Active pelvic floor muscles are very important to both men and women throughout life. Poorly controlled muscles can lead to prolapse and loss of bladder or bowel control. Physiotherapists trained in continence management can assess your pelvic floor muscles, and if necessary help you regain control.

What pelvic floor muscles do

The pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, uterus, vagina, and bowel. They form a muscular and elastic floor across the bottom of the pelvis. When tightened, the muscles lift the organs and constrict their openings. The muscles relax to empty the bladder and bowel. Stretching of these muscles during childbirth and straining with constipation sometimes causes muscle damage and leads to incontinence problems.

Symptoms of pelvic floor issues

  • Leaking urine when squeezing, coughing, running, laughing, or other sudden actions
  • Not getting to the toilet in time
  • Tampons not staying in place
  • Vaginal or anal wind (flatulence) when bending and lifting
  • Bulging felt at the vaginal opening (prolapse)
  • Difficulty emptying the bowel completely

You may need special attention if you

  • Are pregnant or a new mother
  • Are menopausal
  • Lift heavy objects often
  • Suffer from constipation
  • Are overweight
  • cough frequently
  • Have lower backache
  • Go to the toiled often to pass small amounts of urine

Benefits of pelvic floor control

  • An active lifestyle without wet or soiled pants
  • Control of wind (flatulence)
  • Firmer vaginal muscles
  • Confidence and a sense of control

How to help yourself

  • Drink two litres of fluid each day
  • Minimise coffee, tea, and soft drinks
  • Stay within a healthy weight range
  • Seek help for a chronic cough that makes your bladder issues worse
  • Avoid straining with constipation

How physiotherapy can help

Some physiotherapists have special training, skills, and experience with incontinence management. They can help if you have incontinence, constipation, or prolapse, or simply want to learn how to use your pelvic floor muscles correctly and safely. Many women are unable to use their pelvic floor muscles correctly unless they receive individual pelvic floor muscle testing and training.

Physiotherapy teaches you to:

  • Exercise your pelvic floor muscles correctly
  • Retrain pelvic floor muscles
  • Regain control of pelvic floor muscles while sneezing, coughing, laughing, and lifting
  • Maintain pelvic floor control

It is also important to use abdominal muscles correctly while exercising the pelvic floor. Pilates can help with this.