The Pelvic Floor. We’ve all heard of it. We’ve all been told it is important. We all know that we should, at some stage, be doing ‘pelvic floor exercises’. But, do we actually know much more than that? Lots of the information that we get about the pelvic floor contains big words, and weird instructions, and leaves a lot of us feeling more confused than when we started.
Our bodyBEgood Pelvic Floor info is going to be blunt. We are going to spell it out for you in simple, every day terms, so that you can actually feel confident and happy that you
a) know what and where your pelvic floor is, and
b) know how to use and exercise your pelvic floor.
Some of our wording might sound crass at times, but we’d rather be crass than be misunderstood!
So… Your pelvic floor:
What is it?
Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments, and other tissues that make up the floor of your core. Your ‘core’ is the common term for your torso, which has
A roof - your diaphragm (big breathing muscle),
Front wall - your deep abdominals/abs,
Back wall - your deep back muscles, particularly Multifidus,
- And a floor, the pelvic floor.
It is really important that all the parts of your core can work happily together, to ensure that you have a happy, healthy body. As most of us know, a problem with your core can lead to back pain, pelvic pain, and a whole host of other issues.
Role of the Pelvic Floor
Your pelvic floor has some really, really, really, important jobs:
Firstly, it helps support your internal organs. That is, your pelvic floor helps to stops your guts from falling out! If you haven't heard the word prolapse before (and you really don't want to hear it in relation to yourself), it means that an organ or part of the body has slipped down from where it is meant to be. A pelvic floor problem can end up as a prolapsed bowel, bladder or uterus… It’s a good idea for our internal organs to stay in their original positions, and a good pelvic floor allows this to happen!
The other really really really important job of the pelvic floor is to support your bladder so that you don't have problems with leaking - that is, peeing yourself, wetting your pants, losing control. It’s not a nice feeling to be out and about, having a laugh with some friends, and suddenly feel a warm wet trickle in your pants…
Thirdly, your pelvic floor is important if you want to have sex! For the sake of this article, we are going to presume you are a tired, grumpy, exhausted new Mum, who doesn't want to think about sex, so for now we will leave out this very important role of the pelvic floor!
OK, so we now know that
- Your pelvic floor is important.
- Your pelvic floor is part of your core.
- And your pelvic floor is a group of muscles and other tissues.
What else do we need to know?
Where is your pelvic floor?
Your pelvic floor attaches at the front to your pubic bone (this is the hard bit of bone that you can feel if you slide your hand down your tummy from your belly button). They attach at the back to your tail bone (which is the very last bit of bone you can feel at the base of your spine, or near your butt hole). At the sides, it attaches to your sit bones. Have a look at the picture below to give yourself more of an idea.
How to exercise your Pelvic Floor...
How to we get this very very very important pelvic floor to work? Here's a few tricks:
We’ve surely all been in the situation before, where you feel a bit gassy, a bit bloated, perhaps you’ve eaten something a bit dodgy, whatever the reason - you really need to fart. But, you’re in a public area, and you’ll be mortified if people know it was you, so you hold on to that fart as tightly as you can…
How do you do that?
Think about it now, imagine yourself trying to stop that terrible gas from exiting your body…. What are you doing? You’re squeezing, or tightening, or clenching, the muscles around your ‘back passage’, or butt hole. And if you can do that, then well done, you are one step closer to feeling confident with pelvic floor exercises!
Now, Step 2. Imagine you are sitting on the toilet, emptying your bladder, or "having a wee". You are only midway through your wee, and you hear a noise from the kitchen. Is that your phone ringing? Is that the important call you’ve been waiting for? You’re not sure you can actually hear it, so you ‘stop’ your wee, or hold it, to let you listen more carefully. Can you imagine yourself doing that? Give it a go, right now. And what have you done - you’ve squeezed the ‘front’ of your pelvic floor!
OK, now can you try and do these two things, starting at the ‘back passage’, or butt hole, and moving forwards to squeezing around the front section, around your wee hole, and ‘hold’ both of these contractions? Good. But are you breathing? Are you clenching your teeth? Are your shoulders about to touch your ears? Umm… If any of these things are happening, which is very very common, try to let them go. You are aiming to train your muscles to be able to ‘work’ the pelvic floor area, while the rest of the body remains relaxed, and you can breathe. Often, once you start to ‘breathe’, you’ll feel like your pelvic floor just totally lets go - don't worry, that’s normal. It happens to the best of us when we are only learning to contract our pelvic floor. With practice, you’ll get much better at this.
So hopefully, you now feel a bit more confident with 'switching on' your pelvic floor. You can now have a practice tensing/switching on/tightening these muscles. Keep in mind though, it's also really important that you can ‘relax’ them too. This is just as important as being able to get them to contract in the first place. So once you've practiced switching on, let all these muscles ‘go’, and have a rest.
“But what if i still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing?”
Ok, so for those of you who still feel a bit lost, or feel unsure if your pelvic floor is doing anything at all, try this:
- Lie on your side, with your knees bent up.
- Rest your fingertips in the space between your sit bones, your pubic bone, and your tail bone.
- Keep your fingers pressed firmly on that area, as you ‘contract’ or try to lift your pelvic floor muscles up and in, like we talked about above.
- Try to imagine you are pulling those 4 boney landmarks together - your sit bones, pubic bone and tail bone.
- You should feel a slight tensing or pressure change under your fingers. It shouldn't feel like a strong pressure pushing down on your fingertips, but rather a slight tensing.
- Now, see if you can hold that, whilst you breathe and relax the rest of the body.
This is how we switch on our Pelvic Floor!