Pelvic floor muscles is one part of a group of three muscles that form the core of the body. It is the layer of muscles that support the pelvic organs and line the bottom of the pelvis. Normally this is a very firm band of muscles from the tail bone (coccyx) to the pubic bone. Pelvic organs are the bladder and bowel in men, bladder, bowel and uterus in women.
Pelvic floor muscles play a major role in giving control over the bladder and bowel allowing one to delay emptying until it is convenient. They are also important during sexual function in both men and women for erectile function among others.The pelvic floor muscles in women also provide support for the baby during pregnancy and assist in the birthing process.
CAUSES OF WEAK PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES.
Weakened pelvic floor muscles mean the internal organs are not fully supported and you may have difficulty controlling the release of urine, faeces or wind. This can cause urine incontinence or make the vagina or uterus to protrude outside the vagina. On the contrary, pelvic floor muscles can become too tight especially in women.
- Child birth-; Weakness can start during pregnancy and continue after birth. Women who have had multiple births, instrumental births (with forceps), severe perineal tearing or large babies (birth weight over 4kg) are at greater risk of pelvic floor muscle damage.
- Chronic constipation-; repeated straining on the toilet can lead to pelvic floor weakness and/or prolapse of the organs into the vagina (for women) or the anus. It is important to learn good toilet habits.
- High impact exercises-;Sports such as basketball, netball or running may mean an increased risk of leaking urine, especially for women. This applies to elite athletes as well.
- Chronic coughing-; an ongoing cough for any reason increases the risk of urinary incontinence and prolapse especially if the pelvic floor muscles are compromised. This is due to increased in-tra abdominal pressure
- Heavy lifting -; this can create pressure on the pelvic floor and ultimately lead to prolapse. Men and women in certain professions such as nursing or heavy weight training are at particular risk of straining the pelvic floor.
- Age-; Pelvic floor muscles tend to get weaker with increasing age.
- Pelvic surgery-; e.g. Hysterectomy
WHAT TO DO ABOUT WEAK PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES.
This will be managed depending on the presenting symptoms e.g. incontinence, protruding organs, constipation, low sex drive, impaired sensation among others.
- Exercise; Kegel exercises is the most common form of exercises that help to rehabilitate these particular muscles. Imagine you are in the loo passing urine and someone opens the door. You have to stop the flow of urine. Understand the muscles used to aid this activity and tighten them hold for 10 – 15 seconds and release. Be keen not to hold your breath or pull your belly button in and make ten repetitions. Do not do this exercise while peeing as continued hold of urine may cause urinary tract infection
- Electrical muscle stimulation. This is done in extreme cases where one has feacal or urine incontinence. It involves use of electrodes that are either placed externally or internally to stimulate the pelvic floor muscles. It is very effective but should be done under the supervision of a professional (physiotherapist).
- After abdominal surgery, support the lower abdomen if you experience a cough or sneeze. This offers external support.
Weak pelvic floor muscles has caused marriages to strain and even break up. Both men and women have been subjected psycho-social trauma due to the effects of weak pelvic floor muscles. No need to suffer anymore, visit your physical therapist and get the necessary help.
By; Mary Kungu’
C n P Health Center.