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All about your pelvic floor (Men and Women!)


The Pelvic Floor Story For Everyone

The “Pelvic Floor” is the term used to describe all of the muscles and fascia that create the base of your pelvis. You could imagine these tissues like a hammock attached to the pubic bone at the front, and the tailbone at the back. The pelvic floor plays an important role in supporting pelvic organs - the bladder, the bowel, and in females the uterus- aiding with bowel and bladder control, and promisingly with sexual function 😏. Having a strong pelvic floor creates a stable base for movement and reduces the risk of injuries such as back strains, hip and groin strains, and pelvic organ prolapse.

Male and Female pelvic floor muscles - Your toilets view

Having a healthy, strong pelvic floor is vital for everyone, regardless of which genitals you have or whether you have given birth. However, there are situations that can leave us more vulnerable to a weakened pelvic floor including pregnancy, childbirth, pelvic surgery (e.g. hysterectomy, prostatectomy, bowel surgery), constipation, being overweight, lifting heavy weights repetitively, chronic coughing (asthma, bronchitis, COPD), lack of regular exercise, and some neurological disorders. Both men and women can be at risk of having a weak pelvic floor.

Signs that you may have a weak pelvic floor:

  • Bladder leaking with coughing, sneezing, lifting, jumping.

  • Urgent need to pass urine

  • Leaking after passing urine

  • Passing wind when bending over

  • Sharting

  • Loss of sensation around the genitals

Corrective exercises

If you experience any of these signs or are just wanting to regularly work out your pelvic floor, we have some things that you can do.

1. Find and turn on your pelvic floor

The pelvic floor muscles form a hammock.

Sit, or lay in a comfortable position so that you are relaxing your stomach, thigh and buttock muscles.

Visualise that hammock of tissues suspended between the tailbone and the pubic bone.

Lift the hammock up from its centre and squeeze as if you were trying to hold back urine or gas (please do not do this on the toilet- see note 2).

Hold for a moment, then gently let go ensuring you have a definite sense of letting go (see note 1to learn why this is important)

If you struggle to feel your pelvic floor with this exercise we encourage you to make a booking for an overall assessment.

2. Strengthen your pelvic floor

Now that you have identified the pelvic floor, you can train it!

Start with the exercise above but this time when you lift and squeeze HOLD the contraction for as long as you can, up to 10seconds. Don’t hold your breath! You should breathe easily while maintaining the activation of these muscles.

Now gently let go and feel the pelvic floor relax completely.

Repeat this 5-10 times.

Now you should have a substantial connection to your pelvic floor. The next exercise is to pulse these muscles.

Once again we start by lifting and squeezing, only this time we are performing fast contractions holding only for a second to create that pulse - like feeling. Aim for 5-10 squeezes.

3. Progressing

To improve and continue to strengthen your pelvic floor you may increase the number of repetitions of each exercise, or try to perform these exercises in different positions such as on hands and knees, standing, or in a squat position.

Ideally, you will start to engage your pelvic floor muscles during everyday tasks. For example, before lifting anything we should prepare by gently lifting our pelvic floor just like we engage our core abdominals and use our buttock muscles to help support our backs.

4. Relaxing the pelvic floor

Being able to relax the pelvic floor muscles is just as important as being able to activate them (see note 1). If you have had trouble letting go of the pelvic floor muscles please take a moment to do this exercise.

Lay on your back, head supported with a folded towel, knees bent and feet together, cushions placed beside each knee. Allow the knees to float outwards, relaxing them onto the cushions to open out the hips and groin. Relax the arms out to the sides, palms up. Breathe in and out using the diaphragm, sinking further into the floor with each breath out and imaging the pelvic floor softening.

Stay here, gently breathing and softening the body, for 2 mins.

Note 1: An overly tight pelvic floor is not beneficial and is relatively common. Chronic tension in the pelvic floor prevents these muscles from contracting thus preventing them from doing their job in controlling bowel and bladder motions. This can lead to pain and discomfort, bloating, bladder issues and constipation. If you struggle to feel your pelvic floor letting go, please book an appointment for an assessment with us or with a pelvic health physiotherapist.

Note 2: There is a reason why we DO NOT RECOMMEND testing pelvic floor function by stopping the flow of urine while going. This is because there is a risk that you can draw bacteria up into the urethra leading to infection. If you have been doing this as an exercise, please STOP.

A note from us

Nobody enjoys the feeling of wet pants, whether you are at a dinner party or a gym session, so practising pelvic floor exercises daily is a must. And the great thing about them is that you can do them almost anywhere, anytime, and no one knows. I've been doing them while writing this and you had no clue. Until now of course. 😉

Written by Tessa Sareva

TLC osteopaths

Hamilton Nz

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