The pelvic floor is made up of a series of muscles that support the lower abdomen as a protective and flexible arch, which provides the necessary support to the bladder, uterus and intestine. Through the pelvic floor the exit ducts to the outside of these three organs pass. If these muscles are not strong or are not trained , what is known as pelvic floor dysfunction appears, which includes urinary and anal incontinence , sexual dysfunction and pelvic pain. All of this directly influences the quality of life of the affected woman and her relationships.
To strengthen these muscles, there are Kegel exercises, which are based on repeatedly contracting and relaxing the pubococcygeus muscle, in order to increase its strength and resistance , and thus prevent or avoid problems related to this area. The improvement is not immediate, and persistence is the key, but these exercises can help prevent these discomforts, reduce them and even eliminate them. It is recommended to start with them from the age of 40 and with a higher incidence in menopause .
WHAT IS THE PELVIC FLOOR AND HOW CAN I STRENGTHEN IT
The pelvic floor is a system of muscles and ligaments that close the lower part of the abdomen, keeping the bladder, uterus and anus in the correct position and in suspension, against the force of gravity. The weakening of these muscles causes one or more of the following disorders: stress urinary incontinence, prolapse or fall of the intra-abdominal organs (bladder and uterus) and / or sexual dysfunctions.
PREGNANCIES AND THE PASSAGE OF TIME SPOIL THE PELVIS
To strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, it is recommended that any woman, especially from 40 years of age and especially during menopause, perform the so-called Kegel exercises. They are a series of exercises devised by Dr. Arnold Kegel to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. There are several ways to perform them but all are based on contracting and relaxing the pubococcygeus muscle in order to increase its strength and resistance , thus helping in the prevention and treatment of problems derived from its weakness. This muscle has a nerve connection that reaches the pelvic nerve and a branch that connects the uterus and the woman’s bladder. If it is strong it will help to keep the organs in their natural position.
WHEN CAN I DO IT AND WHAT BENEFITS DO I GET?
Any age is good to strengthen this part of the body, especially after 40 years and at the beginning of menopause . If you already suffer from urinary incontinence, no problem, you will see that with time you can improve the symptoms or eliminate them completely.
Kegel exercises can be done whenever and wherever you want because no one will notice you are doing it. Introduce them into your usual day-to-day activities. It is usually easier if you are sitting or lying down. It is important to do these exercises regularly throughout your life. The times indicated are variable , they can be done, for example, twice a day for five minutes; or four times a day, holding on for five seconds instead of four. It is recommended that, between contraction and relaxation of the muscle, this activity does not occupy more than 10 minutes a day.
The benefits of this practice are applicable at any age, in addition to preventing and treating urinary incontinence, it helps to rekindle female sexual desire, increases the ability to feel and have orgasms, and promotes labor . After four to six weeks you start to see the benefits, but it can take up to three months to notice the change.
LOCATE THE PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES
The easiest way to recognize the perineal muscle is by stopping urination at intervals. If you manage to do it, even partially, you will notice which muscles are involved. Sitting down, she tries to stop the urine and lets it flow again without moving her legs. If you can do it effortlessly, you have strong pelvic muscles.
This practice should only be done to know the muscles involved, it is not an exercise as such, as it can cause urinary infections. Another option is to insert a clean finger into the vagina and try to squeeze it. If you notice any muscle movement, you have located it.
– Empty the bladder before starting the exercises.
– Begin by contracting your muscles for four seconds. And then completely relax the muscle for another four seconds .
DO EXERCISES TO STRENGTHEN YOUR PELVIC FLOOR
– Avoid holding your breath or squeezing your chest while doing Kegels. Focus only on the muscles you are working on .
– If while you are doing them you notice back pain or discomfort in the abdomen, it means that you are contracting your abs, back, thighs or buttocks.
– It is important that you know that trying to speed up the process by increasing the number of repetitions or the frequency, will only cause muscle fatigue and increase urine leakage .
Until you have mastered the technique, it is preferable that you lie comfortably on your back with your feet on the ground and your knees bent. Do not leave a hole in the lower back. Some practical examples :
1. The slow
Squeeze the muscles like when you try to stop the urine, pulling them up. Contract them and hold them that way for a count of 5 by breathing gently. Then relax them for 5 more seconds, and repeat the series 10 times. Try to progressively increase the time of contraction and relaxation . Start for 5 seconds in each case until you reach 20.
2. The fast
Squeeze and relax your muscles as quickly as you can until you get tired or about 2-3 minutes (whichever comes first). Start with 10 repetitions four times a day until you reach 50 repetitions daily.
3. The elevator
It consists of carrying out the muscular contraction in stages , making 5 small contractions upwards and another 5 downwards (never more than 5), holding a second in each “floor” or stage. It starts by going up the elevator gently for each floor and when going down it performs the same operation. At the end try to get to the “basement”, pushing the pelvic muscles down for a few seconds (just as if you were in labor). Finally, try to completely relax your muscles for a few seconds.
4. The wave
It’s about contracting these muscles from front to back and relaxing them from back to front. Some pelvic floor muscles are arranged in the shape of an eight, but with three rings. One ring is placed around the urethra, another around the vagina, and the last around the anus . Contract these muscles from front to back and relax them from back to front.
At first, when you do the slow exercise, you may notice that the muscles do not want to stay contracted. It is also possible that you get tired quickly with the fast. But if you persevere, you will see that in a few days they will not involve any effort . And remember muscle that is not used atrophies.