The pelvic floor muscles (PFM) wrap underneath our pelvis, like a hammock, to support our pelvic organs, close the openings to prevent leaking, and act as part of our deep core. They are made up of skeletal muscle, which means we have voluntary control over them. We can control these muscles just like every other muscle in our body. And yes, men have a pelvic floor too!
The demand put on these muscles varies depending on our activity. Our bodies are so complex that normally this is not something we have to think about. Just like we automatically adjust our mechanics and muscle activation to lift a 30-lbs box (as opposed to a pen off of the ground), our pelvic floor muscles automatically adjust to the demand we put on them. One of the greatest demands on the pelvic floor is high-impact exercise; including running and jumping.
The PFMs also work in conjunction with our transverse abdominis (deep abdominal muscle), spine/lumbar paraspinals (back muscles), and diaphragm (breathing muscle) to make up the four walls of the core. Our core works to protect the joints of our back, pelvis, and the abdominal muscles. Our core also helps to distribute the forces of increased intra-abdominal pressure as pressure shifts with our breath during exercise.
The Two Most Important Important Things To Be Aware Of
- Body position and a neutral spine ensuring that your joints are stacked one on top of the other (think about how we say, “bend with your knees, not with your back)
- Breathing; always remember to breathe and not hold your breath!
Here’s How You Know Your PFM Are NOT Strong Enough
- Leaking urine or stool (i.e. drops, stream, total loss of control)
- Feeling heavy pressure at the vaginal or anal opening
- Difficulty keeping tampons inside the vagina
Additional Warning Signs
- Urinary or bowel urgency
- Pain in the hips, lower back or pelvis
- Pain in the abdomen
- Difficulty voiding or defecating after exercise
If you notice the warning signs of a weak pelvic floor, you can benefit from certain exercises aimed at strengthening your pelvic floor and deep core. If you are noticing the other warning signs of pelvic floor dysfunction, you may want to talk to your doctor, physical therapist, or pelvic health specialist.
The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of your physician or licensed health care provider. You should consult your physician or licensed health care provider before engaging in any exercise activity described in this article to determine if it is right for your needs.