These days everyone seems to be talking about pelvic floor exercises, but what one earth does this mean? Everyone, both men and women, have pelvic floor muscles, which essentially sit in a horizontal position (when you’re standing) between your thighs. The pelvic floor muscles form a ‘figure of eight’ shape and they encircle the anus (or back passage) behind, and for women, the vagina and urethra (where urine comes out) in front.
In primitive societies, where people squat a lot more than we do in Western society, people have much more control and strength in their pelvic floor muscles. In our society, people often have to learn how to ‘recruit’ and use these muscles.
What do these muscles actually do?
When your pelvic floor muscles have good tone, you have a far greater degree of control over toileting issues. You are less likely to feel either rushed to go to the toilet, or to feel that you can’t properly empty bowel or bladder when you’re at the toilet.
The pelvic floor muscles are also connected to the coccyx (our tail bone or very end of the spine). This means that when we contract our pelvic floor muscles, we bring our back or spine into alignment better.
How can I make my pelvic floor muscles stronger?
There are two elements here. The first is that we have to check that your brain is sending the right signals to your muscles. This is called recruitment. If this isn’t happening, nothing will happen at all, even if you are trying very hard!
Your doctor can check this with you, and we can teach you how to monitor it yourself. Secondly, once you have learnt how to recruit the correct muscles, it is simply a matter of appropriate practice to strengthen those muscles.
It has been said that 70% of 70-year-old women will have some degree of incontinence, unless their pelvic floor muscles are in good shape. We don’t even know the figures for men! As per usual, there is very little data on Men’s health issues!
So ask your doctor about it when you’re next in for your check up.