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- Pelvic floor (video)
Pelvic floor (video)
Your pelvic floor muscles stretch from the bottom of your pelvis and support your bowel and bladder, and your uterus if you’re a woman. Strong pelvic floor muscles also help control urination and bowel movements, normal sexual function, and stability of the abdomen and spine.
Like other muscles, your pelvic floor can become weak. Factors that can contribute to this include age, childbirth, constipation, obesity, chronic cough, heavy lifting, and abdominal or pelvic surgery.
Learn more about:
- How to find your pelvic floor muscles
- Tips for good technique
- How to exercise your pelvic floor muscles (video)
- Seeing a pelvic floor expert
To identify your pelvic floor muscles, try stopping your urine stream for a couple of seconds while emptying your bladder. You use your pelvic floor muscles to do this. Another way is to feel the muscles you use when you imagine stopping the flow of urine and holding in wind. This can be done standing, sitting or lying down.
Poor technique can make pelvic floor exercises ineffective or even risk injury. Remember these points:
- Do not hold your breath.
- Do not tighten your tummy above the belly button. Focus on pulling up and holding onto urine and wind.
- Do not try too hard. You may end up contracting nearby muscles rather than the pelvic floor muscles themselves. Try changing positions if you can’t feel the pelvic floor muscles lifting and squeezing.
How to exercise your pelvic floor muscles
Pelvic floor exercises should be done several times a day. You can be standing, sitting or lying down. You can even do them while watching TV or waiting at traffic lights.
The technique is the same for men and women.
- Start by relaxing all of your pelvic floor and tummy (abdominal) muscles.
- Gently lift your pelvic floor muscles up and hold while you continue breathing normally. Try to hold the contraction for up to 10 seconds. Relax your muscles slowly after each hold.
- Repeat the exercise up to 10 times, with a rest of 10–20 seconds between contractions. Relax your pelvic floor muscles completely during the rest periods.
Seeing a pelvic floor expert
Continence nurses and pelvic floor physiotherapists specialise in pelvic floor exercises. They can assess your pelvic floor function and tailor an exercise program to meet your needs. See a continence nurse or physiotherapist before doing pelvic floor exercises if you:
- have had recent pelvic or abdominal surgery
- have problems with urine or faeces leaking when coughing, sneezing, laughing or exercising
- often need to go to the toilet urgently
- have difficulty controlling bowel movements and wind
- feel like you haven’t fully emptied your bowel after bowel movements
- have dragging, heaviness or a bulge in the vagina
- experience a lack of sensation during sex.
For a list of continence nurses and pelvic floor physiotherapists, search the directory at continence.org.au/service-providers or call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66.
To find out about exercises that place less stress on your pelvic floor, you can download the Pelvic Floor First app from the App Store (Apple) or Google Play (Android). To find out more, see pelvicfloorfirst.org.au.
A/Prof Prue Cormie, Chair, COSA Exercise and Cancer Group, and Principal Research Fellow – Exercise Oncology, Australian Catholic University, NSW; Rebecca Cesnik, Accredited Exercise Physiologist, ACT; Dr Nicolas Hart, Senior Research Fellow, Exercise Medicine Research Institute, Edith Cowan University, and Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Cancer Council WA; Stephanie Lamb, Life Now Project Officer, Cancer Council WA; John Odd, Consumer; Sharni Quinn, Clinical Lead Physiotherapist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Chris Sibthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Jane Turner, Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Concord Cancer Centre, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Click below to download a PDF booklet on this topic.
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