Your pelvic floor is a hammock or sling of muscles found in the base of your pelvis. Our pelvic floor supports the bowel, bladder and in women, the uterus, all the while, playing a role in supporting the spine.
The combined forces of the pelvic floor muscles form a supporting mechanism for the pelvic viscera from below – imagine interlocked fingers cradling a bowl. This hammock of muscles also interacts with the diaphragm when the abdominal pressure inside changes – as happens when we breathe. Breathing can be affected by a weak pelvic floor, possibly contributing to dysfunctional breathing patterns.
We frequently find ourselves explaining to clients why it’s important to have a strong pelvic floor for overall core stability and to help reduce back pain. We’ve spoken elsewhere about fascial connections, and with these muscles the connections are numerous. They are connected with the anterior longitudinal ligament (this stabilises your vertebral joints and helps to prevent hyperextension of the vertebrae) which runs down the front of your spine, and at the front they connect with your deep abdominal muscles. Since the fascia of your rectus abdominus muscles connect with your ribs, the pelvic floor essentially extends up the front of the body as well as up the spine, creating a far wider reaching sling that is first apparent.
As soft tissue therapists it is quite difficult (and intrusive) to manipulate the pelvic floor muscles, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important, or that we can’t education you about them. Given what we note in the above paragraph, soft tissue work we undertake in areas around your lumbar spine, abdominal and diaphragm regions will have some influence over the pelvic floor. For you, these muscles are important because keeping them toned and strong can help to prevent many problems and lead to a happier, healthier life. There’s a few links at the end which explain how to exercise your pelvic floor.
One issue that a strong pelvic floor can help to prevent is stress incontinence (leaking of urine when you cough or laugh) and it can also help to reduce the risk of a prolapsed uterus in women. So these muscles are particularly important for anyone who is planning to, or has been pregnant. The benefits of a strong pelvic floor during labour are that delivery and pushing can be more efficient, as well as assisting with healing the perineum in the postnatal period.
Regularly exercising and feeling connected with your pelvic floor can help with all of the above, with future pregnancies, to reduce the risk of urinary disorders and helping to your body return to a good pre-pregnancy state after the birth. For everyone else – men included – the benefits of a strong pelvic floor are improved bladder and bowel control, good pelvic organ support and improved breathing function. We see more and more adverts for incontinence aids – discreet pads – which feel like the manufacturers are saying it’s ok to leak – IT IS NOT!! Leaking of any type is not normal and can be addressed.
Here’s those links for you:
Netdoctor explaining about pelvic floor exercises and stress incontinence.
NCT advice on pelvic floor exercises before and after birth.
These muscles are also important for men who may experience incontinence or impotence.
Livestrong’s advice on the benefits of a strong pelvic floor.
Within our personal training sessions Lynne ensures you are educated about your pelvic floor, and encourages everyone to become more aware of it and connected with it. We teach you how to breath properly with lifting, moving and aim to make sure all our clients know more about all aspects of their body and it’s function.