To all you ladies out there: do know what the pelvic floor is? Whether or not you are familiar with this term, it’s a very important muscle group that when functioning properly does more than you’d think. And you won’t understand just how important it is until there’s dysfunction.
Pelvic floor issues affect 25% of women of all ages, and causes range from carrying excess weight, pregnancy, childbirth, sedentary lifestyle and strenuous exercise. No one is safe! Understanding how these muscles work is key to preventing dysfunction, and some pretty embarrassing symptoms.
So what is the pelvic floor?
Put simply, it is a sling of muscles that lines the inside of the pelvis, and assists with bowel and bladder control. A weak pelvic floor can lead to difficulty controlling urination, including leakage with activity (even laughing), difficulty urinating or emptying, and frequent restroom use despite fluid intake. This muscle sling also has a close relationship with your abdominal muscles. These two muscle groups often work simultaneously, making it essential to train both areas.
Treating pelvic floor dysfunction starts with learning how to cue these muscles in. So, how in the heck do you activate them?
The oh-so-important Kegel, of course! “Kegel-ing” is actually quite easy. If you’ve ever used the restroom, then you should nail this…and I am pretty confident that 100% of us have done so! Stopping your stream of urine, holding in urine when you really, really have to use to the restroom, and holding in a fart (hopefully we’ve all done this as well) involve using these muscles, and are great ways to practice cueing in the pelvic floor. So if you don’t know what a kegel is, or how to perform one, next time you use the restroom practice stopping urination mid-stream.
Sounds pretty easy right?
But, if this is difficult for you, don’t get frustrated – there are also numerous devices out there to help people achieve, and grade the amount of muscle contraction “down there.” The cool part about these kegel trainers is that most of them coincide with phone apps to assist in giving feedback. You can almost look at it as a game. Woo-Hoo!
The goal is that eventually this becomes second nature and doesn’t involve much thought, so as the saying goes: practice makes perfect. Once you get the hang of it, you can exercise anywhere, anytime. Even if you don’t have pelvic floor dysfunction, it’s so important to exercise these muscles to avoid any of the aforementioned symptoms. So I encourage everyone to kegel on a regular basis. Your lady parts will thank you.
These symptoms can be a touchy subject and might feel awkward for some to talk about. But, rest assured it’s more common than you think and as luck has it, here at Catalyst, Women’s Health is my specialty and passion. If you have questions, or are dealing with pelvic floor dysfunction, give us a call to set up an appointment and determine if physical therapy can help. I look forward to helping you!
Kelsey Gaffney, PT, DPT, CAFS