Recently, Pilates Can instructors Trudi, Emma, and Lynn attended an interesting workshop about the pelvic floor. Presented by Marietta Mehanni, an award winning fitness instructor and ambassador for Pelvic Floor First. The workshop was informative and engaging.
Did you know?
What is the pelvic floor and why is it important?
The Pelvic Floor muscles support the pelvic organs and sit like a hammock across the bottom of the pelvis. The pelvic floor keeps our internal organs inside of our body, control bladder and bowel emptying and play and important part of sexual function and satisfaction. The muscles of the pelvic floor also work with the abdominals and back muscles to stabilise and support your spine.
The pelvic floor muscles are about as thick as your cheek (if you were to pinch your cheek in between your finger and thumb). The tensile strength is like the webbing between your thumb and first finger. There are two layers to the pelvic floor – an inner and outer layer. The pelvic floor has two types of muscle fibres:
- Slow twitch fibres (endurance muscles) which are responsible for maintaining tone and supporting the internal organs. These muscles provide “urge control”.
- Fast twitch fibres (fast acting muscles) that respond quickly to increase intraabdominal pressure and maintain sphincter closure. That’s just a fancy way of saying these muscles stop you wetting yourself when you cough, laugh or sneeze.
What can make these muscles loose or weak?
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Straining on the toilet
- Chronic coughing
- Heavy lifting
- High impact exercise
How do I know if I have a problem?
Common signs of pelvic floor weakness include:
- Accidental leakage of urine when you exercise, laugh, cough or sneeze
- Needing to go to the toilet in a hurry or not making it there in time
- The need to frequently go to the toilet
- Finding it difficult to empty your bladder or bowel
- Accidental loss of faeces or wind
- A prolapse
- Pelvic pain
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Poor sensation or loss of bladder control during sexual intercourse.
Pelvic floor issues are on the increase
- Urinary incontinence affects up to 13% of Australian men and up to 37% of Australian women (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, 2006).
- 65% of women and 30% of men sitting in a GP waiting room report some type of urinary incontinence, yet only 31% of these people report having sought help from a health professional (Byles & Chiarelli, 2003: Help seeking for urinary incontinence: a survey of those attending GP waiting rooms, Australian and New Zealand Continence Journal).
- 70% of people with urinary leakage do not seek advice and treatment for their problem (Millard, 1998: The prevalence of urinary incontinence in Australia, Australian and New Zealand Continence Journal).
The good news
There is a lot you can do to help strengthen your pelvic floor. At PilatesCan, we have a team of dedicated instructors who can help you learn the correct technique and exercises to develop your pelvic floor strength. If you need a little extra help we can also refer you to appropriate professionals like physiotherapists who can work with us to help achieve gthe best possible results.
Give it a try!
Here’s a little exercise you can do at home to start working on your pelvic floor.
Sit on a chair, with your back a little bit away from the backrest. Place your feet flat on the floor with knees slightly apart. Imagine your pelvis is like a diamond shaped clock face. The pubic bone at the front is at 12 o’clock, the coccyx (tailbone) is at 6 o’clock, and each sit bone is 3 and 9 o’clock.
- Now close your eyes and draw the 12 and 6 towards each other. Curl the 12 and 6 in and lift them up inside you. Ensure you are breathing normally while you are doing the lift. Your back, bottom, legs and shoulders should all remain relaxed. Release and rest for a little while before repeating a few times.
- Now try drawing the 3 and 9 in and up inside you. Make sure you are breathing and all the other muscles are relaxed. Release and rest.
Each pelvic floor contraction should be performed at maximum effort. It is very important to release the pelvic floor contraction fully between each repetition. Try and perform the lift slowly a few times. Rest for a minute, and then try a few quick repetitions.
Repeat this exercise a couple of times a day, and you should feel results fairly quickly (within a couple of weeks)
If you are experiencing signs of pelvic floor weakness, please speak to one of our friendly team. Don’t be embarrassed, we aren’t! These are just like all the other muscles in the body. We are here to help. We can design a program that is tailored specifically to your needs.
Want more information?
The following may be useful resources for you:
Maureen and her team of physiotherapists offer excellent support in caring for and strengthening your Pelvic Floor. Located in Griffith ACT, just a few minutes drive from our Manuka studios.
Pelvic Floor First has lots of useful information on the pelvic floor, where to get help, exercises to do and to avoid. They also have a free app, available for Apple and Android devices.
The hotline is open from 8am – 8pm, Monday to Friday, and is staffed by continence nurses. They are a great source of information and can help refer you to the right kind of professional help. The Helpline can be contacted on 1800 33 00 66 or [email protected]
Marietta’s YouTube channel with a playlist of Pelvic Floor safe exercises and tips.