The pelvic floor is the name given to the group of muscles that are usually referred to as part of the “core”. They are located in the pelvis and stretch from the pubic bone, which is located at the front of the body, all the way to the tailbone (coccyx) at the back. They also stretch from side to side.
These pelvic floor muscles work in connection with your deeper abdominal muscles (Transversus Addominus), the deep back muscles, and also the diaphragm in order to support and stabilise the spine. They also assist with the control of pressure on the abdomen in order to help when you are straining or lifting as a result of the force exerted by pushing down. An example of this is when you are exercising or bending down to pick up your toddler.
Common pelvic floor disorders
There are a number of different pelvic floor disorders, but the three most common ones that people struggle with are:
- Urinary incontinence – when the pelvic floor muscles become weakened, the ability to control the urge to urinate becomes harder and can often lead to urine leaks when a person is not able to get to the toilet in time. This can also happen when someone sneezes or coughs and is completely involuntary. The condition mainly affects women and is particularly common after vaginal childbirth or in later life.
- Faecal incontinence – between 20-40% of people who have pelvic floor prolapse can also suffer from faecal incontinence, a condition that can unfortunately drastically affect their quality of life.
- Pelvic organ prolapse – this condition occurs when one or more of the organs in the pelvic region slip from their normal position and bulge into the vagina. Until recently, it was widely believed that only women could suffer from pelvic organ prolapse however researchers now believe men can also develop a form of pelvic floor dysfunction.
Pilates for pelvic floor health
For many, the idea of mentioning pelvic floor issues to their GP is too embarrassing, but they really shouldn’t be and are more common than you might realise. Around 55% of women struggle with some degree of urinary incontinence. This is not normal and is often seen as something that ‘happens’ as you get older or after children but this is just not the case, with proper exercise and management most people should be able to have a strong enough pelvic floor not to leak.
The key is to think of the pelvic floor like any other muscle in your body, if you don’t work it, it gets weak the pelvic floor needs to be able to relax and contract like all the other muscles in your body. Being a muscle you cant see contract like your bicep for example, it can be hard to get engaging and releasing correct, that is where Pilates can help. In Pilates we focus on the connection between moving and breathing, it this is the key to good pelvic floor engagement.
Pilates is a fantastic form of exercise that can help the pelvic floor and is based on the concept of breathing and core engagement working together. Pilates exercises teach you how to strengthen, engage and relax your pelvic floor and activate the muscles that are there both before and during exercises this can then be transferred to every day life, in class you may be squatting and thinking about your breath and pelvic floor, once you are home every time you bend to pick something up, this is the same action! It is what I love about Pilates the movement are functional and help you in daily life.
If you take a look at my classes online, or visit one in person, i’d be happy to help you improve your pelvic floor, and reap the other benefits Pilates can bring to your general health too.
If you have been considering joining a Pilates class or even trying Pilates at home but need a little encouragement, then why not check out my classes? Whether you’d prefer to work out live or at a time to suit you, I’d love to help you harness the benefits that Pilates can bring.