Written by FH Contributor Rachel Louissaint, DPT
If we were to ask the average person if they know where their pelvic floor is, we may get a couple of confused looks. Your pelvic floor muscles are not muscles you can see with the naked eye which makes it even more ambiguous. Your pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles that form a muscular sheet separating the pelvic cavity from the perineal region.
Pelvic floor issues commonly go unreported because of the sensitive nature of the area. Studies have shown that pelvic floor issues affect 80% of the population. The pelvic floor muscles function to:
- Maintain the continence of urine and feces
- Allows voiding, sexual activity, and childbirth
- Supports the abdominal and pelvic viscera
Classic signs and symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction can range from leaking urine while laughing, coughing (stress incontinence), pain and numbness during intercourse, frequent need to urinate, or low back pain. Like any other muscle, when it becomes weak you want to strengthen it. Because of the location of your pelvic floor, you can’t just go to a gym and start lifting weights, there are specific exercises and tools used in order to improve pelvic floor strength. One of the main exercises used is called the kegels exercise. Kegel exercises focus on contracting your pelvic floor muscles in order to get them stronger and build their endurance. Kegel exercises are easy to do and can be performed anywhere.
How to Kegel
The first thing to do is to make sure that you are using the correct muscles. A great way to find them is to try and stop your flow of urine. The muscles that activate and hold the urine in are your pelvic floor muscles. Now that you have found them, you can practice contracting them while doing anything, standing, sitting at work, walking in a store, etc.
You want to start slow, the best way to start is to hold the contraction for 3 seconds, release, perform 10 times for 1 set. Afterward, complete 2 more sets in order to make 3 sets of 10 reps. These can easily be performed daily, you may start to see results within weeks. kegels are easy to do but you don’t want to overdo it. Overuse can cause strain to the muscles.
If you are having trouble contracting and performing your kegels you may want to consult an MD. The addition of kegels to your routine may be the missing piece you need to get some relief and start to feel better. Please consult a healthcare provider such as a pelvic floor therapist before you incorporate kegels in to your routine.