Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pelvic Floor

The pelvic floor is very significant to me in teaching and practicing Pilates. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that resemble a hammock attached to the four corners of the pelvis. These muscles support the internal organs and help stabilize/mobilize the pelvis. The pelvic floor is an integral part of the "Core" or "Powerhouse", from which all Pilates movements are executed. The quality of our sex lives and eliminations are somewhat determined by the health of our pelvic floors.

I have spent a great deal of time lately studying the pelvic floor's anatomy and physiology as well as revisiting the Pilates Method fundamentals and exercises lately. I was prompted by a friend's complaint of leakage she and others were experiencing as well as having a client in her early 40's pregnant for the 2nd time. As a woman in her mid forties, the pelvic floor is an area I must maintain in tone and strength to ward off physical problems that middle age brings: accidental incontinence and loss of intimate sensitivity. Here's some of what I have come to have a deeper understanding of or have discovered...

  • Health issues related to weak pelvic floor (Kegel or PC muscles) include urinary incontinence, rectocele, prolapsed uterus and prolapsed bladder.
  • Younger women experience urinary incontinence pre and post pregnancy.
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction is present in men as well as women. Women suffer from too much flexibility (childbirth and hormonal changes) while men suffer from too little flexibility (tensed pelvic floor from long hours seated or lack of exercise).
  • Women who engage in jumping or bouncing activities such as high impact aerobics or running have high incidents of accidental leaking. Women in Pre Menapause phase may also experience what is termed stress incontinence.
  • Men may experience bladder and bowel issues after prostate or anal surgery. Homosexual men may also have trouble with the anal sphincter portion of the pelvic floor. A weak pelvic floor is a symptom in erectile dysfunction and impotence.
  • Improperly performed abdominal exercise can contribute to the weakening of the pelvic floor. Contracting the abs so they "cinch" or create an hourglass design at the waist creates pressure on the internal organs downward into the pelvis. This movement is contraindicated for pregnant women and counterproductive for everyone else.
  • Women of a certain age have to contend with thinning of the vaginal tissue and loss of genital blood circulation, present in female sexual dysfunction. Strengthening the pelvic floor can prevent a decline in intimacy and pleasure sensation .
All of these problems are treatable. Your doctor or therapist may recommend specific exercises (now referred to as the Kegel exercises). Since there is a low rate of compliance with exercise, they may also prescribe medications and eventually, surgical intervention may be necessary.

Now I have another reason to continue with Pilates! Besides simple exercises, drugs and surgery, there are devices on the market specifically developed to assist strengthening the pelvic floor.

Kegelmaster 2000
This one has a celebrity endorsement by Terri Hatcher. Designed for women.
Pelvic Floor Exerciser This site has an exercise device for men and women.
Both of the before mentioned are created so that your progress is measurable.
F.P. T. (Feminine Personal Trainer) This product is a contoured stainless steel weight.

I don't know about you but any kind of incontinence or diminished sexual activity is to be avoided at all costs. I will be making the investment in time and money to prevent or delay as long as possible these undesirable problems that come along with aging.

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