What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is the layer of muscle stretching from the pubic bone in the front to the tail bone at the back and forming the floor of the pelvis. It is the main support structure for the pelvic organs.
pelvic floor supports the bladder and bowel
pelvic floor helps close off the bladder and bowel outlets to help prevent leakage, and relaxation of the pelvic floor allows effective bladder and bowel emptying
pelvic floor may enhance the ability to maintain an erection.
Commen factors contributing to pelvic muscle weakness:
some types of prostate surgery
stroke, Parkinson's disease
persistent straining to empty the bladder or bowel with or without constipation
persistent heavy lifting
a chronic cough (from smoking, chronic bronchitis or asthma)
lack of regular exercise.
Once the pelvic floor muscles (see diagram below) become weak, your ability to hold urine and / or wind during physical activity is compromised. Like any other muscle of the body the more you use and exercise them, the better they will function.
How do I know what muscles to tighten?
The first step is to correctly identify the muscles. Sit comfortably - your thighs, buttocks and tummy muscles should be relaxed. Lift and squeeze inside as if you are trying to hold back urine, or wind from the back passage.
If you are unable to feel a definite squeeze and lift action of your pelvic floor, don't 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. Only do this to identify the correct muscles to use - this is a test, NOT an exercise.
If you are unable to feel a definite tighten and lift action in your pelvic floor muscles you should seek professional advice.