Let's Get Nerdy!
Here we will unlock the mystery of the pelvic floor one blog post at a time. Knowledge bombs with a Pelvic Rehabilitation Certified Practitioner from the comfort of your own home! Let's go.
What Is The Pelvic Floor?
Facts and perspectives from a pelvic floor physical therapist
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that support your pelvic organs. These muscles work like a sling that span from your pubic bone in the front, and attach to the back at your tailbone. These muscles are similar to like any other muscle in which we can strengthen, stretch, and train them.
What makes them special (and more complex) is that unlike normal muscles, they are highly affected by hormones and stress, we sit on them all day, AND they are working ALL the time to prevent urinary or fecal accidents.
The function of these muscles is to control bowel and bladder function, role in childbirth and intercourse, but also stabilize our hip complex. These muscles are hip muscles and have a close connection to the core and gluteal muscles as well.
How do I activate those muscles?
Remember... Kegels aren't for everyone, so always check in with a
pelvic floor physical therapist or other pelvic health practitioner
Contract your muscles as if you are trying to stop the flow of urine.
Imagine a zipper from the rectum up to the urethra and try closing the zipper.
Imagine you are sitting on a marble or blueberry and tighten your muscles to lift it.
Close the "lips" of the labia.
Imagine squeezing a tampon up and inside the vagina
Contract your muscles as if you are trying to stop gas
Lift perineum up towards your head
Try touching the space between the vagina and the anus to feel the contraction. You should feel a lift up.
See visual cues video on the right
What's all the Hype?
If you are checking out ANY pelvic floor physical therapist page, we are always talking about breathing. So whats the big deal?!
Belly breathing aka diaphragmatic breathing is a technique that is important for the pelvic floor muscle group. This is because the diaphragm and the pelvic floor muscles work in sync with each other. Practicing this technique helps to establish proper coordination and improve tension of the pelvic floor muscle group and is the foundation for all pelvic therapy.
So what happens?
When you inhale:
The diaphragm falls downward to make more space for the air in the lungs. This causes the belly to raise and pelvic floor to stretch out and sink downward and relax.
When you exhale:
The diaphragm rises to push the air out as the pelvic floor muscles activate to help push upward towards the lungs. The belly contracts or falls.
Imagine that there is a balloon inside your belly:
When you breathe in the balloon fills with air and expands in all directions, while your pelvic floor relaxes/ lengthens.
When you breathe out the air escapes from the balloon and your belly contracts while your pelvic floor contracts/ rises.
Bladder health is one of the most common changes for all people. Here are the outlined norms!
Bladder issues can affect anywhere from 30-50% of people in their lifetime. All of which can occur for a variety of reasons.
The bladder is a reservoir and can hold 400-600 ml or 1.5-2.5 cups
"Urge" is a feeling of the bladder stretching and can be trained
Your first urge is when the bladder is only 30-50% full (150- 200ml / 0.6-0.8 cups)
Normal urinary voiding is 3-4 hrs (approx. 6x a day) and 0 x at night
Urine flow should last 8-10 secs with no “pushing” or discomfort
Fluid intake should be ½ your body weight in ounces
Medical practitioners are always harping on bladder irritants, but what does that mean? I like to joke with all of my patients is that all good things in life are considered bladder irritants, besides water (unfortunatley true). The reason bladder irritants are important is because consumption of these over time will irritate the inner lining of the bladder and can lead to pain, leakage, urgency, etc. A common misconception is that bladder irritants affect everyone the same, but the truth is everyone is different and how it affects your body may be different than the “textbook definition.”
However here are some common bladder irritants to watch out for:
Alcohol (remember beer may affect you more than wine… try it)
Caffeine (decaf may affect you just as much …think acidity)
Carbonation (try spindrift vs pelligrino does the flavoring change anything?)
Tea (try iced tea vs herbal tea)
Remember that each pelvic floor and bladder is not the same, you can still have a great quality of life as long as you map your foods! Similar to an elimination diet, try it!
As we all age and if you start to experience issues with any of those irritants, check in with a pelvic floor physical therapist! Because just because you turn another year older, doesn’t mean that your bladder or who-ha has to act that way