Good pelvic floor muscle function is important – but how do you use these muscles? And how do you know if you are doing it correctly?
How to contract the pelvic floor:
- You can do the exercises lying, sitting or standing. When you first start it’s easier to do them lying down, with your knees bent.
- Ensure your thighs and tummy are relaxed.
- Try to squeeze and lift up inside as though you were trying to stop the flow of urine, or stop passing wind
- For women – you could imagine you were trying to squeeze around a tampon and pull it up inside. You should feel a sensation around the vagina, anus and perineum (the skin between the vagina and the anus).
- For men – imagine you are trying to lift the testicles, or retract the penis. Sometimes we call this a “nuts to guts” sensation! You should also feel a sense of tightening around the anus, so that you feel it at the front and the back.
Be careful not to use other muscles!
- Take care to isolate the correct muscles and not bring in others such as buttocks, upper abdominals or thighs.
- There should be a sense of pulling in of the lower tummy at the same time as you contract the pelvic floor, however there should NOT be a sucking in under the ribs or a rising of the chest.
- Be sure that you can let go fully and easily after each pelvic floor muscle contraction. If you are having trouble with this it could mean your muscles are too tight. (Contact your local pelvic health physio as the treatment for this is different).
Working out a training programme:
- Ideally you should be able to feel a correct muscle contraction of the pelvic floor and lower abdomen
- Initially you may only be able to hold for 1-2 seconds, but as you get stronger build this up until you can hold for 10 seconds (this may take several months if your muscles are very weak to begin with).
- Build up to holding for 10 seconds.
- Ensure you relax fully between each contraction.
- Have a rest of 10 seconds between each contraction.
- Repeat ten times in a row – this is one set.
- Aim for 3-6 sets per day until you are able to hold easily for 10 x 10 seconds at maximum effort.
If you are unsure about what you are meant to do, or are having any symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction (e.g. bladder or bowel control problems, sexual or pelvic pain, prolapse) please see a pelvic floor physiotherapist for further help and an individualised assessment.
Long term maintenance exercises:
Once you have strengthened your muscles, continue to carry out one set of pelvic floor exercises each day, to maintain strength and endurance over your lifetime.
Please note: Do NOT try to stop your flow of urine as a way of strengthening the pelvic floor, as the stopping and starting of the flow can interfere with bladder emptying. It is ok to do it as a test to see if you can stop the flow – if you can’t do this your pelvic floor is weak!