Po er up your pelvic oor
Have you ever been told to engage your pelvic oor in a Pilates class and had no idea what that actually means? You’re not alone. According to reports, 30% of women are doing Kegel exercises (pelvic exercises devised by American gynaecologist Arnold Kegel in the 1940s) incorrectly. ‘Your pelvic oor is a group of muscles extending from the pubic bone at the front of your body, through to the coccyx your tailbone at the back,’ says Alison Wright, consultant gynaecologist and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists based in the UK. The muscles work almost like a hammock, supporting your organs as well as your bladder, uterus and bowel. If you can stop your wee mid- ow, that’s your pelvic oor working and, likewise, when you hold in wind at an inopportune moment (come on, we’ve all been there), that’s your pelvic oor, too. such as stress urinary incontinence, while pregnancy and childbirth play a vital role, too. ‘The weight of the baby sits on your pelvic oor muscles, and this has an impact after childbirth, even if you have a caesarean,’ says London-based women’s health physiotherapist (aka pelvic oor specialist) Louise Rahmanou. And, sadly, your super healthy exercise routine could also affect your pelvic oor. ‘ High-impact sports such as running, skipping and weight-lifting can cause the muscles to weaken,’ says Louise. You could use specialist products such as Elvie, or you can try this routine three times a day (so easy, you can do it in the Woolworths queue). ‘Squeeze and lift your pelvic oor for 10 seconds,’ says Louise. ‘It should feel like you’re stopping yourself from doing a wee. You shouldn’t be squeezing your buttocks together, and you shouldn’t feel anything pushing down. Relax for four seconds to give the muscles a chance to recover, then repeat 10 times. Next, do 10 squeezes in quick succession. These are pulses that help your pelvic oor to kick in quickly when you laugh or cough.’
Suffer from backache? That’s another reason to work on your pelvic oor. The muscles support your coccyx and when strengthened, they stop you slumping, taking pressure off the lower back. That said, ‘ having a very tight, or hypertonic, pelvic oor can lead to chronic pain and problems with bladder emptying,’ says Louise. ‘This can lead to incomplete bladder emptying which, in turn, causes recurring bladder infections.’ So, the upshot? It’s just as important to relax those muscles as it is to tighten them.