About 1 in 3 Australian women experience pelvic floor dysfunction. There are a few common signs that indicate that there could be a pelvic floor problem these include
· Urgency to get to the toilet and sometimes leaking on the way
· Frequently needing to go to the toilet
· Leaking urine with coughing, sneezing, laughing or exercise
· Having trouble starting to empty or fully emptying your bladder or bowel
· Having accidents with losing control of your bladder, bowel or passing wind
· Pain in the pelvic area internal or external
· Painful sex
· Pelvic organ prolapse – felt as a heaviness, dragging, bulge in the vagina or rectum
Pelvic floor problems can occur in both women and men and generally occur when the pelvic floor muscles are stretched, weakened or overactive and can’t relax.
Pelvic floor function is affected by
· Pregnancy and childbirth
· Aging and menopause
· Surgical procedures e.g. hysterectomy, prostate surgery
· Chronic respiratory disorders e.g. Asthma
· History of constipation and straining the bowels
· Heavy lifting
· Pelvic injury such as a fall or pelvic radiotherapy
· High impact exercise
As the pelvic floor are muscles like the muscles in your arms or legs and can respond well with exercise to either strengthen, stretch or relax. The exercises however need to be tailored to your individual needs. It’s not just about Kegel exercises.
The wrong pelvic floor exercise or an incorrect technique can often make the problem worse. Certain exercises where your body muscle strength is greater than your pelvic floor strength can also put you at risk of either creating a problem or exacerbating an existing problem.
There are some simple tips for modifying your exercise to protect your pelvic floor
· Avoid high impact, bouncy exercise
· Reduce the loads or weight you are lifting
· Don’t hold your breath keep breathing through an exercise
· Avoid/modify any exercises where there is direct downward pressure on the pelvic floor
· Stop any exercise that creates leakage or feelings of prolapse or pain
Don’t normalise pelvic floor dysfunction, seek help by a Physiotherapist that is specialised training in Pelvic Health.