The Pelvic Floor: Defined
The term pelvic floor is certainly becoming more mainstream. The Today Show even gave “the pelvic floor” 10 minutes worth of air time last week. But, do you really understand your pelvic floor and how amazing it is.
The pelvic floor commonly refers to a group of muscles that collectively span from your pubic bone to tailbone and from the left sit bone to the right. These muscles provide SUPPORT for your pelvic organs. They are SPHINCTERIC in that they help to close off the openings of the urethra, vagina and anus. They act a bit like a SUMP pump as fluid is moved around through their contraction and relaxation. And last but not least they have the ability to enhance or detract from SEXUAL experiences. Consider yourself introduced to the 4 S’s of the pelvic floor muscles. Now, let's take a deeper dive.
SUPPORT- The pelvic floor muscles and its supporting fascia provides support for the pelvic organs. In ideal conditions this support is like a gentle hug the majority of the time and can increase a bit (running) or ease a bit (pooping). A happy pelvic floor is a dynamic pelvic floor:)
SPHINCTERIC - The pelvic floor muscles along with internal sphincters (think reflexes outside of our direct control) contribute to the closing of the the openings of the urethra (where the pee comes from), vagina and anus. This is great news! We can train these muscles, bulk them up and improve their closing action. Now don’t go boosting your daily kegel reps all willy nilly. Not all pee and poop leaks are from weak pelvic floor muscles. Your best bet is to participate in a comprehensive pelvic floor muscle exam with your friendly, neighborhood, board certified women’s health physical therapist.
SUMP pump - When we contract and relax our pelvic floor muscles this pumping action has the potential to reduce swelling or congestion in our pelvic cavity. Next time you are doing your ankle pumps on a plane ride because your feet are getting puffy, consider showing your pelvis some love and pump your pelvic floor muscles too.
SEXUAL - Through fascial connections the pelvic floor muscles attach to the erectile network. In people with vulvas and vaginas, strong pelvic floor muscles have the potential to tug more (in a good way) on these sensitive tissues. So, in the simplest equation: stronger pelvic floor muscles + pelvic floor muscles that also have the capacity to relax = better, more powerful orgasms. Now we all know that sex, especially partnered sex is much more complex so the equation above is not the be all and end all. Factors like relationship dynamics, technique, lubrication (and the list could go on forever) are all important.
Cool, now you know where the pelvic floor muscles are and what they do. How to get them working? Start by taking a nice deep breath. Can you appreciate how these muscles move to accept your breath? Notice how they move as you exhale. Simply taking the time to breathe and feel these movements is a great place to start. If it makes sense for your body, you can then start to incorporate pelvic floor muscle contractions, commonly known as kegels. There are many ways to do this exercise but this is where I start most clients that are new to it.
Find a comfortable position lying on your side or back and feel your breath for a few moments.
Inhale through your nose, feel a gentle expansion through your pelvic floor muscles. As you exhale through your mouth, imagine that you are gently closing your vagina around a bean and pulling it into your body. Another good visual for men and women (use your imagination) is to shorten your penis as you exhale.
Fully relax before the next close and lift.
Repeat as you see fit or as recommended by your qualified health care professional.
Loving this information but not sure how it applies to you, or not sure where to start? I highly recommend an evaluation from a physical therapist that is specially trained in assessing the pelvic floor. You can find a qualified professional here.
Thanks for reading and send some love to your pelvic floor muscles today, they deserve it.