Pelvic Floor Muscles
Pelvic Floor Muscles
What are they? Where are they? What do they do?
The Pelvic Floor Muscles (PFMs) are layers of muscle and tissue that form a hammock like structure attaching from the pubic bones in the front of the pelvis to the tail bone at the back. The PFMs support the organs of the pelvis, the bladder, uterus (womb) and bowel. The urethra (the tube leaving the bladder), the vagina (birth canal) and bowel (back passage) pass through the PFMs. The PFMs have an integral role in maintaining bladder and bowel control as well as sexual sensation.
What causes weakening of the Pelvic Floor Muscles?
Pregnancy and childbirth
Hormonal changes during – teens, reproductive years, peri and post-menopausal
Persistent lifting of a heavy weight – children, heavy weight bearing gym work outs, work related lifts.
Overweight – ideal BMI < 26
Poor overall fitness
Chronic / persistent coughing
Constipation – straining to empty your bowel.
Signs and symptoms of dysfunctional Pelvic Floor Muscles (weak or high tone or strength) Bladder Incontinence:
Stress: (SUI) is the involuntary loss of urine with a cough, laugh, sneeze or jump
Urge: (UI) is when the urge to empty your bladder occurs and you are unable to hold off emptying, leaks occur
Urgency: a feeling or needing to empty your bladder (more frequently) with a high level of urgency
Mixed: a combination of the above
Bowel Incontinence: the loss of wind or faeces from the bowel
Pelvic Girdle pain – pain associated with daily functional activities such as walking, sitting, standing or with sexual intercourse.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse: where one or more of the organs supported by the PFMs may descend in the pelvis or even out of the pelvis causing a bladder, bowel, uterine or gut prolapse.
Why are Pelvic Floor Muscle (PFM) exercises important?
It is estimated that as high as 1:3 women in their lifetime, may develop signs or symptoms associated with PFM weakness and or dysfunction. As these muscles are not cosmetic and affect our outward body’s appearance, they are often overlooked and forgotten until a problem presents. Exercising these muscles early and consistently in life may prevent you from leakage, pelvic pain and or prolapse later in life. So, start now, it is never too late!