The Pelvic Floor and Core Exercises | Why It Matters
The Pelvic Floor Muscles as part of the Core
Muscles play a key role during exercise, but did you know that there is a hidden group of muscles, call pelvic floor muscles that really need special attention. Especially if you are a women and have given birth..
Pelvic Floor muscles form the base of the group of muscles commonly called the core. These muscles work with the deep abdominal and back muscles and the diaphragm (breathing muscles) to support the spine and control the pressure inside the abdomen. The pelvic floor muscles play an important role in supporting the pelvic organs, bladder and bowel control and sexual function, in both men and women.
During exercise, the internal pressure in the abdomen changes. For example, when lifting a weight, the internal pressure increases, then returns to normal when the weight is put down. In the ideal situation the regulation of pressure within the abdomen happens automatically. For example when lifting a weight the muscles of the core work together well: the pelvic floor muscles lift, the abdominal and the back muscles draw in to support the spine, and breathing is easy. In this scenario the pelvic floor muscles respond appropriately to the increase in abdominal pressure. If any of the muscles of the core, including the pelvic floor are weakened or damaged, this coordinated automatic action may be altered. In this situation, during exercise that increase in the internal abdominal pressure, there is potential for overload causing a downward pressure.
When this happens repeatedly during each exercise session, over time this may place downward strain on the pelvic organs and can result in loss of bladder and bowel control, or pelvic organ prolapse (POP). Pelvic floor symptoms can also be potentially worsened if a problem already exists.
Pelvic floor muscles need to be flexible to work as part of the core, which means that they need to be able to relax as well as lift and hold. It is common for people to brace their core muscles constantly during exercise in the belief they are supporting their spine but constant bracing can lead to muscles becoming excessively tight and stiff. Pelvic floor muscle stiffness commonly exists with muscle weakness and can contribute to problems such as urinary urgency and leakage. other problems often associated with pelvic floor muscles being too tight include pelvic pain, during intercourse and difficulty emptying the bladder.
Are you at Risk of Pelvic Floor Problems?
You are at a greater risk of pelvic floor problems if you are in one or more of the following groups:
- pregnant or postnatal women
- women who have ever had a baby
- menopausal or post menopausal women
- women who have had a gynaecological surgery (eg. hysterectomy)
- men who have had surgery for prostate cancer
- elite athletes (eg. runners, gymnasts)
Your risk is increased if you tick one or more of the following:
- you regularly lift heavy weights (e.g. at the gym or as part of your job)
- you strain often to empty your bowels (constipation)
- you have a chronic cough or sneeze
- you are overweight or have a BMI of greater than 25
- you have had trauma to your pelvis area (eg a fall, pelvic radiotherapy)
- you have a history of back pain
Core exercises and the pelvic Floor
Your abdominal muscle strength may exceed the ability of your pelvic floor. If you have, you are at risk of pelvic floor problems, it is important that you train for the weakest link and put your pelvic floor first therefore seek expert guidance in appropriate pelvic floor core exercises.
Always remember to avoid breath holding and to exhale with effort when doing any exercises. If you are unable to synchronise this breath with your movement then it is best to seek advice from an Accredited Exercise Physiologist of women's Physiotherapist.
Pelvic Floor Safe Core Exercises - There are a number of exercises that are safe to do under supervision. The below exercises are safe to do in the comfort of your own home.
- Single Leg Extension (toe taps) with one leg supported on the ground perhaps on a ball or in table top.
- Knees side to side with feet on a ball
- Modified plank on hands or knees with a slight bend at the hips
- Wall Push ups
- Bridges+/- Single Leg Lift
- Shoulder rotations
- Standing balance
What we can do to help
We can screen your pelvic floor and look for the weakest link then assist with modifications and exercise prescription to help you address the problem. We can provide a safe environment where you can exercise and improve overall strength and also cater to your pelvic floor needs.