For anyone who has ever experienced an embarrassing leak, no doubt you’ll have heard about pelvic floor exercises – ‘squeezing’ the pelvic floor muscles to contract them. And when I talk of embarrassing leaks, I mean the ones that happen when we sneeze, cough, jump, and the like.
Performing pelvic floor exercises can improve symptoms and as such can reduce symptoms. However, for some, pelvic floor exercises alone are not effective and may even exacerbate the problem. It doesn’t mean that there is no hope it just means that a different approach is needed and its one that will benefit everyone on a lifelong basis.
Why Pelvic Floor Strengthening isn’t for everyone
Generally, it’s assumed that leaks are due to a lack of strength. But did you know a muscles strength can be reduced by when a muscle becomes either overactive or underactive?
Underactive pelvic floor muscles are unable to contract sufficiently to perform their supporting role, whilst overactive pelvic floor muscles are unable to relax or have the capacity to co-ordinate contraction of the muscles i.e. they contract when needing to relax and vice versa. An optimally working muscles needs the capacity to work and rest.
Pelvic Floor Exercises can be very beneficial in creating more support in underactive pelvic floor muscles. Progressively working the muscles can lead to increase strength, like you might gradually increase the weights in the gym.
However, an overactive muscle is already doing far more than it needs to. It’s like trying to do a bicep curl when the elbow is already a bent as it can go. Doing exercises from this position gets really tiring, really quickly. So, to do more is most likely goingto be of no benefit or make things worse.
Be in it for the long haul
If you’ve benefited from doing pelvic floor exercises, that’s great but you may need to consider that:
1. You’ll need to keep doing them indefinitely. The adage ‘use it or lose it’ most definitely applies here.
2. Our bodies change as we approach different life stages such as the menopause which may have an impact on the increase the amount of kegels you do to experience the same benefits.
Why pelvic floor exercises are only part of the picture
The pelvic floor muscles perform their job in synergy with the other ‘core’ muscles. The pelvic floor should be a mirror image of the respiratory diaphragm. Addressing the how we are breathing can have a big impact on the improvement of pelvic floor function.
Did you know that your big toes are directly connected to your pelvic floor. So, how the feet work will impact how well the pelvic floor works. Bunions anyone? This is just one example of how other areas of the body impact on the pelvic floor. How our body’s ‘stack up’ can have an impact on resolving pelvic floor ‘weakness’.
Strategies that we’ve developed to use our ‘Core’ during life, movement and exercises have an impact on our pelvic floor. Bulging, bracing and bearing down into our abdomens are very common ways we engage our core that increase pressure downwards. Pelvic floor muscles will add some support back in but nowhere near as much as your body will use the habits its learnt.
The Pelvic floor doesn’t work in isolation or just rely on the strength of its own muscles. Pelvic Floor exercises train the muscles in isolation. In a nutshell you are training them to work on demand under consciously control. We need pelvic floor muscles to work when we need them, for instance when we cough or sneeze. Movements, such as Squats, that integrate the pelvic floor are far more effective at working the muscles than doing them in isolation.
In essence pelvic floor exercises do have their place for some but to truly reduce or resolve symptoms of pelvic floor weakness we need to look at the whole body as the whole body and integrate it’s activity on a daily basis through our movements. To do that we need identify the areas that may be contributing to the symptoms i.e. create more facilitative breathing patterns, core engagement strategies and alignment. We need to identify our movement blind spots (i.e. learn our bad habits to keep an eye on them), introduce more movement in some areas and create strength and more supportive movement patterns in others.
Are you ready?
Our ‘Do More 4 Your Core’ Programme has been created to help you achieve optimum core support, reduce aches and pains, help you move better, and stop you worrying every time you feel a sneeze coming on!
The next course starts on Thursday 4th of November. Only 6 spaces available. Book now to secure your spot.
To learn more about the courses I run, or to simply ask a question, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.