Pelvic floor muscle health often gets overlooked until issues arise. Things like poor bladder control, constipation, or poor sexual function affect not only physical well-being, but also overall quality of life. A lot of people have been told that doing Kegel exercises for pelvic floor muscle therapy will improve their pelvic floor muscle health, but then they find that they don’t work, or worse, their problem gets worse.
Unfortunately, while Kegels have gained recognition as the solution for pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, they may not be the most effective way for you to engage in pelvic floor muscle therapy. This article aims to expand your knowledge, and introduce you to some other exercise options that are available. We’ll talk about pelvic floor muscle health, and highlight their crucial role in bladder and bowel control, sexual function support, and more. You’ll learn why kegels, although helpful in a lot of cases, may not be the best approach for all individuals (especially when done without the guidance of a trained pelvic floor physiotherapist!).
Basics of Pelvic Floor Muscle Health
Before we dive into kegels and alternative exercises, lets first lay the groundwork, and understand the fundamentals of pelvic floor muscle health. The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles at the very bottom of your body, that sit like a hammock at the base of the pelvis. They play a vital role in various body functions:
- Bladder and Bowel Control: The pelvic floor muscles work in tandem with the sphincter muscles to assist in both bladder and bowel retention and release. A strong, well functioning pelvic floor muscle is required for good control. A flexible, and mobile pelvic floor muscle is essential for good evacuation.
- Sexual Function: The pelvic floor muscles are integral for sexual function, appreciation, and satisfaction. They contribute to arousal, orgasm, and contribute to the ability to engage in an enjoyable sex life.
- Pelvic Organ Support: The pelvic floor muscles and surrounding ligaments provide structural support to the pelvic organs, including the bladder, uterus, and rectum. Poorly coordinated pelvic floor muscles can contribute to the development of pelvic organ prolapse.
Understanding the role of pelvic floor muscles is crucial, because it highlights why maintaining their strength and flexibility is essential for overall health. We functioning pelvic floor muscles can manage or prevent symptoms of incontinence, pelvic pain and sexual dysfunction.
As ewe explore alternative exercises beyond Kegels, lets keep in mind that there is no single, perfect exercise. Each body is unique, and a tailored exercise program from a pelvic floor physiotherapist will be the most efficient option for improving your pelvic floor muscle health. That said, we can all benefit from working to maintain and improve our pelvic health, whether we are adults or children. These exercises begin to look beyond kegel exercises so that we can maximize your health overall.
Limitations of Kegels
While Kegel exercises have been widely promoted as a way to enhance pelvic floor muscle strength, it’s important to recognize that they may not be appropriate for everyone, and that even if they are appropriate you may not be performing them properly. Here are some considerations:
- Kegels are not universally effective – Kegels primarily target the pelvic floor muscle’s ability to squeeze or tighten. However, many people have issues with too much tightness in their pelvic floor muscles, and this tightening effect will not help them resolve their problem.
- Difficulty in isolation – Isolating the pelvic floor muscles during kegel exericses can be challenging, especially for beginners. Without proper guidance of a pelvic floor physiotherapist, performing a kegel may inadvertently engage other muscle groups, leading to ineffective results.
- May not address underlying causes – Kegels, while valuable, might not address the root causes of your pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. Factors like posture, muscle imbalance, coordination, and tension in the surrounding musculature can all contribute to pelvic floor muscle issues. Thse causes will always benefit from a more comprehensive approach, guided by a pelvic floor physiotherapist.
- Kegels may not be enough for some conditions – Some pelvic floor muscle dysfunctions will just require more. Ignoring these conditions (or just being unaware of them!) will mean that kegels will be insufficient.
Understanding these limitations doesn’t mean that kegels don’t have strong value, and an important role in pelvic floor muscle health – it highlights the need for a comprehensive approach to pelvic floor muscle health.
Alternative Exercises for the Pelvic Floor Muscles
Recognizing that kegels are not a one-size-fits-all solution to pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, here are some other exercises that you can expect to work on, or be encouraged to participate in as you work with your pelvic floor physiotherapist. These exercises, often done in conjunction with kegels often work to address some of the broader causes of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction.
- Bridge Pose
- Instructions: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet hip-width apart. Gently push down into your heels, lift your hips while engaging your glutes. Then lower your hips back down to the ground, always maintaining with control.
- Potential Benefits: The bridge pose helps to encourage glute strength, which can support your pelvic floor muscle function. It is also an excellent exercise for people who are struggling with symptomatic pelvic organ prolapse.
- Instruction: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Lower your body as your are sitting down into a chair, making sure to keep your knees in line with your feet. Exhale as you stand back up.
- Potential Benefits: Squats target the lower body muscles, which can include your pelvic floor muscles. They are also an extremely functional activity that we do many times throughout our day.
