Pelvic floor explained

Kate Fosdike

The pelvic floor muscles sit underneath your pelvis and run from your pubic bone at the front to your tail bone at the back, forming a sling or hammock that supports your pelvic organs (bladder, bowel and uterus).

The pelvic floor muscles also wrap around your bladder passage, vagina and back passage, and strong, correctly functioning pelvic floor muscles help to prevent leakage of urine by squeezing the bladder passage shut during exertion.

Weak muscles

There are many things that can contribute to weakness of the pelvic floor muscles including: pregnancy, childbirth, chronic coughing/sneezing, constipation, repetitive heavy lifting, menopause, old age, inactivity, overactivity and obesity.

Overactive muscles

Contrary to popular belief, many women also have problems with overactive (tense) pelvic floor muscles. Some of the causes include lifestyle stress, overtraining and previous injury to the lower back, pelvis or pelvic floor.

An overactive pelvic floor can be problematic, resulting in painful sexual intercourse, constipation, bladder problems and back pain!

Pelvic floor exercises

There is little doubt that everyone would benefit from doing regular pelvic floor exercises to keep these muscles strong and functioning well, however, it is vital that they are done correctly. Incorrect technique can actually make the muscles weaker or too tense and painful!

Research has demonstrated that as many as 30-40% of people that had taught themselves how to do PFM exercises were doing them wrong.

Where to seek help

Most people can improve their pelvic floor muscle function by consulting a physiotherapist with postgraduate training in continence and women’s health. The physiotherapist will thoroughly assess your pelvic floor muscles, develop a tailored pelvic floor muscle exercise program for you, and address and specific goals that you may have.