Pelvic floor muscles assist with bladder, bowel, and uterus control, as well as play an important role in sexual function. These muscles can weaken due to childbirth, age, obesity, and even chronic coughing. As a result, a person may experience incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, or even painful intercourse.
To help alleviate these side effects, pelvic floor muscle (PFM) therapy may be a good option for some patients.
“Pelvic floor muscle therapy is a noninvasive and relatively low-risk treatment,” explained Apurva B. Pancholy, MD, urogynecologist at UT Physicians and assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. “This is usually our first option for patients who are struggling with pelvic floor disorders.”
In its simplest form, PFM therapy includes at-home exercises.
Kegels are a great way to train your pelvic muscle by contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor. To perform this exercise, you must:
- Position yourself comfortably, whether you are sitting or standing. Be sure to maintain the normal inward curve of your lower spine.
- Identify and activate your pelvic floor muscles with a lift and squeeze motion, breathing normally throughout.
- Attempt to perform the lift and squeeze motion up for up to 10 seconds.
- Completely relax your pelvic muscles before another set.
This exercise may be repeated up to 12 repetitions in a row to complete a full set. Three sets throughout the day are the goal.
While most may think the bridge is a great exercise for your glutes, it can also help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. For this workout, you will:
- Lie on the floor with your back flat against the ground and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Your feet should be flat on the floor with your arms at your side, palms facing down.
- Pushing through your heels, raise your hips off the ground by squeezing your glutes, pelvic floor, and hamstrings.
- Pause for a few seconds and return to the first position.
The bird dog move helps to engage many muscle groups throughout your body, including your pelvic floor. To complete this exercise, you can:
- Get on your hands and knees, position your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Ensure your back is as straight as possible.
- Brace your core muscles and draw your shoulder blades back down toward your hips.
- At the same time, straighten and lift your left leg and right arm, keeping the rest of your body in a neutral position. Hold for a few seconds.
- Lower your arm and leg back down to their original position. Repeat the move with the opposite extremities.
Solafa Elshatanoufy, MD, PharmD, urogynecologist at UT Physicians, stresses while PFM therapy is a wonderful tool for patients, it’s not for everyone.
“Unfortunately, there are no universal pelvic floor exercises that will work for every individual,” explained Elshatanoufy, assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at McGovern Medical School. “It’s important to be evaluated by a specialist to ensure the prescribed treatment plan is appropriate and tailored to a person’s needs.”
Elshatanoufy and Pancholy both see patients at the UT Physicians Urogynecology Center – Memorial City clinic. Visit their page here or call 713-486-6160 to schedule an appointment.