Pelvic Floor Muscle Training in Women
BLADDER HELPLINE 0800 650 659
WHAT ARE THE PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES?
The pelvic floor muscles are the layer of muscles stretching from the pubic bone at the front, to the tailbone at the back and form the floor of the pelvis.
The pelvic floor muscles:
Support the bladder, bowel and uterus (womb).
Help to close off the bladder and bowel outlets to help prevent leakage.
May respond to sexual response and orgasm.
Factors contributing to pelvic floor muscle weakness:
∑ Straining to empty the bladder or bowel with or without constipation
∑ Persistent heavy lifting
∑ Chronic cough (from smoking, chronic bronchitis or asthma)
∑ Being overweight
∑ Lack of general fitness
HOW TO WORK YOUR PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES
The first step is to correctly identify the muscles.
∑ Sit in an upright chair with your back supported.
∑ Relax your thighs, buttocks and tummy muscles.
∑ Breathe calmly, your tummy should gently rise and fall.
∑ Imagine trying to lift your vagina up inside or imagine you are trying to hold back urine, or wind from the back passage.
∑ When you lift your pelvic floor muscles, try to keep breathing into your tummy. (Do not brace your tummy tightly or hold your breath)
∑ If you are unable to feel a definite squeeze and lift action of your pelvic floor - donít worry! Even people with very weak muscles can be taught these exercises.
∑ If you feel unsure whether you have identified the correct muscles try to stop your flow when passing urine, then restart it. This may help you to identify the correct muscles to use, but remember THIS IS A TEST ONLY. Do not exercise your pelvic floor muscles this way.
∑ If you are unable to feel a definite squeeze and lift action in your pelvic floor muscles, you should seek professional advice.
STARTING YOUR PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLE TRAINING PROGRAMME
At first you may need to perform these exercises while sitting or lying down. As the muscles strengthen, you can progress to exercise while standing. Like any activity, start with what you can achieve and progress from there. Remember to use your muscles whenever you exert yourself during your daily activities.
When you are sure you can lift your pelvic floor muscles correctly, follow the guidelines below to improve the strength and function of your muscles.
∑ Aim to lift your muscles quickly and strongly
∑ Hold from 1-10 seconds then relax the muscles completely
∑ Rest in between each lift from 3-5 seconds
∑ Repeat 8-12 times (This is 1 set)
∑ Do 3 sets per day
To progress your exercises, as you lift and hold your muscles add three quick lifts on top of your sustained hold.
Aim for a quality lift. If your muscles are weak, allow more rest time in between each lift. You may only be able to achieve a few lifts at one time.
To improve the strength and function of your pelvic floor muscles, aim to exercise them everyday for at least 3 months.
After this period if your muscles feel strong, keep exercising them. Aim to do 3 sets, 3 times per week.
Some helpful hints
∑ Seek medical advice for chronic cough
∑ Keep your weight within a healthy range for your height and age
∑ Develop good bowel habits (see ĎHealthy Bowel Habitsí leaflet)
∑ You should anticipate that improvement in pelvic floor muscle strength will take 3-6 months of regular training of the muscles.
Do other exercise to stimulate good pelvic floor function such as walking or pilates. Going to the gym may also be beneficial but avoid heavy lifting/straining exercise if your pelvic floor muscles are weak.
The best results will be achieved by seeking help from a womenís health physiotherapist or continence advisor who will design an individual training programme especially suited to you. Pelvic floor muscle exercises may also be useful for people on a bladder training programme (see Bladder Retraining leaflet).
HOW TO SEEK HELP
There are health professionals qualified to help you with bladder control problems. Ask your GP for advice or phone the free phone helpline.
For all enquiries BLADDER HELPLINE Call 0800 650 659
or write: National Office, PO Box 270, Drury 2247
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: 09 236 0610
VISIT OUR WEBSITE www.continence.org.nz
* Acknowledgement: Continence Foundation of Australia