Last week I attended a workshop about pelvic floor health. And the information got me startled. Even though I know that the dysfunction rates are growing, I was still shocked by the numbers I heard.
It is predicted that the need for a pelvic floor treatment will increase over the next 30 years and whoever decides to go into this field, will be well off … It’s a scary thought. Already in 2008, it was said that one out of 3 women have pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms: need to urinate frequently, dropped pelvic floor organs (rectum, uterus, bladder) and incontinence (both urinary and anal) [2.]
And the worst part of it all is not even the physical dysfunction, it’s the belief that this is how it’s supposed to be or that this comes with the birth of a child or an old age. No woman could be further from the truth by thinking like this. This isn’t a problem you talk about at a birthday party, but I think – maybe we should. If we all saw how many women are struggling with this – is might not have become such a huge problem.
Just because I speak to women here, it doesn’t mean that men are not having these issues. If you (or your men) are noticing these problems – incontinence, constipation, lower back pain, pain during sexual intercourse, muscle spasm in the pelvic region or prostate problems, that could mean there is some dysfunction in the pelvis.
But all is not lost and there are many ways how to treat it, but I will look at only one of those and that is – exercise.
So, what should you do? First of all, think of your pelvis as a bottom of your core muscles. You have your diaphragm on the top, you have your m. multifidus ( and m. quadratus lumborum) at the back, you have your m. transversus abdominus in front and then the pelvic floor to seal it all off on the bottom.
Whenever you apply pressure to your core (push, lift, sneeze or cough), you might pull the belly button in and all the pressure in your abdomen goes down, towards your pelvic floor and pushes it out. This also happens when you’re in your fitness class and your instructor tells you to pull the belly button in. As you see in the picture below, if you just squeeze the belly button towards your spine, you activate your m. transversus abdominus. That is great for the protection of your back, but it’ll do very little for your pelvic floor muscles, that will have to resist the pressure that suddenly comes from your stomach. Also, those of you who are not breathing through exercises and tend to hold your breath, you will raise the pressure in your stomach, resulting in pushing your pelvic floor and your organs outwards, making everything weaker.
So, first of all, try to squeeze your pelvic muscles. The easiest way to get the feeling is by imagining that you are peeing and you try to stop the flow. You can try it once when you’re actually peeing, but you don’t want to practice it regularly and disrupt a normal function of your bladder.
Once you have the feeling that you can squeeze the front part of your pelvic floor muscles, you can move along the sphincters. By stopping the urinary flow, you will contract your urethral sphincter and maybe you will feel your vaginal canal (you want to focus on contracting the vaginal canal a lot because the stronger your vaginal muscles are, the better sex you will have). And then, usually, the one that is the most easily contractible – anal sphincter.
Whichever is the hardest to work with you probably need the most work with. The best part – this can be done anywhere… Stand in the line in the grocery store, sit at your table, or at a red light… You can always work your pelvic floor muscles by contracting them, holding the contraction for a little while and then releasing.
Always think of your core as a whole – pull everything towards your belly button. Pull your sides towards the middle, pick the lower part of your stomach up, towards the belly button and push the upper part of your abs down a little. Imagine your belly button as being the hub of everything and you just want to suck everything in towards in (not necessarily pull the belly button in).
Don’t let yourself be fooled that it’s normal to have any of the symptoms mentioned above (for both men and women) and take matters in your own hands. This is one of the easiest and hardest things you can do, but believe me, you will be grateful that you have put in the work.