Pelvic floor muscles

Understand your pelvic floor muscles before they give you grief.

By Donna Fleming
Keep pelvic floor muscles happy with these helpful tips.
The pelvic floor is a bit of a mystery. All too often we’re not aware of this part of the body until it stops working properly. So, here’s our guide to the pelvic floor – and how you can maintain it.
Support network
Your pelvic floor is a kind of sling of muscles that stretch from your pubic bone at the front, to the tailbone at the back. These muscles support organs, such as your bladder, bowel and uterus.
Taking the strain
The pelvic floor can be weakened by ageing, pregnancy, childbirth, heavy lifting, chronic coughing, constipation and obesity.
Danger signs
Common symptoms of a pelvic floor disorder include:
• Leaking urine when you jump, cough, sneeze or laugh.
• Having to rush to the toilet and sometimes losing control of your bladder before you get there.
• Getting up often in the night to go to the toilet.
• Feeling like you haven’t completely emptied your bladder.
• Pain during sex.
• Prolapse – when organs in the pelvis drop down.
guys aren’t exempt Yes, men have pelvic floors too, and also experience problems if theirs are weakened. As well as incontinence, they may notice erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.
Stay active
Pelvic floor exercises – which involve tightening and then relaxing muscles – help strengthen and keep organs in place. (For a guide, visit physiotherapy.org.nz) Ideally, you should do them for several minutes a day, every day.
Doctor’s orders
Lots of people are embarrassed at raising problems like incontinence with their GP – don’t be, they’ve heard it all before. Or, perhaps there’s a fear nothing can be done. But that’s not the case, and the sooner you seek help, the more successful treatment is likely to be.
Bring it back
Your doctor may refer you to a continence physio. Physiotherapy can help you train your muscles to prevent incontinence, regain tone and strength, and develop bracing techniques for when you cough or sneeze. According to research, physiotherapy can successfully treat incontinence in up to 80% of cases.

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