How to strengthen your pelvic floor
One-third of women suffer from pelvic floor issues such as incontinence, prolapse and weakness, according to the National Institutes for Health, often following pregnancy and childbirth. They can be painful, embarrassing and frustrating, to say the least.
The somewhat mysterious pelvic floor consists of the muscles, ligaments, nerves and tissues that support your uterus, bladder and bowel. When the pelvic floor isn’t functioning optimally, these areas often struggle as well. Not only do they help you hold urine in, pelvic floor muscles are also critical to sexual pleasure, supporting babies during pregnancy, low back health and more.
“Kegel exercises are a great start, but may not be enough when it comes to strengthening the pelvic floor,” said Dr. Jewelia Wagner. “It is important to take a holistic approach to strengthening your entire body even as you focus on your pelvic floor. Just a couple minutes a day can make a big difference in the long run.”
You may not think about going to the gym to strengthen your pelvic floor; however, if you are among the many women with pelvic floor pain or issues, the following exercises can help:
- Kegel. You are likely well-versed in kegels – the tightening of the pelvic floor as if you are going to stop the flow of urine – but you might not recognize the importance of both the contraction and the release. Draw your pelvic floor in and up for a count of 10 and release it to the same count of 10 – many women only focus on the squeeze, creating a constant low-level contraction that prevents a full contraction from taking place. If you do Kegels every time you are at a stop light, every time you see a commercial or every night before bed, you will create a regular daily routine that supports pelvic floor health.
- Squat. Women of all cultures used to squat regularly throughout the day as part of work and childcare, but desk chairs and cars have reduced lower-body strength and mobility for many of us. You can lean your back against a wall and bend your knees, slowly sliding your back down the wall until you are in a deep wall squat. Hold and breathe, knees over ankles, shoulders back and down.
- Bridge. You will strengthen your back, gluts, hamstrings and pelvic floor with a hip bridge. Lie on your back, then engage your abdominals and pelvic floor. Slowly begin peeling your body off the ground, lifting your hipbones up to the sky. Slowly lower one bone at a time and release.
- Planks. When your deep abdominal muscles are firing on all cylinders, they support your pelvic floor. Planks and side planks are simple and effective – and you can even do them when you’re pregnant. If you are new to planks, you can start on hands and knees, eventually progressing up to your toes.
Exercises that focus your energy and strength anywhere from your shoulders to your knees can help strengthen the pelvic floor. A regular routine is best and even 10 minutes a day can make a profound difference. We would be happy to help you with any of these exercises and any other questions related to pelvic floor health.
In addition, Clinic Sofia recently launched the MonaLisa Touch®, an in-office procedure for women who suffer from vaginal discomfort due to pregnancy or childbirth, incontinence, pain during sex and other related issues. The MonaLisa Touch is a minimally invasive laser treatment designed to address many of the adverse effects of menopause, breast or gynecological cancer, or post-delivery vaginal changes, including burning and dryness. It is now available in our Edina office.