Busting myths about pelvic floor exercises
1. You can learn how to do pelvic floor exercises from the internet or by reading a brochure
Research shows that 50% of women perform pelvic floor muscle exercises incorrectly with only verbal instructions. Clinically we also see that women can perform pelvic floor exercises much more effectively with the right guidance from a pelvic floor physiotherapist.
2. I do Pilates so I already know how to do pelvic floor exercises
While Pilates can be helpful for some women, it does not necessarily teach you the optimal way to activate your pelvic floor and many women can be performing pelvic floor muscles exercises incorrectly. In some cases Pilates may not actually be the most appropriate exercise for your pelvic floor. In fact it can worsen symptoms for some women. Your women’s health physiotherapist can help you learn pelvic floor exercises effectively and work out which form of exercise is best for you.
3. Pelvic floor muscle exercises are easy
Learning how to do pelvic floor exercises correctly is often initially very difficult. The pelvic floor muscles are inside your pelvis, you cannot easily see the muscles working. It takes time and practice to become proficient with them, just like anything new you are learning to do. A pelvic floor physiotherapist can help you learn and give you real-time feedback so that you can keep improving!
4. Everyone that has incontinence needs to strengthen their pelvic floor
Many people that experience incontinence have weak pelvic floor muscles and they do need to strengthen these muscles, however some people have muscles that are too tight or overactive to work properly which can also cause incontinence. People with overactive pelvic floor muscles need to learn how to relax the muscles first. Your pelvic floor physiotherapist can help identify what you need to do.
5. Pelvic floor exercises do not work
There is strong evidence that pelvic floor muscle exercises are effective in improving stress incontinence, urge incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. If pelvic floor muscle exercises have not worked, you may not be performing them correctly, you may not be exercising them regularly enough or other management strategies may be required in conjunction with pelvic floor exercises.
6. You can do pelvic floor exercises by stopping the flow of urine midstream.
Women commonly think this is a good way to exercise the pelvic floor, however, this can lead to the bladder not emptying properly and may increase the risk of urinary tract infections. Additionally, stopping the flow of urine a few times a day is unlikely to be enough to improve your pelvic floor muscles. Stopping the flow can be one way to help you identify the pelvic floor muscles on one or two occasions overall, but it should not be used as a regular form of exercise.
7. I am pregnant, strengthening my pelvic floor might make birth more difficult
Research shows having strong pelvic floor muscles does not increase the difficulty of birth or increase the risk of any associated complications. Having a pelvic floor muscle that is able to effectively contract and relax is important for everyone.
8. My pelvic floor muscles have been too damaged from childbirth, there is no point in pelvic floor exercises
Pelvic floor muscle injuries can be rehabilitated with the right training in most cases, just like you can recover from any other injury in the body. Research shows pelvic floor exercises postnatally can improve pelvic floor function and reduce leakage, even after a more difficult birth.
9. I am too old for pelvic floor exercises
Pelvic floor exercises can benefit anyone of any age. Research has clearly shown elderly people can reduce incontinence and prolapse symptoms with pelvic floor training as much as younger people can.
10. Men do not have pelvic floor muscles
Men certainly do have pelvic floor muscles! Pelvic floor exercises may help men with incontinence after prostate surgery or with erectile dysfunction.
Written by Leanne Slater.
Leanne is a Women’s Health Physiotherapist in North Adelaide and Payneham. Leanne helps people everyday with better managing their pelvic floor health.