Have you ever jumped on a trampoline or gone running, and realized later that you leaked? You may be one of the 25 million people in the US that deal with urinary incontinence due to dysfunctions in the pelvic floor muscles.
What is the pelvic floor? It is a group of muscles located at the bottom of the pelvis that support internal organs, including the bladder, and maintain continence – both fecal and urinary. When these muscles work well, continence is maintained, and there is no pain related to activity or with going to the bathroom. When these muscles are not functioning well, the result is incontinence or pain when coughing, sneezing, laughing, running, or jumping.
Pelvic floor dysfunction has become so common that many women simply consider leakage a natural result of childbirth. They may refrain from activities they once loved, such as running, lifting weights or other forms of high impact exercise. Others may hesitate to start a new exercise program because they are concerned that they may leak, or may have feelings of heaviness in the bladder, or may be concerned that they are damaging themselves. It is important to understand that while these symptoms are very common, they are not normal.
What can be done about this issue? Pelvic floor exercise can be quite helpful, but how often they should be done and how depends on the individual. If a pelvic floor is very weak, one will need to begin exercising while laying down and slowly progress to upright positions. Some pelvic floors are too tight and those individuals should not do kegels until that has resolved. But for someone who only leaks with exercise, try this. Take a deep breath in, and slowly breath out. Pay attention to what your pelvic floor is doing when you breathe in and out. When does it contract? When does it relax? Try to work on contracting your pelvic floor when you breathe out and relaxing your pelvic floor when you breathe in. Why is this pattern so important? When you cough or sneeze, you are forcefully breathing out. You want your pelvic floor to automatically contract during those activities, so you don’t leak. Also, when exercising, you should be breathing out during the most difficult part of your exercise. For example, when you are lifting weights, the most difficult part of the exercise is during the actual lift. You should be breathing out while lifting the weight. You should also be contracting your pelvic floor muscles at this time.
Many people have questions about the function of their pelvic floor. Feel free to contact me, I love questions! I also offer a free 20 minute discovery session at my office in Lee’s Summit, Missouri for those who have more detailed questions about pelvic floor physical therapy.