Tips For A Healthy Pelvic Floor
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TIPS FOR A HEALTHY PELVIC FLOOR
While there are many things that can be done to help heal a weakened pelvic floor, even better is to keep it strong from the start and prevent any damage, to begin with. The tips below can help ensure that you’re maintaining good pelvic health at all times. These tips are particularly useful for women who have suffered a setback or are just trying to prevent one.
Maintain a healthy weight
This is important for everyone to strive for, but for those with pelvic floor issues, being overweight or obese can cause even more problems. Obesity can place increased pressure on the pelvic floor and the bladder, and this can lead to incontinence or even pelvic organ prolapse.
The extra weight placed on the pelvic floor can also strain the muscles and weaken them, further worsening any issues you may have or increasing your chance of developing them if the strain persists. Obesity is associated with gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, which may cause strain on the anal muscles.
Avoid becoming constipated
Constipation is often a symptom of a pelvic floor disorder since some people with PFD are unable to relax and coordinate their pelvic floor enough to have a bowel movement. In addition to being a symptom, constipation can also be a cause of pelvic floor disorder: If you experience chronic constipation, there’s a chance that you may also be adversely impacting your pelvic floor muscles.
Sitting too long on the toilet or straining to have a bowel movement can put a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor, and this may lead to muscle dysfunction, weakness, or even a pelvic organ prolapse, especially if your condition is ongoing.
Avoid becoming constipated by drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables – making sure to get at least 20 grams of fiber in your daily nutritional intake.
Lift with care
Yes – there is a right and a wrong way to lift objects to protect your pelvic floor! Lifting things that are too heavy can place added stress on your core and pelvic floor muscles. First, make sure the load is manageable for you. Then, be sure to bring the item close to your body to avoid lifting things from too far away. Before you lift, remember to activate your pelvic floor muscles and bend from the hips in a squat-like position versus bending forward from your back.
Lifting and carrying from waist to shoulder level heights is safer on your back and your pelvic floor than lifting something off the floor. This may mean making some adjustments in your life in order to lift wisely, such as using a wheeled suitcase, packing smaller bags of groceries, using a wheeled cart as your laundry basket, etc.
Exercise your pelvic floor muscles and your core
As with any muscle, you can’t neglect your pelvic floor muscles if you want them to remain strong. Learning how to properly do a kegel and also how to relax your pelvic floor is important. Your training doesn’t stop there – because the pelvic floor is connected with many muscles as part of the pelvis and torso, it’s important to work them along with your core, hips, and back muscles too.
If you already suffer from a pelvic floor disorder, these exercises may look different than what you’re used to. When your muscles are already compromised, you may need to be careful with the motions you make initially, as many common exercises that work the abdomen can place a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor muscles, causing further stress or strain. A pelvic floor therapist can help you develop a routine that may include exercises like modified planks, wall pushups, or single-leg extensions.
Learn to relax your pelvic floor
It’s just as important to learn to relax your pelvic floor as it is to strengthen it. When your muscles are in a continuously contracted state, they’re unable to work as they should. This can lead to problems with bladder pain, incontinence, constipation, and even pain during sex. The pelvic floor muscles need to be able to fully contract at will (which helps when you are trying to hold urine or brace your pelvic floor when lifting something heavy) and fully relax to be able to properly do their jobs like passing stool and urine.
This may seem hard to master at first, but with some practice, it will become second nature. Read our article on how to relax the pelvic floor.
Practice good posture
It might seem easy to fix your posture, but it can actually be harder than you realize! How you carry yourself plays a big part in the health of your pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor muscles actually work in conjunction with other core muscle groups, including your spinal cord, diaphragm, and abdominals. When your body is unbalanced, some of those groups may end up carrying more or less of the load. This can lead to an imbalance in the pelvic floor too, which can create problems.
Pay attention to your posture, both when you’re sitting as well as standing. Aim for a neutral spine, which follows the natural curve of your body and puts the least amount of stress on your muscles and bones. A neutral spine is when your lower abs are flat, with just a slight curve of the spine off the floor. Avoid positions that exaggerate tilting too far out (like Donald Duck) or too far in (like the Pink Panther).
Protect your pelvic floor when you work out – modify exercises if you have a pelvic floor issue
Good posture is important for anyone who’s doing a workout, but that’s particularly true for those with a pelvic floor disorder. Without good posture, lifting could cause injury or even bladder leaks. Always make sure to maintain your posture and activate your pelvic floor muscles before lifting weights (remember to relax them when you’re done!).
If you do have a pelvic floor issue, that doesn’t mean you can’t, or shouldn’t work out. You just need to make some modifications until your pelvic floor muscles (PFMs) are stronger or capable of providing the support needed to do the activity. Avoid exercises that place repeated pressure on your pelvic floor, like fast running or jumping. Lift weights with caution. Be cautious with certain abdominal exercises when you’re not able to maintain good posture.
If you need help modifying your routine or developing a new one, see a physical therapist for suggestions.
NOTE: The information shared within NAFC’s Pelvic Floor Health Center is meant to be used as a guide but should not be considered a replacement for medical advice. Not all pelvic floor exercises are for everyone, and we strongly urge you to talk to your doctor before beginning any new workout routine, and, if possible, see a physical therapist trained in pelvic floor health to receive a diagnosis and treatment recommendation.
NAFC is proud to name PMF, a premier medical supply company for the Intellectually/Developmentally Disabled and Aging communities, a 2022 Trusted Partner.
Overactive bladder (OAB) is a chronic condition affecting approximately 50 million American adults1,2, with a higher incidence in women than men. It is typically characterized