Pelvic health is vital to our health and wellbeing: the pelvis is vital in movement and our pelvic floor muscles are important core muscles.
And yet, we often overlook this area unless it gives us problems, partly because it is an area that is associated with sexuality. So we don’t move our pelvis when walking because we don’t want to look too sexy…. And that will inhibit our balance and our pelvic floor muscles. Our pelvic floor muscles are invisible. Because we don’t see them, it is easy to forget about them and yet they may be the culprit that gives you that back pain, or why you feel constipated, can’t get to the toilet in time when you put your key into the front door, have to go to the toilet several times during the night or suffer from stress incontinence. The pelvic floor might even be implicated in issues related to the gut, say IBS.
Whilst you should see a medical doctor if you suffer from any of these issues to make sure that these issues are actually related to your pelvic floor and nothing else, your pelvic floor might just be the culprit!
The pelvic floor has various important roles: it supports our organs, especially the bladder, the reproductive organs and the rectum, and stops them from prolapsing. But this is not its sole purpose. The pelvic floor also has “outlets” so that we can urinate (wee) and defecate (poo) easily. If the pelvic floor is too tight or too weak, it affects these functions. So we might find that we cannot hold our urine easily – say we have little mishaps whenever we cough or sneeze – or we might find ourselves having to rush to the toilet all the time and then find we actually didn’t have to go….. We might also suffer from wind, constipation or bloating. Or we just feel a sensation of heaviness or even pain in this area. Or we have unexplained back pain. Do remember though, that you should always go to your doctor to make sure that these symptoms are pelvic floor related.
Pelvic health can be impaired in many of us. It is affected by age, lifestyle, diet, numerous health conditions, daily activities, such as lifting, pregnancy, hormones and what we wear, especially our shoes.
How can we maintain or regain a healthy pelvic floor? First of all, like any muscle in our body, the pelvic floor should be responsive to what is required. There is no use having a tight pelvic floor when it’s not needed nor having a relaxed pelvic floor when it needs to support an action. So exercise should not just think of strengthening or releasing the pelvic floor, it should involve the whole body action so our pelvic floor can relearn how to support everyday action.
Is there specific exercises we need to do? There are some exercises that we can use to bring our attention back to the pelvic floor. There are also exercises that we might want to do to start us off. These can be learnt in a workshop of private lesson with me. But ber soon you may want to use exercises that you can find in any setting, such as a gym or a normal fitness class. However, you will learn how to do those particular exercises in such a way to support our pelvic floor – it’s not the what that counts it’s the how! So in my standing Pilates classes I give a lot of instructions that relate to a healthy pelvic floor – when to be more mobile and when to work on core stability, which muscles need specific attention or which postural alignment will support you best. Of course, the same can be done in any position not just standing but if you are looking to join any of my open classes, the standing Pilates class is probably the most useful for you. Standing is healthy and builds our core but if it’s done badly it can be difficult for that pelvic floor. In the class we will be moving and doing small weight training just as if it was a normal exercise class but with the awareness on developing healthy pelvic floor action. That way you will learn how to support your pelvic floor whichever other class you attend.
The pelvic floor is important for both men and women. Apart from all the above, it also affects sexual function in both men and women.
The pelvic floor needs particular attention during and after pregnancy. The pelvic floor supports the uterus with the baby during pregnancy. It is stretched when a woman gives birth (the vagina is the third “outlet” in the female pelvic floor) so it needs special exercises and attention to regain its health and vitality.
As we age, the pelvic floor often gets weak due to lack of oestrogen. In women this can lead to severe dryness and vaginal atrophy.
So what can you do? Exercise, a healthy lifestyle and advice on healthy lifting and activity levels can all help to maintain pelvic health. Contact me for more information about our special classes, courses and workshops where we teach pelvic floor exercises that can help to strengthen as well as relax the pelvic floor, teach healthy lifting techniques and give advice on lifestyle and diet that can help you support your pelvic floor.
Hope to see you there standing Pilates classes Mondays and Fridays 9-9.45. Private classes or workshops available on demand. Just contact me.