The female pelvic floor – it’s not as different to other muscles as you think. BUT – it’s still really important to see a women’s health physio.
The muscles of the pelvic floor create a support for the pelvic organs to stop them from descending. They contract and relax just like other muscles, can be strong or weak just like other muscles, and can be injured and then recover just like other muscles. We don’t talk about the pelvic floor much (often not until there is a problem), and there could be more education around the pelvic floor, especially for women.
So, if the pelvic floor can be strengthened like other areas of the body, why can’t we just go ahead and do some strengthening exercises if we feel like we know what we’re doing? There are a few reasons;
1. You want to make sure you are doing it right! Many women actually push down on their pelvic floor instead of drawing in and up. This can lead to lengthening of the pelvic floor muscles and ligaments and can ultimately lead to prolapse.
2. Pelvic floor exercises should be specifically prescribed and can be different for everyone! This depends on what the tone of your pelvic floor is to start with. We wouldn’t go into the gym and all lift the same weight for the same number of repetitions, just as pelvic floor exercise prescription should be individualised.
3. Just like other muscles in the body, we need to have full available range of the pelvic floor so that it can function properly. For example, if we compare the pelvic floor to the bicep – we need to be able to fully straighten and lengthen the arm to be able to have complete function of lifting. This is also true of the pelvic floor – we need to be able to relax so that the muscles can properly contract and therefore create closure for the pelvic floor the function. If the pelvic floor is unable to relax fully this can actually lead to pelvic pain.
The pelvic floor isn’t that different to other muscles in the body, BUT we shouldn’t always assume we know exactly what we are doing, and should seek the help of a women’s health physio to be certain.