You don't have to just put up with the symptoms

Keeping it under control: secrets to improving your pelvic floor muscles

Susan Stephenson,  Women's Health Physiotherapist,  Cluainín Physiotherapy Centre,  Manorhamilton

Reporter:

Susan Stephenson, Women's Health Physiotherapist, Cluainín Physiotherapy Centre, Manorhamilton

Keeping it under control: secrets to improving your pelvic floor muscles

There are things you can do to improve your pelvic floor muscles.

On Friday, May 12 Cluainín Physiotherapy Centre, Manorhamilton had a great turn out for our “Keeping it Under Control” seminar, teaching women about their pelvic floor muscles: where they are, how to use them and how to know when they are not working right!

So what is the Pelvic Floor, and how can we “Keep it Under Control”?
The Pelvic Floor is the group of muscles that connect the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis to the tail bone at the base of the spine. These muscles do the following jobs:

- Keep us dry by closing the opening of the bladder and bowels.
-Support the pelvic organs: our bladder, bowel and womb.
-Improve sexual function.
-Support the pelvis in standing, walking and movement.

So when these muscles aren’t working as well as they should, we might:
- Leak when we cough, sneeze, laugh or exercise.
- Struggle to hold on when we need to do a wee or a bowel motion.
- Lose control of our bowel motion.
- Feel like something is coming down – this is a pelvic organ prolapse.
- Have pain, discomfort or poor sensation with sexual intercourse.

At least 1 in 3 women wet themselves, and physiotherapy has been shown to be effective in reducing and curing these wetting episodes, called incontinence.

About 10% of women have prolapse symptoms: feel something coming down, a bulge, low back pain, and problems doing a wee or passing a bowel motion.

Often people wait until they have completed their family before seeing a health professional about these symptoms. However a women’s health physiotherapist can teach you how to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles to reduce your leaking or support the prolapse better, and give you advice to improve your symptoms and even prevent surgery.

Sometimes surgery is required however, and an experienced women’s health physiotherapist can help advise on which surgery may suit you best.


How to do Pelvic Floor Exercises
- Imagine you are trying to stop from breaking wind and stop yourself passing urine.
- Then gently pull your insides up inside you. Lower your insides back down. Relax the openings.


DO'S and DON’T OF PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES
DO..
- Keep tummy and larger bum muscles relaxed
-Quick exercises and slow exercises

DON'T
- Hold your breath
- Hold exercise any longer than 10 seconds

Try exercises lying down, sitting and standing
- Do the exercises on the toilet/while driving
- The Knack: Squeeze before you sneeze/cough
- Discontinue if they cause pain
- Try using an App like Squeezy (€3.99)

You need to do these 3 times per day, aiming to do 10 quick exercises and 10 slow exercises, holding for a maximum of 10 seconds each for 3-6 months before symptoms resolve.

If you’re not sure if you are doing the exercises correctly, or you have been doing them for 3 months and symptoms have remained the same, a women’s health physiotherapist can check your pelvic floor and correct your technique so they are more effective.

Another way you can “Keep in Under Control” is by preventing constipation and straining which can weaken the pelvic floor muscles and make prolapse symptoms worse.

Prevent Constipation by: FEW – Fibre, Exercise and Water
Fibre: Eat a high fibre diet with lots of fruit and vegetables to make the bowel motion softer.
Exercise: Do 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week such as walking, swimming, cycling to help bowels move food along quicker.
Water: Makes the stool softer so we don’t have to strain to empty our bowels.

Common Myths about Leaking and Prolapse
- You have to have a baby to have leaking or prolapse
Reality: NO! 40% of trampolinists and runners have been found to have these symptoms before ever having children.

- Chronic constipation can cause prolapse in women that have never had a baby. It’s normal after having a baby
Reality: NO. The pelvic floor will be weaker after childbirth, and these exercises are important in strengthening the muscles so that you don’t have these problems.

- It’s a normal part of getting older and the menopause:
Reality: NO. Symptoms often develop as we get older and after the menopause, but still not normal and can be helped.

-Surgery will “Fix” everything
Reality: Not always the case. Yes, sometimes surgery is the best option. However sometimes surgery can fail. Surgery can often be prevented by acting early on symptoms, strengthening muscles and following the advice of an experienced women’s health physiotherapist.

Cluainín Physiotherapy Centre is a Chartered Physiotherapy Practice in Manorhamilton, Co.Leitrim. They specialise in the treatment of all musculoskeletal injuries, Women’s Health Issues and Pilates.

Susan is available in Cluainín Physiotherapy Centre for Women’s Health Physiotherapy Appointments. Call the clinic on 0878276655, email info@cluaininphysio.com or find Cluainin Physiotherapy Centre on facebook.