What is pelvic floor muscle and Why are they important?
The pelvic floor muscle is a group of muscles located in the pelvic area that support the pelvic organs and span the bottom of the pelvis. It can be weakened or damaged by pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, age, obesity, and other factors.
The pelvic floor muscles are important for a number of reasons. Here are some key functions of the pelvic floor muscles:
- Supporting the pelvic organs: The pelvic floor muscles help to support the pelvic organs, such as the bladder, uterus, and rectum, which can help to prevent these organs from prolapsing (dropping down).
- Maintaining continence: The pelvic floor muscles play a key role in helping to control the flow of urine and feces, which is important for maintaining continence. Weak pelvic floor muscles can lead to incontinence, which is the inability to control the flow of urine or feces.
- Sexual function: The pelvic floor muscles also help in sexual function. Strengthening these muscles can improve sexual response.
- The overall quality of life: Maintaining the strength and function of the pelvic floor muscles can improve the overall quality of life by reducing the risk of incontinence, supporting the pelvic organs, and improving sexual function.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, can help to strengthen and tone these muscles. Strengthening these muscles can have numerous benefits for overall health and quality of life. Such as improving bladder control, sexual function, and overall quality of life.
What could loosen or weaken the pelvic floor muscles?
There are several factors that can lead to weak pelvic floor muscles, including:
- Heavy lifting.
- Pregnancy and childbirth: Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken the pelvic floor muscles due to the weight and pressure of the baby on the pelvic area. Childbirth, particularly vaginal delivery, can also cause trauma to the pelvic floor muscles.
- Aging: As we age, the pelvic floor muscles can become weaker due to a decrease in estrogen production and other age-related changes.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese can put additional strain on the pelvic floor muscles, leading to weakness.
- Constipation: Straining to have bowel movements due to constipation can weaken the pelvic floor muscles.
- Chronic coughing: Chronic coughing, such as in cases of smoking or asthma, can put a strain on the pelvic floor muscles and lead to weakness.
- Surgery: Surgery in the pelvic area, such as a hysterectomy, can weaken the pelvic floor muscles.
- Certain medications: Some medications, such as antidepressants and diuretics, can lead to pelvic floor muscle weakness.
It’s important to note that while some of these factors, such as pregnancy and aging, are inevitable, there are steps that can be taken to minimize the impact on pelvic floor muscle strength. For example, maintaining a healthy weight, practicing good bowel habits, and quitting smoking can help to reduce the risk of pelvic floor muscle weakness.
If the pelvic floor muscles are weakened then it can lead to a number of problems such as:
- Pelvic organ prolapse.
- Weak pelvic floor muscles may also contribute to lower back pain, constipation, and other issues.
- exercises to strengthen the muscles in the pelvic floor:
There are specific exercises that can help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which are known as Kegel exercises. Here’s how to perform Kegel exercises:
- Find the right muscles: To locate your pelvic floor muscles, try stopping the flow of urine while you’re using the bathroom. The muscles you use to stop the flow of urine are your pelvic floor muscles.
- Isolate the pelvic floor muscles: Once you’ve identified your pelvic floor muscles, try contracting these muscles for a few seconds, then relaxing them for a few seconds. Focus on contracting only the pelvic floor muscles, not the muscles in your thighs, buttocks, or abdomen.
- Gradually increase the number of repetitions and duration: As you get more comfortable with the exercise, you can gradually increase the number of repetitions and the length of time you hold the contraction. Aim for 3 sets of 10 repetitions, holding each contraction for 5-10 seconds.
- Incorporate Kegels into your daily routine: Try to do Kegel exercises a few times a day, every day. You can do them while sitting, standing, or lying down, and no one will know you’re doing them.
It’s important to remember to relax the muscles in between contractions, and to focus on contracting only the pelvic floor muscles. If you’re unsure if you’re doing the exercise correctly, you may want to consult with a physiotherapist who can help you with the proper technique.
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