- Pilates Classes
- Overview: Pilates is a form of exercise that offers a range of movements that focus on core strength, which often includes your pelvic floor muscles. Many pilates movements are controlled and precise, which is ideal for targeting the deep muscles of the core and the pelvic floor muscles.
- Potential Benefits: Pilates exercises enhance overall core strength, including pelvic floor muscle strength. The can improve control, and coordination which is also a key component for pelvic floor muscle health. Please approach pilates with caution if you have not had an appropriate assessment of your pelvic floor muscles by a pelvic floor physiotherapist – if your pelvic floor muscles are already tight or stiff, pilates may not help your pelvic floor muscle health.
- Yoga Classes
- Overview: Certain yoga poses provide effective pelvic floor muscle relaxation and lengthening. Poses like butterfly pose, child’s pose, or puppy pose can help you to find length and softness in the pelvic floor muscles.
- Potential Benefits: Yoga promotes mid-body connection, brings us closer to our breath, and can help us to become more aware of the pelvic floor muscles.
Incorporating Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises into your daily routine
To truly benefit from any exercise (for the pelvic floor muscles or otherwise!) we much endevour to make them a part of our regular routine. Consistency is key! Here are some tips to help you incorporate these exercises into your daily life:
- Schedule your exercise – Set aside a specific time in your day for your pelvic floor muscle exercises. Whether its during coffee breaks at work, or as part of your bedtime routine.
- Create Reminders – Use reminders on your phone, or post-it-notes on your bathroom mirror to cue you to complete your daily pelvic floor muscle routine.
- Gradual Progress – Start slowly, and set achievable goals. You can progressively increase as your routine gets easier to complete!
- Be mindful in your practice – Focus on quality over quantity! Use the correct form and mindfully engage (or relax!) your pelvic floor muscles as you do your exercise.
- Mix it up – Variety is the spice of life. Don’t try to do the same exact thing every day.
- Seek Professional Guidance – Your pelvic floor physiotherapist will be happy to work with you to create an exercise program that feels achievable to you, and is personalized to assist with your concerns.
As always, it’s important to remember that pelvic floor muscle health is not one size fits all. Each exercise and routine can have many variations, and a pelvic floor physiotherapist will be able to guide you to help you meet your goals.
Consultation with a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist
While the above exercises offer tools for improving pelvic floor muscle health, it is crucial to emphasize the importance of seeking professional guidance form a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Your pelvic floor physiotherapist can provide support to you in several ways:
- Individualized Assessment: Your pelvic floor physiotherapist is familiar with the highly individualized and sensitive issues that surround pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. This means that they can assess your specific concerns, and work with you to identify any underlying symptoms, which then allows for the development of an individualize treatment plan.
- Tailored Exercise recommendations and instruction: Your pelvic floor physiotherapist will tailor an exercise program specific to your unique needs and will take time to ensure that you are performing these exercises correctly.
- Addressing Underlying Causes: Pelvic floor muscle dysfunction can have an underlying cause. Your pelvic floor physiotherapist will help to address these concerns or help guide you towards a practitioner who can.
- Holisitic Approach: Beyond exercise, your pelvic floor physiotherapist will provide guidance on general lifestyle change, dietary adjustments, and other complementary interventions to improve your overall health and well-being.
- Progress Monitoring: Regular consultation with your pelvic floor physiotherapist allows us to monitor your progress, and alter your exercise program accordingly. Most pelvic floor physiotherapists are also great cheerleaders and will not hesitate to celebrate each and every milestone with you!
Where do we go from here?
In your journey to improve your pelvic floor muscle health, it’s crucial to acknowledge that there is not a one-size fits-all approach. While kegel exercises have their place in pelvic floor muscle health, they may not solve all problems. This realization should lead you to explore alternative exercises to provide a comprehensive approach to your pelvic floor muscle health. This is best performed with the guidance of a pelvic floor physiotherapist.
The path to healthier pelvic floor muscles goes beyond exercise – it involves consistency, and seeking the guidance of a pelvic floor physiotherapist to address your unique needs. It’s never too early or too late to prioritize your pelvic floor muscle health and to invest in your well-being.
As you conclude this deep dive into additional pelvic floor muscle exercise, it’s time to take action. Your pelvic floor muscle health is an essential aspect of your wellbeing and has big impacts on quality of life.
Incorporate Exercise: Begin incorporating exercise into your daily routine (so long as it’s okay with your doctor!). Remember that consistency is key, and that something is better than nothing.
Spread the word: Share this article with friend and family to raise awareness about pelvic floor muscle health. Many individuals are still unfamiliar with what options are available for all age groups.
Stay Informed: Keep yourself informed about the latest developments in pelvic floor muscle health and well-being. Follow our blog and check out our Instagram (@winnipegpelvicphysio) for additional insights and information.
Your pelvic floor muscle health journey is lifelong and your pelvic floor physiotherapist is here to support you. By acting today you are empowering yourself for future wellbeing.