Pelvic Floor Muscles And Exercises
The muscles in your pelvic floor support the organs on the pelvic floor, assist in urinary and fecal continence, assist with sexual performance, and stabilize the joints. The pelvic floor muscles stretch from the tailbone to the pubic bone and are normally firm and thick.
Pelvic floor muscles not only support organs, but also give us control over our bladder and bowel so we can “hold it” and release urine and feces when it is convenient. These muscles are also important for erectile function and ejaculation in men and sexual sensation and arousal in women. During pregnancy, the pelvic floor muscles support the baby and assist in the birthing process.
Weak pelvic floor muscles can cause:
- Leaking urine when coughing, sneezing, laughing, or running
- Uncontrollable flatulence
- Reduced sensation or sensation of heaviness in the vagina
- Swelling at the vaginal opening
What loosens these muscles?
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Straining on the toilet
- Chronic coughing
- Heavy lifting
- High impact exercise
Strengthening The Pelvic Floor Muscles
Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles can help improve bladder and bowel control, increase sexual sensation, and improve quality of life. There are several exercises that can strengthen the pelvic floor for men and women. The first step in pelvic floor muscle exercises is identifying the correct muscles. To do so, you may see a continence specialist. Another way is to stop the flow of urine repeatedly mid-stream. Stopping the flow of urine can help you identify the muscle.
Once you have identified the pelvic floor muscle correctly, you may begin to exercise it. Women should squeeze this muscle for up to 10 seconds and then relax. You should be able to breathe easily while squeezing. This exercise is often called a kegel. Men should stand in front of the mirror and tighten the pelvic floor muscle. If you are doing it correctly, the base of the penis should draw in and the scrotum should lift up. Relaxing the muscles should feel like ‘letting go.’
You should see a professional if your weakened pelvic floor muscle symptoms are severe. This can include:
- Needing to urinate frequently or urgently
- Accidental leakage of urine, bowel movements, or wind
- Difficulty empting your bladder or bowel
- Pain in the pelvic floor area when exercising or during intercourse
A professional can assess your pelvic floor muscles and provide a tailored exercise program to meet your needs or prescribe other treatment.