Everything you should know about your pelvic floor
Every day we hear more about the pelvic floor, but we are still not fully aware of the need to care for and strengthen this area of our body to prevent future health problems.
A study carried out by the SEGO-Ausonia Women's Intimate Health Observatory assessed the problem of urinary incontinence, often resulting from a weakening of the pelvic floor, in 1,272 women aged between 45 and 74. One of the most striking conclusions was that 60% of women with urine loss are not diagnosed with urinary incontinence, and most have not gone to an expert because they think there is no solution. Furthermore, according to the results of this survey, only 39.5% of women who suffer from urine loss have been asked about it by a health professional.
Pregnancy, childbirth and the menopause are risky times when women's pelvic floor can be damaged, so special attention should be paid to them and preventive work is done, for example through Kegel exercises. However, men should also take care of their pelvic floor and the reasons are almost identical to those of women: to prevent problems with urinary and anal incontinence, to improve sexual relations, to encourage correct emptying of the bladder and bowel, to prevent prostate problems... Experts recommend that men start paying attention and taking care of their pelvic floor from the age of 30 onwards to avoid problems in the future.
It is a muscular and connective tissue structure that closes the pelvis at the bottom. It extends from the pubic bone to the coccyx and from the ischium to the ischium. It has a very important mission and that is to support the viscera and to act as a shock absorber in its movements. In addition, it improves the continence of the sphincters and the quality of sexual relations.
When the pelvic floor is damaged or weakened it loses some of its functionality and this can lead to health problems that affect people's quality of life. The most common are urinary incontinence and prolapses.
This is a fairly serious problem that occurs when one or more organs in the pelvic cavity descend to the outside. It is quite common in women after vaginal birth and it is important to identify it in time to treat it and avoid further complications.
The pelvic floor can be damaged for many reasons, one of the most common being pregnancy, as the weight carried for nine months weakens the area. Similarly, people who are overweight suffer a similar process.
Childbirth is another event that often damages a woman's pelvic floor.
Constipation is also a lesser-known factor that can damage pelvic floor muscles. This is due to the pressure exerted when going to the bathroom.
Impact sports cause the viscera to bounce and the pelvic floor has to cushion the blow, so it can also be weakened in people who play them. The same is true for workers who carry a lot of weight and for musicians who play wind instruments.
Respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis are another risk factor: coughing hard and often, the diaphragm puts a lot of pressure on the viscera that supports the pelvic floor.
Some physiotherapists also warn that wearing high heels can damage the pelvic floor, as the imbalance they cause must be compensated by various parts of our body.
Menopause is another delicate time because during this process collagen, which is the main component of the connective tissue that forms the pelvic floor, loses consistency.
The pelvic floor is the great unknown of anatomy and physiology of both men and women and "although urinary incontinence affects three out of four women, it is not exclusive, as it also occurs in 25% of men," explained Virginia Urcelay, physiotherapist specializing in pelvic floor, at the First Congress of Women in, by and for Health, which took place in March 2018.
I'm sure you've heard of the famous Kegel exercises, but there's so much more. From maintaining good posture to knowing how to hold weights properly so as not to damage either the back or the pelvic floor... You can consult the physiotherapy online website, which has a very complete video channel with recommendations for caring for the pelvic floor and adopting good postural hygiene to protect it.
These exercises are easy to perform and it is recommended that they are incorporated into the daily routine, especially during pregnancy, postpartum and ageing, as they prevent pelvic floor injuries and tone the pelvic floor. The idea is to work in the perineal area with fast and slow contractions. On the internet, there are many videos and pages that explain how to do Kegel exercises.
According to Virginia Urcelay, Kegel exercises "can be done at any time, except for one, and that is that, contrary to the widespread belief, you should not cut off the flow of urine when you urinate, since the reflexes that regulate the urination system are impaired when doing so.
Working the pelvic floor with Chinese balls is also a highly recommended option, although it is advisable to start slowly and, as the area gets stronger, increase the time we are able to retain them. Ideally, however, you should consult a professional first, as the potential benefits of Chinese balls will also depend on how your pelvic floor feels when you start using them.
Yoga is a highly recommended discipline for strengthening and working on the pelvic floor. Many of the breathing exercises performed during the practice help you to be more aware of where the pelvic floor is located, and there are certain postures or asanas specific to working in this area.
According to physiotherapists, the orgasm is one of the best exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor, since during it almost all the muscle fibres that make up the pelvic floor are worked, greater blood circulation is achieved in the area, vaginal atrophy or vaginitis is avoided and the pubococcygeal muscle is trained.
When the pelvic floor is damaged, it is ideal to go to a Pelvic Floor Unit or a specialist physiotherapist. Many pregnant women also choose to go to an expert for more pelvic floor-focused birth preparation, both to protect the pelvic floor and to exercise the muscles that will work hardest during vaginal birth.
There are many applications for the mobile phone that help us make a work plan for the pelvic floor. For example, the Bwom app includes 200 exercises that are combined into 54 different training plans. If you're more of a videogame guy, Nintendo has a very useful one for working on the pelvic floor after childbirth: "Physiofun: Kegel exercises".