At the base of the female abdomen are the pelvic floor muscles which support the base of the bladder and close the top of the urethra. The urethra is the short channel through which urine passes and your pelvic floor muscles are important for you to be able to control the flow of urine.
Aside from incontinence, a weak pelvic floor can also lead to problems like diminished sexual enjoyment and a dropping of the organs into the pelvic muscles as in the case of a prolapsed uterus or bladder. As well, when your pelvic floor muscles are weak and fail to work together with your abdomen and back, you may suffer from abdominal and back pain arising from structural imbalances.
Pelvic floor muscles can become weak as a result of pregnancy, childbirth, chronic constipation, obesity and menopause. Coughing, sneezing, laughing hard or lifting something heavy can put pressure on the pelvic floor muscles, and if they are weak, some bladder incontinence can result.
The best way to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles is through a combination of a healthy diet and proper exercise.
Maintaining a healthy weight can prevent your pelvic floor muscles from getting weak. If you are overweight or obese, it is best to shed some weight to help reduce the pressure on your pelvic floor muscles. A diet that is high in fibre also helps to reduce constipation so that less pressure is exerted on your pelvic floor muscles.
Generally, most muscles in your body can gain strength through exercise. This also applies to your pelvic floor muscles. Kegel exercises have been proven effective in treating urinary incontinence as these strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
You can find your pelvic floor muscles by recognizing the muscles you use to stop the flow of your urine in midstream or with the help of your health professional. Kegel exercises are done by contracting and releasing the pelvic floor muscles several times in a movement similar to stopping the flow of urine. The best way to perform Kegel exercises is to do the following:
Pilates is also an excellent way to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Unlike Kegel exercises, Pilates exercises involve other muscles near and around the pelvic area called the core muscles, which support the pelvic floor. As you work on your core muscles, you also strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
Bio feedback therapy may also be used to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles by teaching you how to coordinate the use of your abdominal muscles with the pelvic floor muscles. This is also known as pelvic floor retraining and is more extensive than Kegel exercises. Pelvic floor retraining is said to improve symptoms of weakened muscles in approximately 70% of patients.