The Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor is a complex series of muscles that when not working well can cause pelvic floor disorders.
The most common of these disorders is bladder leakage and that can be caused by multiple reasons:
Trauma: (giving birth or having surgery) can cause injury to the pelvic floor muscles and like a muscle strain you have to give the muscles time to heal and then restrengthen them.
* Aging: as we get older all muscles weaken and if you don’t use it you lose it! Therefore, it is important to keep training your pelvic floor so it doesn’t become weak.
* Obesity: if there is more weight pressing down on the pelvic floor it causes a greater demand on the muscles to remain contracted and if you do not have the strength to maintain this it can cause dysfunction.
All of these situations can lead to weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, potentially leading to incontinence. This incontinence can be due to lack of endurance of the pelvic floor muscles or lack of strength. Endurance of the pelvic floor muscles is important for when you are going for a walk and ensuring that you get through the whole walk without needing to go. Strength of the pelvic floor muscles is needed for when you are doing heavy activities such as jumping or running and you need a greater contraction of the muscles due to a greater load.
Our Exercise Physiologist Emily Smith favourite cue to imagine that your pelvis is a bowl of water and there is a marble on the bottom of the bowl, you want to lift that marble off the bottom of the bowl with your pelvic floor. To improve the endurance of the muscles it is important to practice these exercises regularly (multiple times per day) and when you are focusing on increasing the time you are holding the contraction for, i.e. keep the marble of the bottom of the bowl for longer. Initially you can practice this sitting down in an undisturbed environment, maybe when you are sitting down to eat or drink a cup of tea.
To continue to challenge the pelvic floor you can increase movement around the core and lower body to change your abdominal pressure and pelvic position against gravity. This change in position and pressure continues to challenge the pelvic floor to get stronger and be able to cope in more strenuous situations.
Reformer Pilates is a fantastic environment for you to focus on isolating the pelvic floor muscles as you are doing different movements. Focusing on the draw up of the marble throughout old and new exercises is a great way to continually challenge the pelvic floor to adapt to new situations.
Everyone can have weakness in their pelvic floor and it is not just restricted to ladies that have just had a baby. If you have been experiencing any pelvic floor problems come and talk to one of our exercise physiologists and we can discuss how we can help you improve these muscles so you are able to carry on with your daily life without worrying where the nearest toilet is!