The pelvic floor is often a subject most people hear about but have not idea what it actually refers to.
It essential translates to the base or ‘floor’ of the pelvis. To give you a bit more of an understanding of how it works, I first want to break down the anatomy of the pelvis.
Inside the pelvis, we have our reproductive, digestive and urinary systems which run down to the outside of the body. In front we have the pelvic bone, and behind the sacrum/tail bone.
How does that relate to our pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor muscles form the base of the group of muscles commonly called the ‘core’. These muscles work with the deep abdominal (tummy), back muscles and the diaphragm (breathing muscle) to support the spine and control the pressure inside the abdomen.
The floor of the pelvis is made up of layers of muscle and other tissue. These layers stretch like a hammock from the pubic bone at the front to the coccyx (tailbone) at the back, and from one ischial tuberosity (sitting bone) to the other (side to side).
Pelvic floor is a group of muscles which:
- Assist with continence of these structures by cinching off their openings when contracted.
- Lifting these organs up and maintain their position (to assist with minimising chance of prolapse).
- Working with other muscles to stabilise the lower back and pelvis with increases in intra-abdominal pressure (coughing, sneezing, lifting weights, skipping, rolling in bed).
We have multiple pelvic floor muscles, including a deep and superficial layer which all work together.
How do we activate this?
Everyone finds a slightly different clue works best to activate their pelvic floor, but having an understanding of the anatomy ensures what you’re feeling is the right thing. When activated correctly, you should feel a lifting and/or tightening sensation around your genitals. Your deep abdominal muscles are closely related to the pelvic floor and therefore you may also feel some gentle tightening around the abdomen.
Some people will have a less effective or weaker pelvic floor. Things that affect your pelvic floor function include:
- Pregnancy and birth,
- Prostate removal, and
- Illnesses involving lots of coughing
All of these either effect the strength or increase the pressure onto the pelvic floor. Therefore during activities which increase the intra abdominal pressure, proper closure of the urethra may not happen and result in incontinence.
Most physiotherapists can tell you if you are doing a good pelvic floor activation by feeling the tension in your deep abdominal muscles. If you are experiencing symptoms of pain, urinary leakage, or prolapse, seeking advice from a medical professional prior to visiting a women’s/men’s health physiotherapist is advised. Arana Hills Physiotherapy don’t currently have a mens/womens health physiotherapist, but we are working to change that soon.
Otherwise if you’re just feeling weak or are wanting to learn more about your pelvic floor and core, feel free to book in with one of our physiotherapists here.