Love Your Pelvic Floor
Have you heard of your Pelvic Floor Muscles?
Or perhaps you have heard of your “Kegel Muscles”? Maybe you have read about them in a magazine or it was briefly mentioned by a girlfriend? Possibly your gynecologist mentioned them during one quick medical visit? I hope you have heard of them. Even if you have, I wonder, do you know what they really are and why it is important for you to have a healthy pelvic floor? Hi, my name is Jennifer Chu and I am Board Certified Women’s Health Physical Therapist who specializes in treating patients with all types of pelvic health issues. I LOVE talking about the pelvic floor and pelvic health to anyone who will listen. I so desperately want everyone to understand the importance of these muscles. I would literally shout this information out from roof tops if I thought it would help more people learn about them ;-) This is why I am writing this blog. I want you to have some basic knowledge about your pelvic floor muscles (PFM), why you should be doing your PFM exercises, and what you can do to improve and
maximize your pelvic health. The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles that sit in the bottom of your pelvis. They are literally the floor of your pelvis. These muscles attach to your two sit bones (think of when you sit on a hard surface and can feel the two bones on either side of your pelvis pushing into the chair). This muscle group also attaches to the bottom of your pubic bone, and your coccyx (your tailbone). There are three different layers of muscles, each layer having a different function. The most well-known function of your PFM is that they help you maintain your continence and not leak urine, stool or gas. They act as a sling of support and help to hold up your pelvic organs (your bladder, uterus and rectum). They also play a key role in helping you maintain a strong healthy inner core. And strong healthy PFM are even needed for good healthy orgasms. All these reasons speak to why it is so important for everyone (yes even men) to learn how to have a healthy pelvic floor. You may be wondering, ok this is all fine and good, but what exactly should it feel like when I contract my PFM? When you do a PFM contraction, as a woman, you should feel a tightening or a squeezing in your vagina and in your anus. Ideally you should also feel a lifting sensation in the floor of your pelvis. Some people find it helpful to imagine pulling a marble up inside your body as you engage and lift your whole pelvic floor. One important point that I really want you to take from this blog is that just doing a bunch of pelvic floor exercises (aka Kegels) can sometimes be the exact opposite of what you need to have a healthy pelvic floor. Some people whose PFM are too tight and tense may find Kegels counterproductive, at best. At worst, they can cause a myriad of different pelvic-related problems, including
pelvic pain, bladder urgency, constipation, and many other pelvic related issues. These people may need to learn how to relax their PFM to improve their coordination and function before beginning to strengthen their muscles.
Another important take home message is that you need full range of motion for your PFM to function properly. Of course, you need to know how to strengthen your muscles. But it is just as important for you to know how to relax your PFM back down after you contract them.
Additionally, you also need to learn how to elongate or lengthen them from a resting position. This is helpful to allow for easier bowel movements and for delivering your baby. This relaxation is needed to allow a baby to be pushed through the vaginal canal with less trauma.
If you have tried this and are just not sure, I invite you to make an appointment with a trained and skilled Pelvic Physical Therapist. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from seeing a good Pelvic PT!
Jennifer Chu, MS, PT, WCS
Board Certified Women's Health Specialist
Owner, ITR Physical Therapy