What is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor refers to a group of muscles which attach like a sling across the base of the bony pelvis, creating a ‘floor’ to support the pelvic organs. The image below shows the bony pelvis as seen from underneath- the pelvic outlet is edged in green.
In the image below, you can see how the pelvic floor muscles (called levator ani) attach across the pelvic outlet. The urethra, vagina and anus pass through this muscular layer, which allows us to have voluntary control over urination and defecation (passing a stool).
The tone of this muscular sheet can decrease with age or after natural childbirth (especially with tearing or episiotomy where part of the pelvic floor is cut then stitched, altering the overall tension pattern), which can cause issues with stress incontinence (passing a small amount of urine when laughing or coughing) or partial prolapse of pelvic organs.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Exercises called ‘Kegels’ will strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. This can significantly improve symptoms such as post-prostatectomy incontinence, female urinary incontinence, partial prolapse and coccydynia. Click here for how to perform Kegels correctly.
Like anything in the body, the pelvic floor doesn’t work independently of other structures- it is linked to many bones, muscles and ligaments. For example, the obturator internus muscle has an important role in tensioning the pelvic floor, but at its far end it attaches to your femur (thigh bone). Therefore, anything which rotates your thigh (for example, a tight psoas or gluteal muscle) can affect the pelvic floor indirectly by introducing asymmetry to the tone of this muscular sheet.
The video routine I’ve shared above can be combined with Kegels to further strengthen and balance the tone of the pelvic floor, and the muscles affecting the balance of the pelvis itself. Perform your Kegels during each move and relax in between moves. Remember to keep breathing slowly and deeply, rather than holding your breath.
If you’d like further information or advice about pelvic floor issues, pop along to see Marianne at Applewood Osteopathy. You’d be surprised what a difference balancing the pelvis and strengthening these muscles can make.