Pelvic Floor and Core Exercise
What is Your Pelvic Floor and how does it relate to your core?
Pelvic floor exercise strengthens the pelvic floor muscles, which are located between your legs and run from your pubic bone at the front to the base of your spine at the back. They are layered, shaped like a sling and hold up your internal organs.
Consider your core to be like a box that needs constant perfect pressure at all times to avoid leaks (out of the pelvic floor or out of the abdomen via a diastasis recti). This box is made up of your pelvic floor at the bottom, your abdominals at the front, the muscles of your lower back form the back of your core and your diaphragm is the top.
When you work your core, by definition you are also working your pelvic floor and vice versa when exercised properly. The key is that your diaphragm and pelvic floor should move in synergy with each other and this is where most people fail and experience issues.
Common weak pelvic floor issues
Your urethra and anus come through the pelvic floor (as does the vagina for women). This is why if the pelvic floor is weak, incontinence issues can occur for both urine and faeces. Being able to control these muscles allows you to relax them when you need to urinate or defaecate, or tighten them when you need to keep urine and faeces in.
As well as incontinence, if you have a weak pelvic floor you are at high risk of getting a prolapsed organ at times where you have high pressure in your abdomen. This is when the pelvic floor muscles are too weak to hold your organs up and they fall into your vagina/rectum when the pressure in your core above is too high and not managed properly. In women this prolapse can be an organ falling into the vagina or rectum, for men a prolapse can only happen into the rectum. The organ will push onto the wall of the vagina/rectum and will slowly fall down if no action is taken; eventually in advanced cases it can be seen and can drop out of the orifice.
Another downside of a weak pelvic floor for women is reduced sensitivity during sexual intercourse. On the flip side, a strong pelvic floor can lead to an improved sex life and stronger orgasms.
Keeping pelvic floor muscles strong
As you get older, your pelvic floor muscles get weaker because your collagen levels that keep all your muscles and bones strong slowly drop from age 25. On top of this, life events increase the pressure on the pelvic floor and slowly weaken it. These include, but are not limited to:
• Carrying a baby
• Vaginal Births and in particular births delivered using instruments (forceps/ventouse)
• High impact exercise such as running and jumping
• High abdominal pressure activities such as lifting heavy objects, including children or weight lifting
• Any kind of surgery in the pelvic region
• Being overweight
Many women may feel they do not have a weakened pelvic floor after childbirth, however, often the weaknesses do not show until they reach the menopause when oestrogen levels drop and the weaknesses are exposed.
Regularly exercising your pelvic floor can prevent this weakening for both men and women.
No matter who you are your first aim should be to have a strong core and pelvic floor before embarking on high impact exercise or just when lifting heavy objects. Learning how to control the pressure in your core is crucial for leading a healthy life free of injury, especially free from lower back pain (which is often caused by a weak core), prolapse or stress/urge/faecal incontinence. Once you have this skill mastered all other exercises and life movements can be performed in a controlled safe manner.
Ideally, to achieve this you would attend a course with a qualified professional like those listed in our Holistic Core Restore® pages. This is particularly true while you are pregnant or at some point after having a baby before you embark on a ‘normal’ exercise routine. If you do not live in the Sussex area, we have an online option of the Every Woman course that might be a good option for you. Please contact us to discuss your options.