Stay Active At Any Age with Pelvic Muscle Strengthening
Pelvic muscles weak? You’re not alone…
Most women who have had children have felt it — the fear of sneezing, jogging or jumping on a trampoline with your kids due to bladder leakage. Weakness of the pelvic and vaginal muscles, especially after childbirth, is a very common problem and affects 25 million American women of all age groups. Through aging, being overweight and continued birth trauma, muscles can get so weak that incontinence is a way of life. This is no way to live. Incontinence, even during strenuous activity, is not a normal part of aging or motherhood. It is preventable, and better yet, often reversible!
What is a Pelvic Floor?
“Pelvic Floor” is a term doctors use to describe the complex muscle network of the pelvis responsible for bladder and bowel control, as well as sexual function. When muscles are weak, the following problems can arise…
- Urinary Incontinence
- Bowel Problems
- Pelvic Organ Prolapse
- Decreased Sexual Satisfaction & Function
If your pelvic floor is healthy, you should have good urinary control by sensing fullness and being able to comfortably make it to the bathroom without rushing or leaking. You should also be able to hold urine while running, sneezing or exercising. If you leak urine under any circumstances, you should see a doctor to rule out infection, neurological disease or pelvic abnormality. If you have none of these, your healthcare provider can help you find a solution to bladder leakage through many means including surgery,medication or, the most common — pelvic muscle strengthening (Kegel exercises).
Embarrassing, but true — when pelvic floor muscles are weak, loss of gas and bowel control becomes more common. You may find this problem difficult to talk about, even with your healthcare provider, but know that they can help by prescribing exercises to improve muscle strength or by referring you to a Physical Therapy specialist who can give you real solutions to this nightmare. Lincoln Physical Therapy offers such a program right here in Davenport.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
When the pelvic muscles are so weak they can no longer support the uterus, it is possible that the uterus will “prolapse” or fall out of the vagina. Though doctors don’t see this as a medical emergency, it is embarrassing, uncomfortable and abnormal. If you are feeling vaginal heaviness or have tissue protruding from the vagina, contact your healthcare provider. There are ways to handle this problem through surgery or use of a device called a pessary.
Decreased Sexual Satisfaction and Function
It makes sense. If pelvic muscles are weak, sexual satisfaction will likely be lessened. To make sure you and your partner are enjoying the optimum sexual experience, pelvic muscles need to be strong and healthy. This can be achieved through exercises (Kegels)
What are Kegels?
These exercises are preformed by contracting and releasing your pelvic floor muscles. At the bottom of the pelvis, there are several layers of muscle that stretch between your legs. They attach to the front, back and sides of the pelvic bones. Two of the muscles do most of the work to keep you from leaking urine. One stretches like a hammock and the other is triangular shaped.
To exercise these muscles, squeeze them internally as if you’re trying to keep from urinating. Hold this squeeze for 10 seconds then rest for ten seconds. Do as many sets of 10 contractions a day as you like or talk to your provider — they may have a more specific plan for you to follow.
As for Kegels, you can do them anywhere, any time. While you watch TV, do the dishes or ride in a car. Just like any exercise, you must continue to do them to keep your muscles strong. It will likely take six to eight weeks to notice a change in bladder control, but keep with it. If you do not see a change, contact your healthcare provider.
How do I know I’m squeezing the right muscles?
If you’re not seeing improvement, you may be contracting the wrong muscles. The Pelvic Floor is very complex and your healthcare provider can help you to isolate the correct muscles for optimum results. Specialists, such as Lincoln Physical Therapy director Mary Jo Jeffrey, may also be brought in to help you identify the correct muscles and build an exercise program to take back your life and normal activities. Talk to your provider for a referral.
Physical Therapy Can Help
When muscles are weak, exercises need to be performed. The pelvic floor muscles, just like any other muscles, need to be strong for proper function.
Some people have difficult contracting these muscles appropriately. There are various ways to retrain and stimulate these muscles back into use.
Occasionally, muscle spasms, trigger points and pelvic girdle misalignments can contribute to the problem. These can also be treated with Physical Therapy.
Many men and women have improved bladder control through Kegels, a muscle toning exercise for the pelvic area. The key to Kegels is doing them correctly and consistently. Here at Lincoln Physical Therapy, we have a special program that simplifies these exercises and can be done in 15-minute segments twice a day — without interrupting daily activities.
Take Your Life Back!
Come in and talk to a physical therapist. We, along with your doctor, can evaluate the strength and coordination of the pelvic floor muscles and design an individual therapeutic program for you to get your life back to normal. Significant results are usually obtained in four to six weeks. Give us a call at (509) 725-2976.
Other sources of information
To see diagrams of the pelvic muscles or to find out more about Pelvic Floor Strengthening, log on to www.familydoctor.org and type “urinary incontinence” into the search.