss of urine or faeces)
- prolapse (lack of support) of the bladder, uterus and bowel.
The pelvic floor muscles also help you to control bladder and bowel function, such as allowing you to ‘hold on’ until an appropriate time and place. So how do you keep a healthy pelvic floor?
It’s not all about Kegels
Far more problems are caused by over-activity and tension held in the pelvic floor than most women realise.
To get a sense of this – make a fist, and now tighten it. Can you see there is very little way to go? It’s the same with the pelvic floor muscles. If there is already a holding going on like the fist or a clenched jaw, when you need the muscles to engage quickly, for example to support the bladder during a cough, there is very little way for them to go.
According to eminent osteopath Leon Chaitow there has been a surge in chronic pelvic pain that coincides with the Pilates movement – in his view due to trigger points in the pelvic floor muscles due to sustained over-holding. This is NOT a criticism of Pilates – an example perhaps of too much of a good thing!
Breathe well for a healthy pelvic floor
Working as a Women’s Health physio, I found introducing relaxed breathing was an effective way to reduce stress urinary incontinence often reducing symptoms within a few days. Of course, this was just a small part of a much bigger picture but none the less, an important one.
The diaphragm is connected to the pelvic floor via fascia and as the diaphragm contracts downwards on an in-breath so there is a slight “release” of the pelvic floor. Conversely on the out-breath, as the diaphragm relaxes back up towards the chest, the pelvic floor is drawn upwards too.
Habitual Posture for a healthy pelvic floor
A small group of women’s health therapists have been trialling the “Buttafly Effect” – using the Buttafly in supine lying to facilitate a realignment of the spine. So far the effects are very encouraging – we are finding that this position helps many women to feel pelvic floor contractions more definitely and it seems to be helping to re-establish normal tone in the muscles.
Most people have a default posture – one we tend to adopt unconsciously. Those who stand with their bottom tucked under – butt grippers – will tend to have a tight pelvic floor and those who stand with an exaggerated arch in their low back will have a stretched pelvic floor creating weakness.
Letting go of holding patterns, re-establishing optimal postural alignment and a normal breathing pattern are all key to a healthy pelvic floor.
Yours in Yoga