Your Pelvic Floor – The Inside Story
Chances are you have heard the term pelvic floor recently…or maybe you have been told to do kegels at some point in your life.
The pelvic floor is FINALLY getting some much-needed press but it still remains a part of the body that is considered taboo and that needs to change.
The Pelvic Floor
Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles (three layers) that run from the pubic bone to the tailbone, as well as the sitz bones.
The nerves, muscles and connective tissue in the pelvic floor work to keep you continent, to provide support to the internal organs (the bladder, the uterus and the rectum), to stabilize the spine and pelvis, and to contribute to your sexual satisfaction.
Because it is not visible, the pelvic floor is rarely thought about until there is a problem. The most common challenges are incontinence, pelvic pain, organ prolapse, sexual challenges, back pain and/or hip pain.
These problems, also known as pelvic floor dysfunction, can develop from a variety of reasons such as overuse (muscles that don’t relax and that are tight and weak as a result), under-use (muscles that lack tone and are weak), injury (perineal injury or nerve injury from birth, sports, accidents), or from poor posture and alignment.
People with a vulva and a vagina are more prone to pelvic floor challenges and are the focus of this article but those with male anatomy have a pelvis and a pelvic floor too.
Pelvic Floor Exercise
Kegels are the most common pelvic floor exercise. The pelvic floor works in synergy with the diaphragm as we breathe. Breathe in – as you inhale, expand the ribs, soften and expand the belly and now bring your attention to your vulva. Can you ask it to expand? Try visualizing your labia like lungs. Fill up your labia with air. You can also try blossoming your vulva!
Now when you exhale, purse your lips (the lips on your face) and blow like you are gently blowing out a candle and imagine picking up a blueberry with your vagina and anus. I know…sounds odd but stick with me.
This visualization helps to activate the first 2 layers of the pelvic floor responsible for closing the openings (think continence) and the ‘lift’ action helps activate the 3rd layer responsible for organ support.
Once you have mastered the core breath, you then add it into movement such as squats, lunges and bridges.
Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy
Reading about kegels is one thing but the gold standard in kegel evaluation is with a pelvic floor physiotherapist. These professionals are the most under-used women’s health resource that we have. I urge you to find one in your community and make an appointment (You do not need a referral) and then see them once a year thereafter…even if you have no symptoms. Studies show that most (over 50%) of people are doing kegels incorrectly. The pelvic floor physiotherapist will feel for a balanced hug and a gentle lift of the pelvic floor followed by a release. This part of a kegel is so often overlooked! We need muscles that can move through their full range of motion which means contracting AND relaxing.
When our pelvic floor is working optimally, we have better movement, better breathing and better sex! If that isn’t enough to motivate you to pay attention I don’t know what is!