You're at a dinner party and sneeze. You momentarily freeze before you casually place your glass of wine down and make your way to the restroom. While in the bathroom, you wonder if any other women at this dinner struggle with this. Do they also leak when they sneeze or cough? Or is it only you?
Don't sweat it babe, you’re not alone. Experts believe pelvic floor issues may be just as prevalent as back pain, while leaking is the most common, followed by prolapse and pelvic pain.
Many women believe that it’s just a normal part of aging and being a woman. But I’m here to tell you that it’s not. It’s common, but that doesn’t mean it’s normal.
Luckily, pelvic floor exercises are a great way to improve and, in some cases, completely resolve these issues. This article will look at what the pelvic floor is, common symptoms, the benefits of strengthening these muscles, and 5 exercises to start off with.
What is the Pelvic Floor?
Think of your pelvic floor as a hammock at the bottom of your pelvis that holds your pelvic organs like your bladder, bowel, and uterus. These muscles help you to control your bladder and bowel and maintain sexual function.
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
Pelvic floor dysfunction is when you're unable to coordinate and relax your pelvic floor muscles during bladder - and bowel movements and sex.
Common symptoms include:
- Leaking from your bladder or bowel.
- Being unable to complete a bowel movement.
- Prolapse of pelvic organs.
- Pain during intercourse.
- Pelvic pain.
- Unexplainable back pain.
Pelvic floor exercises aim to improve your muscle tone and your mind-body connection. It can help with incontinence, prolapse and even improve your sex life!
Let’s look at the 5 best exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor.
5 Exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor exercises
- Take a towel and fold it up to 10 cm wide. Then, place it on your chair so that you sit on it, while it runs from your backside, all the way to the front.
- Place both feet on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
- Now, lift that area (your front & back passage) up and away from the towel, towards your belly button.
- Hold it for 2 seconds and repeat 10 times.
- To practice endurance: hold it for 10 seconds and repeat.
Other tips :
- Do yo use a menstrual cup or tampons? — Imagine squeezing as if squeezing a tampon/ cup higher.
- Visualize walking into cold water and you want to pull it up and away from the water.
- Think of zipping up tight jeans.
- Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet placed on the floor.
- Inhale slowly, and push your lower back into the floor and curl your tailbone in as you exhale (think of a scared dog with its tail in between its legs).
- Return back to neutral as you inhale.
- Repeat 10 times.
- Start in the same position as in exercise #2.
- Place the small ball or pillow between your knees.
- As you exhale, slowly lift your buttocks off the mat— until you reach a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
- Pause, and inhale at the top.
- Squeeze the ball and then slowly lower down as you exhale.
- Repeat 10 times.
- Lie flat on your back, with one leg resting on the floor and your other leg reaching up towards the ceiling.
- Inhale and draw a small circle in the air with your leg pointing towards the ceiling (start anti-clockwise).
- Repeat 3 sets anti-clockwise, then change to the opposite direction.
- Pull your stomach to your spine and try to not lift your pelvis from the mat while your legs circle.
- Your pelvis should remain stationary while you circle your leg.
- Stand on your hands and knees, with your hands underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips.
- Pull your stomach towards your spine without rounding your back (pretend as if your back is a table).
- Now, slowly stretch your left leg and right arm in opposite directions— while maintaining your balance.
- Slowly, move your left knee and right elbow towards each other and then stretch them out again.
- Repeat 5-10 reps on one side and then switch directions.
- Try to keep your torso as stationary as possible. As if you’re balancing a cup of tea on your back.
Like any exercise, there’s always a risk of sore muscles doing these exercises. Take it slow, progress at your own pace, and try out our it's the balm CBD balm if you experience any tired muscles afterwards.
Doing these exercises regularly will help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and resolve common issues like leakage and prolapse. If you’ve been struggling with these issues for quite a while now, it’s always a good idea to see a healthcare professional.
Written by Eugenie Lamprecht, a South African-based Physiotherapist, Pilates Instructor and freelance writer with a great passion for women’s health and active living. When she’s not spending time outdoors with friends, you can find her curled up on the couch reading mystery-thriller novels. See more on her blog.
Image credit: @wearhuha (Unsplash)