Pelvic floor training, easily explained - Ruth Health

Pelvic floor training, easily explained

Fast facts:

  • A female pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments, and tissues that supports your pelvic organs. It affects many areas of your health and wellness, including sexual pleasure and bladder control.
  • Too many people endure symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction like urinary incontinence, constipation, or pain during sex without even realizing there’s a problem.
  • Pelvic floor training is highly effective at preventing or treating these issues.
  • There are different types of pelvic floor dysfunction, with different underlying causes, so it’s important to work with an experienced pelvic floor specialist who can help you identify your own unique needs. (And to think beyond Kegels!)
  • Ruth Health makes it easy to fit pelvic floor training into a full life. Learn more about our individualized 30-minute virtual sessions.

The power of the pelvic floor is truly underestimated. This often-overlooked group of muscles affects many areas of your health and wellness, from sexual pleasure and bladder control to pregnancy and birth.

Unfortunately, pelvic health doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, and many people endure symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction like bladder leaks and painful sex without even realizing there’s a problem.

The good news is that pelvic floor training works wonders at preventing or treating uncomfortable or painful public health issues, and we at Ruth Health happen to specialize in it!

Read on to learn more about pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) and what you can do about it — including why it’s always a good idea to think beyond Kegels.

“Too many people endure pelvic health issues without knowing they don’t have to.”

What is your pelvic floor?

A female pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments, and tissues at the bottom of your torso that keeps your pelvic organs — the bladder, uterus, vagina, and rectum — supported 24/7.

It serves several key functions.

  • Allows you to have comfortable and pleasurable sex
  • Helps support healthy bladder and bowel function
  • Keeps your pelvic organs in the right place
  • Works with your abdominal muscles to stabilize your lower back and hips
  • Pumps blood to the heart, boosting circulation and reducing swelling

What is pelvic floor dysfunction?

Pelvic floor dysfunction means there’s an issue with one or more of the pelvic floor’s main responsibilities, usually due to muscle tightness, weakness, or loss of coordination.

Common pelvic floor issues include chronic painful sex, loss of bladder and bowel control, and vaginal, rectal, or urethral prolapse, but there are others.

Here are some signs of pelvic floor dysfunction to watch for:

  • Decrease labor pains
  • Ease lower back and pelvic pain
  • Helps treat morning sickness
  • Helps decrease depression and anxiety

There’s no need to feel ashamed or afraid if you’re experiencing any of these issues — pelvic floor dysfunction isn’t at all uncommon, especially during pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause.

Any preexisting pelvic floor weakness or tightness will likely worsen during these health journeys, which is just one reason it’s never too early to show your pelvic floor some TLC.

Other factors play a role in PFD like trauma, pelvic region injuries or surgery, overuse of the pelvic muscles from going to the bathroom too frequently or intense exercise, and repeat pressure to the midsection from tight belts and waist trainers.

What are pelvic floor training exercises?

There’s a misconception about pelvic floor training we’re happy to dispel: that it’s only about Kegel exercises. It isn’t that Kegels, or quick contractions of your pelvic floor, aren’t effective at muscle strengthening and boosting endurance.

It’s that no two bodies are built the same, and pelvic floor training should never be seen as a one-size-fits-all treatment strategy — which is why Ruth Health takes an individualized approach to pelvic floor training sessions (more on that below!).

Your pelvic floor specialist will help you develop a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs, but here’s a teaser of common at-home pelvic floor training exercises that help address various pelvic health issues.

“Pelvic floor training is much more than Kegels.”

Finding your pelvic floor

Before exercising your pelvic floor muscles, it helps to know where they are. Here’s an easy way to find the right muscles.

Lie down with knees bent and about hip-width apart while keeping your feet flat on the floor. Empty your lungs then exhale slowly, drawing in your lower abs and squeezing your muscles as if you’re trying to avoid urinary and fecal incontinence. Hold for two seconds and then release. You should feel your pelvic floor letting go as you release.

A common misconception is that you can feel your pelvic floor muscles in use by stopping or slowing the flow of urine while going to the bathroom, but this only engages the urogenital diaphragm and doesn’t provide a complete sense of pelvic floor function.

Pelvic floor exercises for weak, or hypotonic, muscles

There are different types of pelvic floor dysfunction, with different underlying causes. That’s why it’s so important to work with an experienced pelvic floor specialist who can help you identify what kind of attention your pelvic floor needs.

If your pelvic floor muscles are on the weaker side, heel slides and toe taps are both great ways to exercise your core while contracting the pelvic floor.

Heel slides

  1. Lie flat on your back with bent knees, feet flat on the floor, and a neutral pelvis.
  2. Inhale and exhale and let your ribs compress.
  3. Draw up your pelvic floor and engage your core.
  4. Slide your right heel away from you — as far as you can while staying connected to your core — and inhale the leg back up.
  5. Repeat 10 times and switch to the left side

Toe taps

  1. Lie flat on your back with bent knees, feet off the floor, and shins parallel to the floor.
  2. Inhale and lower your right toes to tap the floor.
  3. Exhale to engage the core and pelvic floor muscles and lift your leg back up.
  4. Either do 8 reps on each side or alternate legs for 12-20 times total. Be sure to keep your core engaged throughout the exercise.

Pelvic floor training exercises for tight, or hypertonic, muscles

You might have the opposite problem. If your pelvic floor is too stiff or tight, diaphragmatic breathing and the happy baby position can help lengthen and loosen muscles.

Diaphragmatic breathing

  1. Lie flat on the floor or find a seated position.
  2. Try to release tension in your body then place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest.
  3. Let your stomach expand while you inhale through your nose, keeping your chest as still as possible. Inhale for 2-3 seconds and slowly exhale.
  4. Repeat several times keeping your hands in the same position all throughout the exercise.

Happy baby
Yoga practitioners may already be familiar with this pose, and it’s a great one for stretching the pelvic floor.

  1. Lie on the floor with knees bent.
  2. Draw your knees toward your belly and with the soles of your feet facing toward the ceiling.
  3. Hold your feet — inside or outside both work.
  4. Position your knees so that they’re a little wider than your torso and draw your feet toward your armpits. Keep your ankles over your knees and flex your heels.
  5. Deepen the stretch by lowering your tailbone closer to the floor with your exhales.
  6. Hold the position for a few breaths or rock side to side.

You don’t have to currently be experiencing pelvic floor issues to try out these exercises — anyone can benefit from a stronger pelvic floor. But if you have pelvic floor dysfunction, don’t be discouraged if you don’t see overnight changes.

In fact, try not to expect fast results: it often takes several months of training before symptoms improve. Consistency is key to healing, so keep at it!

How does at-home pelvic floor training work?

Yes, pelvic floor training can be done completely virtual! Not only the pelvic floor training exercises themselves, but the initial assessment with your physical specialist.

At Ruth Health, we make it as easy as possible to fit pelvic floor training into your busy schedule.

A pelvic floor specialist will conduct an external assessment of your body’s mechanical functions and combine it with your health history and chief complaints to come up with a treatment plan developed just for you.

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