The power of the pelvic floor is truly underestimated. This often-overlooked group of muscles affects many areas of your health and wellness, from sexual pleasure and bladder control to pregnancy and birth. Unfortunately, pelvic health doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, and many people endure symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction like bladder leaks and painful sex without even realizing there’s a problem.
The good news is that pelvic floor therapy works wonders at preventing or treating uncomfortable or painful public health issues, and we at Ruth Health happen to specialize in it! Read on to learn more about pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) and what you can do about it — including why it’s always a good idea to think beyond Kegels.
“Too many people endure pelvic health issues without knowing they don’t have to.”
A female pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments, and tissues at the bottom of your torso that keeps your pelvic organs — the bladder, uterus, vagina, and rectum — supported 24/7. It serves several key functions.
Pelvic floor dysfunction means there’s an issue with one or more of the pelvic floor’s main responsibilities, usually due to muscle tightness, weakness, or loss of coordination. Common pelvic floor issues include chronic painful sex, loss of bladder and bowel control, and vaginal, rectal, or urethral prolapse, but there are others.
Here are some signs of pelvic floor dysfunction to watch for:
There’s no need to feel ashamed or afraid if you’re experiencing any of these issues — pelvic floor dysfunction isn’t at all uncommon, especially during pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause. Any preexisting pelvic floor weakness or tightness will likely worsen during these health journeys, which is just one reason it’s never too early to show your pelvic floor some TLC.
Other factors play a role in PFD like trauma, pelvic region injuries or surgery, overuse of the pelvic muscles from going to the bathroom too frequently or intense exercise, and repeat pressure to the midsection from tight belts and waist trainers.
There’s a misconception about pelvic floor therapy we’re happy to dispel: that it’s only about Kegel exercises. It isn’t that Kegels, or quick contractions of your pelvic floor, aren’t effective at muscle strengthening and boosting endurance. It’s that no two bodies are built the same, and pelvic floor therapy should never be seen as a one-size-fits-all treatment strategy — which is why Ruth Health takes an individualized approach to pelvic floor therapy sessions (more on that below!).
Your pelvic floor therapist will help you develop a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs, but here’s a teaser of common at-home pelvic floor therapy exercises that help address various pelvic health issues.
“Pelvic floor therapy is much more than Kegels.”
Before exercising your pelvic floor muscles, it helps to know where they are. Here’s an easy way to find the right muscles.
Lie down with knees bent and about hip-width apart while keeping your feet flat on the floor. Empty your lungs then exhale slowly, drawing in your lower abs and squeezing your muscles as if you’re trying to avoid urinary and fecal incontinence. Hold for two seconds and then release. You should feel your pelvic floor letting go as you release.
A common misconception is that you can feel your pelvic floor muscles in use by stopping or slowing the flow of urine while going to the bathroom, but this only engages the urogenital diaphragm and doesn’t provide a complete sense of pelvic floor function.
There are different types of pelvic floor dysfunction, with different underlying causes. That’s why it’s so important to work with an experienced pelvic floor therapist who can help you identify what kind of attention your pelvic floor needs. If your pelvic floor muscles are on the weaker side, heel slides and toe taps are both great ways to exercise your core while contracting the pelvic floor.
Pelvic floor therapy exercises for tight, or hypertonic, muscles
You might have the opposite problem. If your pelvic floor is too stiff or tight, diaphragmatic breathing and the happy baby position can help lengthen and loosen muscles.
Yoga practitioners may already be familiar with this pose, and it’s a great one for stretching the pelvic floor.
You don’t have to currently be experiencing pelvic floor issues to try out these exercises — anyone can benefit from a stronger pelvic floor. But if you have pelvic floor dysfunction, don’t be discouraged if you don’t see overnight changes. In fact, try not to expect fast results: it often takes several months of therapy before symptoms improve. Consistency is key to healing, so keep at it!
Yes, pelvic floor therapy can be done completely virtual! Not only the pelvic floor therapy exercises themselves, but the initial assessment with your physical therapist.
At Ruth Health, we make it as easy as possible to fit pelvic floor therapy into your busy schedule. A pelvic floor therapist will conduct an external assessment of your body’s mechanical functions and combine it with your health history and chief complaints to come up with a treatment plan developed just for you.
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