Purpose Statement

This blog is intended to educate women on issues that affect women. Although we are all healthcare professionals, we are not here to give medical advice. Rather we hope this will encourage women knowing that help is available and give them the courage to seek help.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How to Strengthen Your Pelvic Muscles

Muscles in your pelvic floor can get weak just like any other muscle in your body. Some of the common reasons these muscles get weak are aging, inactivity, pregnancy, childbirth and hormonal changes. There are other factors such as obesity, chronic cough and chronic constipation that put constant pressure on the pelvic floor and cause it to weaken over time. A weak pelvic floor can not function optimally and you may begin to experience urine or fecal leakage, organ prolapse (this is where the pelvic organs such as the bladder and uterus start to fall down because the muscles are too weak to hold them up where they should be) and decreased sexual response.

If you are not currently experiencing any of the above problems, now is the time to start exercising your muscles to prevent future problems. On the other hand, if you are currently experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor weakness or pain, then I would suggest you talk to your doctor or women’s health physical therapist. If you are not doing the exercises correctly they may not be beneficial or could possibly aggravate your symptoms.

So, how do you exercise those muscles? Well, first you need to know if you are using the right muscles. Many people try to use their abdominals or hip muscles and aren’t actually contracting their pelvic muscles. One way to identify these muscles is to try to stop your urine flow in midstream. If you have weak pelvic floor muscles this will be difficult but these are the muscles you would use to stop the flow. Only try this a time or two to get an awareness of these muscles. It is not good for you to do this regularly because it can lead to other urinary issues.

You can do these exercises anywhere and anytime but in the beginning you may want to do them lying down so you can concentrate more. Start with these 2 exercises:

1. Squeeze your pelvic muscles and hold for 10 seconds (if you can’t hold it for 10 seconds then start with less and work up to 10 as you get stronger). You will want to squeeze as you exhale. This is a great time to practice your deep breathing as instructed in our last blog. After you squeeze for 10 seconds then you need to relax for 10 seconds to give your muscles a quick break. Repeat this process 10 times and try to do this 3 times a day.

2. Remember in our previous blog on anatomy we talked about 30% of the muscle fibers in the pelvic floor are fast twitch fibers. The way we exercise these is to squeeze but don’t hold. So this time you will squeeze and let go. Repeat this 5-10 times. I like to call these the “red light exercises”. How easy it is to do a few of these while you are stopped at the red light!

Remember, be patient and don’t get discouraged. It takes time to strengthen a muscle but it is worth your time. Consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions. Happy exercising!