Most women think they know how to do Kegel exercises properly, but effective activation of the pelvic floor is more than just squeezing these often difficult to find muscles. Now there is a program that can help women gain a better understanding about these muscles and how they work. PFilates, or Pelvic Floor Pilates, combines medical research with exercise to help women realize that “pelvic floor health is a fitness issue.”
The scientifically researched exercises taught in PFilates were developed by Dr. Bruce Crawford, a urogynecologist from Reno, Nevada, using surface EMG recordings to determine which exercises were the most effective in recruiting the pelvic floor, transversus abdominus, adductor group and gluteals. These muscles all work together in concert to provide support of the pelvic organs and restore pelvic health.
The pelvic floor is a set of muscles that spread across the bottom of the pelvic cavity like a hammock.
The functions of the pelvic floor include:
- Support of the pelvic organs, specifically the uterus, the bladder and the rectum.
- Provide sphincter control for the bladder and bowels.
- Withstand increases in pressure that occur in the abdomen such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, straining, and lifting.
- Provide posture and stabilization of the spine and pelvis.
What are the consequences of a weak pelvic floor?
When we age, the pelvic floor muscles may begin to sag and weaken. Many conditions can stress the pelvic floor including:
- Pregnancy-related changes in the body.
- Heavy straining during childbirth.
- Damage to the pelvic floor sustained during childbirth.
- Repeated straining during bowel movements while constipated or with chronic coughing.
- Repetitive heavy lifting.
- Weakening of pelvic floor muscles (atrophy) due to hormonal changes.
Weak pelvic floor muscles can result in pelvic organ prolapse (POP). Prolapse can occur to your bladder, urethra, uterus, rectum, intestines, and vagina. Other consequences of a weak pelvic floor include involuntary leakage of urine or fecal matter. Risk factors for developing POP include pregnancy, aging, being deconditioned, obesity, chronic constipation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or eating disorders. Weakness can also result in overactive bladder (OAB), which is defined as urgency, with or without incontinence, usually associated with frequency and nighttime voiding.
The PFilates program consists of ten movements presented in three different levels. Each of the PFilates movements includes a series of repetitions followed by a hold phase and a pulse phase at the point of peak engagement of the pelvic floor. As such, these movements encourage the development of the three essential elements of neuromuscular performance: strength, endurance, and coordination.
PFilates is intended to be preventative but also a therapeutic alternative for those already experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction. For patients that have already had surgery, PFilates can help protect and reduce the chance for recurrent symptoms.
Allison Kares is the owner of Movement Unlimited Inc., a Certified Pilates Instructor and an instructor trainer for the PFilates program. Allison has over 25 years experience teaching fitness and rehabilitation exercise programs for men and women of all ages and abilities. For more information about therapeutic training, pelvic floor training or to experience a Pilates session at Movement Unlimited Inc, visit our website at http://www.movementunlimitedinc.com.