Both men and women can benefit in the bedroom, from a regular pelvic floor workout!
More than one third of all women experience some form of incontinence or pelvic floor issues during their life. Loss of bladder control can be brought on or exaggerated by many things including pregnancy, ageing, some medications, constipation, chronic coughing or nerve problems such as bulging discs in the back.
While pelvic floor dysfunction is largely known for its impact on women, it also affects a large number of males – a training program for the pelvic floor should also be undertaken by men.
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles shaped similar to a ‘hammock’ that stretches across your pelvis and wraps around your urethra and rectum. It consists of two types of muscle fibres – slow and fast twitch. Slow twitch muscle fibres act over long periods of time providing constant gentle support; while the fast twitch fibres activate during short periods of high stress such as coughing, sneezing, and allows you to ‘hold on’ when you really need to urinate. When the pelvic floor is functioning properly the muscles in this area help ensure proper bladder function, work with other core muscles to support your lower back and even increases the intensity of sexual experiences in both women and men. This works by increasing the tone and tightness of the vaginal cavity, as well as increasing the intensity of orgasm sensations for both partners.
Poor pelvic floor function leads to problems with urine and faecal incontinence, back and abdominal pain and in about 25 per cent of cases a condition called ‘prolapse’ where the bladder, uterus or rectum can sag, causing further pain and discomfort.
So how do we treat pelvic floor dysfunction?
Well-known treatments for incontinence include the use of absorbent liners. While these allow you to resume normal activities to some extent they are only a band-aid and not a fix for the underlying issue. Surgery can be performed in some cases but poses a high risk to benefit ratio.
The most common exercises are done in some quiet time at home.
FOR THE LADIES:
Take up a comfortable reclined position on your bed, with your knees slightly bent up. Extend the first two fingers after your thumb and moisten these, either with saliva or personal lubricant. Gently insert your fingers into your vagina and imagine squeezing in and drawing up around your fingers. If you can’t feel a contraction, try squeezing your back passage as if you are trying to stop yourself passing wind. Once you can feel the contraction try and hold this for a number of seconds, ensuring you continue normal breathing. Once you have the contraction right you can do this without your fingers for feedback.
FOR THE MEN:
Training the pelvic floor in males is all about ‘squeezing the back passage’, similar to how you would if you wished to refrain from passing wind. Of course, many men prefer to generate as much noise as possible rather than refrain, but for the sake of exercising the pelvic floor, you can use this as your guide of how the exercise should be done.
Like any muscle the pelvic floor will fatigue quickly – especially if they are weak and out of condition – so try to slowly increase the amount of time you can hold the contraction, the firmness and the number of repetitions. Now that you have targeted the slow twitch fibres, try a number of short sharp contractions to simulate times when you cough or sneeze. Try not to get disheartened with your progress as the pelvic floor training program can be a slow process and you may have times when you are stressed, coughing a lot or at certain stages of your menstrual cycle, when your progress may be reduced. Just remember to be consistent and patient.
In the past it has also been recommended to practice pelvic floor muscle training by halting your flow of urine; however, this can lead to improper muscle function, so is nowadays only recommended to be used once a week as a test to show improvement. We often recommend a good pelvic floor program to be completed once every night before going to sleep – this program will vary from person to person (varying hold times and sets of holds). This allows your pelvic floor to recover overnight and be ready to work at its best the following day. Having your partner remind you can also be a big help, as improving your pelvic floor will benefit you both during sexual intercourse.
As always, it is advisable to visit your local doctor to discuss your individual issue; however, there are now many physiotherapy and medical clinics that specialise in the treatment of pelvic floor issues, in both men and women. At Chevron Island Physio we are lucky enough to have two highly trained physio’s with a special interest in women’s health and pelvic floor dysfunction. Alison and Gill we be able to discuss these techniques with you and advise you on how to use a bladder diary, biofeedback devices and the best core exercises to help compliment your pelvic floor program.
Your progress with a pelvic floor training program can be a slow process, but don’t get disheartened. Just be consistent and patient, and know that it will be worth the effort in the end.
*DISCLAIMER: This discussion does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained in this discussion are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this discussion is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.