For some people dancing, laughing, coughing and sneezing can all lead to the embarrassment of accidentally leaking urine, but there’s no need to let a pelvic floor problem ruin this festive period.
• Pelvic floor disorders are known to affect 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men in the UK
• It is currently estimated that there are 3-6 million people in the UK suffering with some form of incontinence
Kathryn Levy is a Women's Health and Postnatal Specialist Physiotherapist at Progress. Kathryn believes people shouldn’t ignore such symptoms as:
• accidentally leaking urine when you exercise, laugh, cough or sneeze
• needing to get to the toilet in a hurry or not making it there in time
• constantly needing to go to the toilet
• finding it difficult to empty your bladder or bowel
• accidentally losing control of your bladder or bowel
• accidentally passing wind
“These can all be indications of a pelvic floor problem, but there are treatment options available that do not necessarily involve surgery. So do not ignore your symptoms, seek professional advice and be proactive about your pelvic health.”
What exactly is your pelvic floor?
“The pelvic floor is a sling of muscles between your tailbone and pubic bones that help support your pelvic organs, namely your bladder, bowel and uterus. They also help play a role in controlling bladder and bowel continence, so if they sustain trauma, become overstretched and weakened, or overactive and tight, you can develop problems such as stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse.”
Who can have problems?
“It’s not just women who experience pelvic floor problems after childbirth or after menopause. Both men and women can experience problems for a variety of reasons – your general health, trauma to pelvis or pelvic floor, repetitive heavy lifting at work or in the gym, prolonged periods of standing (nursing or restaurant work), ongoing constipation and/or straining to empty the bowels; being overweight or obese, a chronic cough and ageing. Even young elite athletes (both men and women) who engage in regular high impact activities such as running or heavy weight lifting are at risk for developing problems due to the excessive downward pressure on their pelvic floor muscles.”
Do not ignore your symptoms
“Do not ignore your symptoms. First and foremost, it is important to rule out any medical condition that may be contributing to your symptoms. Depending on the cause of the problem, there are a number of medical and healthcare professionals who can help including: specialised physiotherapists with experience in pelvic floor dysfunction, urogynaecologists, urologists and colorectal specialists to name a few. Discuss your symptoms with your GP or Consultant who can refer you to the appropriate specialist.”
Significant improvements are possible by undertaking a tailored exercise program for your pelvic floor muscles and as well as incorporating bladder and bowel retraining, nutritional counselling, stress management and improving general fitness.
Start now with exercise
Most people do not know how to perform a pelvic floor muscle contraction properly. First you need to find the right muscles.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet hip width apart. Inhale to prepare. Exhale to lift your pelvic floor first by closing around your back passage like you are holding back wind, and then towards the front like you are holding back water. Try and hold that lift for 10 seconds. Relax completely and then repeat 10 times. Make sure you do not clench your buttocks or thighs and do not hold your breath.
You can progress this exercise to sitting or standing.