We often talk about the glutes as the most forgotten muscles in the body, but I honestly think that it’s the pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles, nerves, ligaments and tissue around your pelvic bone. This group of muscles is so often forgotten about, and we don’t fully realise just how important they are to take care of!
In both men and women, the pelvic floor plays a crucial role in our sexual, urinary, bowel and reproductive functioning. The pelvic floor keeps our organs in place and plays a key role in pregnancy and delivery too. And if it’s too tight or weak, and not contracting and relaxing as it should, we can experience problems in some or all of these areas.
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Why it’s important to exercise your pelvic floor
Unfortunately there are certain issues we might encounter if we neglect our pelvic floor, including pelvic organ prolapse (when the pelvic floor muscles are too weak, pelvic organs can drop into, or out of, the vagina), urinary issues (such as incontinence or retention), and very often sexual pain (either pre- or post-partum).
Unlike other muscles in the body associated to a body part that we can work out during our regular gym session, the pelvic floor requires a more delicate and focused approach to strengthen. You may have heard of ‘Kegel’ (pelvic floor) exercises before, and this is an exercise that both men and women can do. In order to identify your pelvic floor, when you go to the loo, try to stop urinating. Those are your pelvic floor muscles working!
How to do Kegel exercises properly
Once you’ve identified how to contract and relax the muscle, you can do this movement regularly with an empty bladder (just don’t do it on the loo as it may lead to a bladder infection). Aim to lift and tighten the pelvic floor and hold it for 2-3 seconds, and then release it all the way back down with a big, audible breath out.
I encourage my clients to find a time to do their routine regularly, like whenever you’re boiling the kettle. Both yoga and pilates are also a great way to work on your pelvic floor and strengthen all the muscles that play such an important role in sexual, urinary, bowel and reproductive health.
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It’s important for me to state that you should not be doing any form of ‘Kegel’ workouts if you have any pain during intercourse, as this can actually make it worse. Pain during intercourse often indicates that the pelvic floor is too tight. Furthermore, if you have experienced anything like prolapse or urinary incontinence, it’s best to consult with a pelvic floor physio therapist. I believe that all women should see a pelvic floor physiotherapist pre- and post-partum, as part of their self-care routine. There are excellent women’s health physios across South Africa!