Article by Sinead Boyle, Physiotherapist at Cosmetech
WHAT IS THE PELVIC FLOOR?
There has been a lot of recent media attention into the pelvic floor muscles, changes in surgical techniques and Physiotherapy input. The pelvic floor is a hidden gem of a muscle that is underestimated and often overlooked by us all however it is crucial for daily activity and function. The Pelvic floor muscles are arranged like a hammock or sling that attach to the tailbone at the base of the spine and stretch forward and attach to the pubic bone at the front. They provide support to the pelvic organs such as the bladder, bowel, uterus and vagina. The pelvic floor is just like any other muscle- is must be able to contract and relax in order to complete a function. One of these functions is to control our bladder and bowel movements. When this muscle does not contract or relax correctly it starts to become dysfunctional and cause symptoms such as:
- Chronic back pain
- Feeling of heaviness or bulge internally
- Difficulty/ straining with emptying bladder and bowels
- Sexual dysfunction
- Pelvic girdle pain
The NHS estimates that between 3 and 6 million people in the UKhave some degree of urinary incontinence.
Estimates suggest that approximately 3.5 million women have urinary incontinence in the UK. In general, urinary incontinence is two to three times as common in women as in men.*
In another study only 17% of patients affected with a form of incontinence had sought professional help, the perception being that incontinence was a natural part of the ageing process.**
This is not the case- do not suffer in silence or think that this is an acceptable way to live your life.
Come and be assessed and advised by a local Women’s Health Physiotherapist.
5 MYTHS SURROUNDING THE PELVIC FLOOR
1. Your pelvic floor is always weak and needs constant strengthening
No! A proper assessment by a Women’s Health Physiotherapist will let you know how strong your pelvic floor is and what you need to do to increase or preserve the strength. Often we are completing pelvic floor exercises incorrectly, over-using the tummy muscles so the pelvic floor cannot get involved at all or that we are holding our breath. The next time you try your pelvic floor exercises- check you breathing- you should not be holding your breath. An overactive tight pelvic floor is as impacting on the system as a weak one- but there are solutions and rehab programmes for both so don’t delay!
2.Incontinence only affects pregnant women or older women
We are seeing an increase in the amount of active young people, including cross-fit competitors, swimmers, hockey players etc. attending the clinic with pelvic floor dysfunction causing a range of symptoms mentioned above. This is showing that everyone is more open to talking about the pelvic floor and taking away the taboo.
3.Stopping the flow of urine is a good way to exercise your pelvic floor
On a once off occasion to self-assess your urinary control this may be advised however not repetitively as it sends mis-match signals to the pelvic floor muscles which are meant to be relaxing when passing urine. This is a poor training pattern to get involved with and just like any other muscle- if we train the hamstrings incorrectly we get an injury and the leg cannot function properly- same as with the Pelvic floor.
4.It is safer to use the toilet ‘just in case’ before leaving the house
This causes the bladder and surrounding muscles to not work to their correct potential- our bladders can on average hold up to 400 ml of fluid- use it, don’t lose it! This pattern of behaviour also initiates a psychological issue with bathroom habits before leaving the house. It is often something that we are trained to do from an early age by our parents- ‘use the toilet before we go in the car’ etc.
5.Strong tummy muscles/core muscles = strong pelvic floor
Not always- often we see ladies of all ages, children or not, who are extremely fit and active however would experience leakage when at the gym/ out running or the dreaded trampoline! Teaching how to do pelvic floor exercises properly and use of biofeedback can re-train the muscles to work efficiently and correctly.
With it being Pelvic Pain Awareness month why not book in and see your Women’s Health Physiotherapist for an assessment and informative session.
Call today and arrange to speak with a Women’s Health Physiotherapist at Cosmetech: 02890423200.
Sinead Boyle, Physiotherapist at Cosmetech.
Sinead graduated with her Physiotherapy MSc in 2013 after studying in Manchester and Galway. She completed her core rotations in the NHS developing skills in areas of respiratory, neurology, orthopaedics and musculoskeletal injuries. In 2013 she undertook training with the Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute (APPI) enabling her to become a Physiotherapist teaching Pilates to a wide range of clients from beginners to advanced level as well as developing an interest in women’s heath with her ante and post-natal groups. Her personal experience of the benefits of Pilates-based rehabilitation programmes following sporting injuries ensures she can transfer this knowledge and skills to her clients.
Sinead has completed many post-graduate CPD courses including kinesoptaping, Pilates and and acupuncture. She developed a specialised interest in Women’s Health Physiotherapy following a sporting injury and has completed courses in Real time ultrasound, Pelvic pain (Dr. Ruth Jones), PelviPower Chair and Biofeedback (Pontemed) alongside study evenings and national conferences run by the Pelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy (POGP). Most recently she has completed the Mummy MOT (Maria Elliot) course offering a tailored post-natal assessment and rehabilitation programme to all mums no matter what age to ensure a safe return to activity and function. She is a member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and an affiliate member of thePelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy (POGP). She was proud to have been selected for a training scholarship by PINC and STEEL Cancer Rehabilitation Trust which is due to complete shortly. She has a wide variety of musculoskeletal experience and continues to work with sports teams at various levels of competition.
She is currently working within a small unique multi-disciplinary team in the Pelvic Health clinic in Maypole, Hollywood offering Women’s Health Physiotherapy assessment and treatments for a variety of patients experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction, incontinence and pelvic pain among other conditions.
*(Cook K et al; Urinary Incontinence in the Older Adult, American College of Clinical Pharmacy, 2012)
**(Cooper J, Annappa M, Quigley A, et al; Prim Health Care Res Dev. 2015 Jul16)