Keeping your pelvic muscles strong and healthy, is a great way to help prevent or manage incontinence. The best way to do this, like training any muscle in the body is through repetitive exercise.
What are pelvic floor muscles?
The floor of the pelvis is made up of layers of muscle and tissue. These layers stretch like a hammock from the tailbone at the back, to the pubic bone in front. A woman’s pelvic muscles are used to support her bladder, uterus and bowel. Your pelvic floor muscles help you control your bladder, bowel and sexual function, therefore it is crucial that you keep these muscles strong.
Where are my pelvic floor muscles?
Before you can train and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, you need to know exactly where they are. Follow these 3 steps below, to help you find your pelvic floor muscles.
1. Sit or lie down, ensuring your thigh, buttocks and stomach muscles are completely relaxed.
2. Squeeze the ring of muscle around the back passage, as if you are trying to stop wind. Now relax this muscle. Squeeze and let go a couple of times until you are sure you have found the right muscles. Try not to squeeze your buttocks.
3. When sitting on the toilet to empty your bladder, try to stop the stream of urine, then start it again. Do this to learn which muscles are the right ones to use – but only once a week. Your bladder may not empty the way it should if you stop and start your stream more often than that.
If you are unable to feel a distinct squeeze and lift of your pelvic floor muscles, or you are unable to slow your stream of urine as spoken about above, ask for help from your doctor, physiotherapist or continence nurse. They will be best positioned to help you get your pelvic muscles working correctly.
Pelvic Muscle exercises
Now that you have your pelvic muscles working, you can follow the exercises below to help strengthen your pelvic muscles:
1. Squeeze and draw in the muscles around your back passage and your vagina at the same time. Lift them UP inside. You should have a sense of “lift” each time you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles. Try to hold them strong and tight as you count to 8. Now, let them go and relax. You should have a distinct feeling of “letting go”.
2. Repeat the “squeeze and lift” and let go. It is best to rest for about 8 seconds in between each lift up of the muscles. If you can’t hold for 8 seconds, just hold for as long as you can.
3. Repeat this “squeeze and lift” as many times as you can, up to a limit of 8 to 12 squeezes.
4. Aim to do three sets of 8-12 squeezes each, with a rest in between.
Continue with this training plan (three sets of 8-12 squeezes) each day while lying down, sitting or standing. Tips and key things to remember:
• Keep breathing
• Only squeeze and lift
• Do not tighten your buttocks
• Keep your thighs relaxed
Like any exercise program, they are most effective if individually tailored and monitored. The above exercises are only a guide and may not be of assistance if done incorrectly.
If you would like to have a tailored pelvic floor exercise program, please visit a physiotherapist specialized in pelvic floor muscle exercises. They are most capable in assessing your pelvic floor function and tailoring an exercise program to meet your specific needs.
For a list of continence and women’s health or pelvic floor physiotherapists, visit the Australian Physiotherapy Association or call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66.

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