The pelvic floor is intimately involved in all forms of movement and exercise…
Pelvic floor disorders have a huge negative impact on patients – physically, psychologically and socially. Even though the prevalence of these conditions is high, many people are reluctant to approach a doctor for treatment. It is imperative to understand that the symptoms patients experience are just that – ‘symptoms’ – which CAN be treated.
So what is the pelvic floor and why must we keep the pelvic floor strong?
The pelvic floor muscles are the foundation for the core of the body and therefore need regular exercise (like other muscles of body) to retain good muscle tone. They help stabilize the pelvis, and they support the organs of the lower abdominal cavity, like the bladder and uterus. The pelvic floor muscles, along with the deep muscles of the back and abdomen, form the group of muscles we work when we focus on developing core strength. If the system becomes weak, is torn, stretched, damaged, or diseased, the pelvic organs, may shift, bulge and push outward or against each other. As a result, one may suffer from urinary or faecal incontinence or obstruction, constipation, vaginal prolapse, rectal prolapse, vaginal pain, endometriosis and sexual dysfunction. In addition, if the pelvic floor muscles are weak, and not working in concert with the muscles of the abdomen and back, structural imbalances that lead to abdominal and back pain, as well as patterns of compensation throughout the body, can occur. Weak core and pelvic floor muscles can also lead to the internal organs slumping forward resulting in bulging of the abdomen and indigestion.
Why do the pelvic floor muscles weaken? Pelvic floor muscles may be weakened by:
- Pregnancy, childbirth and pelvic surgery
- Continual straining to open the bowels (constipation)
- Persistent heavy lifting
- High impact sports (bicycling, horseback riding, water skiing, road running and weight training)
- A chronic cough (e.g. asthma, chronic bronchitis or smoker’s cough)
- Inactivity / lack of general fitness
- Changes in hormone levels at menopause
Why should women do pelvic floor exercises?
When the pelvic floor muscles weaken, a number of things can happen. A woman may develop urinary or stool incontinence, that is, an inability to control the bladder or bowel. Weak pelvic floor muscles can also lead to poor muscle action during labour and delivery among many other unpleasant implications:
- The development of well-toned muscles has been shown to help 86% of women with symptoms due to weak pelvic floor muscles (www.mypelvicfitness.com)
- To alleviate and prevent stress and urge incontinence
- Sexual dysfunction is also associated with a weakened pelvic floor.
- Childbirth may lead to weak, loose muscles and poor circulation thereby decreasing nerve supply or conduction thereby reducing sexual stimulation and feeling.
- Weakness may allow prolapse of the internal organs (“falling out” feeling)
- Pelvic floor re-education has proven to be effective in women with sphincter deficiency and detrusor instability. (Fantl, Newman, Colling, et al, 1996)
- Burgio, et.al. (1998) reported a mean 80.7% reduction of incontinence in her research of older women with urge UI. Long term studies have demonstrated that improvement persists over time.
- Postpartum PFEs appear to be effective in decreasing postpartum urinary incontinence (MA Harvey, et al, 2003)
- 412 Women underwent pelvic floor rehabilitation in a 4 year period, 45.9% were cured, 38.8% improved considerably (Soltero Gonzalez A, Campoy Martinez P etc,, et al, 2002)
Why should men do pelvic floor exercises?
Recent research suggests that pelvic floor exercises are highly effective in helping men who have problems developing and sustaining an erection. The exercises strengthen the muscles around the penis, improve the blood supply in the pelvis and thus ‘enhance orgasmic sensations by strengthening the pelvic muscles that produce ejaculation by their contraction’.
Research has found that:
- Strong pelvic floor muscles can overcome erectile dysfunction (University of Bristol study, 2004)
- Pelvic floor exercise can “increase awareness of sexual sensations and enhance enjoyment” (Impotence Association, UK) The research has highlighted the benefits that such a regime could have on the sexual prowess of all men.
- Pelvic floor exercises can bring a dramatic improvement for men who experience dribbling after urinating (University of Bristol study, 2005)
- Pelvic floor exercises are strongly recommended for men following a prostatectomy. Research has shown that pelvic floor strengthening can improve sexual function and overcome urinary incontinence. (Moore and others, 2008)
- Improved control of premature ejaculation after only 15 sessions of Pelvic Floor Exercises a study in the British Journal of General Practice has indicated.
The Pelvic Floor and muscles of the core are notoriously hard to engage and stimulate. Although there are currently a number of treatments and therapies for these ‘embarrassing’ afflictions, i.e. Kegel’s, Weighted Cones, Transurethral Slings and NMS, which enjoy varying levels of success but are certainly not free of the embarrassing interactions during administration of treatments.
It is therefore necessary to find a therapy that is highly effective and time efficient whilst at the same time being gentle, discreet and self-administered.