Men don't have pelvic floors, that's what women have!
Many years ago I had a guy referred to me for Pilates from a local Spinal Specialist. He was clearly dubious about coming and didn't know anything about Pilates. So we got started and as always I talked about what muscles we would be working and looking to improve to help with his back pain and that included the Pelvic Floor.
He was quite insistent that he didn't have a pelvic floor, that's just for women. When I pointed out that incontinence pads are like nappies and you get boy ones as well as girl ones he was quite put out! Sadly we just had the one session, he wasn't a convert. However, the pelvic floor is pretty vital for all of us and more importantly it can also help support your back and in our Pilates classes it's always part of the muscular recruitment process for each exercise.
I had a C Section, mine's ok.
Hit the menopause and that collagen body stocking we've had for years starts to go. We lose that lovely elasticity and we lose muscle tone too, use it or lose it...literally.
So regardless of if you have had children, none at all, pushed 10lbs through or had a C section it matters not one jot! Once we are no longer capable of reproducing our body changes and we ignore it at our peril.
So how can it help with back pain?
It's all part of our amazing muscular system that supports our skeletal system. It all works well when each part is toned. Your pelvic floor plays a vital role in creating intra abdominal pressure that literally 'lifts the spine off itself'. Sounds barmy? Not really.
If you consider the cylinder that is your torso, the pelvic floor sits at the bottom. It stops the world from falling out of your bottom! Add the buttock muscles, the abdominal wall, the back muscles and the diaphragm, it all creates a lovely support structure for your spine and intervertebral discs.
Any weak link in that chain leaves you vulnerable to injuries. Especially if you have the kind of job where you are sitting for hours, muscles switch off. Some slacken with poor posture, others tighten up when held in the same position for long periods of time.
Or maybe your job is more physical. Again a weakened support system will rely on the stronger elements to try to keep going, but one day it will become too overloaded and it will make you stop and take notice.
How can I strengthen it?
With very simple exercises. For women... after you have had a pee, wiggle forward until you can feel the hard loo seat against your 'front bottom'..hee hee I love that expression! That was from a client I was teaching, she couldn't work out which bit she needed to feel..this sums it up well. Don't stop a pee..well maybe once a year to test how good you are. You could send infection back up the tubes.
So to be quite graphic..its where you pee, its where the tampons go in, it where the penis goes in. Then squeeze and lift right there.
For men..lift the crown jewels! When I first worked with the Northants Cricket squad I wasn't to sure how to cue for guys, so I asked the physio and this was his suggestion. It has more benefits too for guys, but let's keep it clean! Or imagine walking into the sea when its cold! As you walk further out the crown jewels will start to pull up and in.
Once you have found even the slightly glimmer of a contraction, hold it for a slow count of 10, then release. Do that 10 times. Then do a quick snatch and grab lift too, 10 times, every day. Then build it into your day. I have some suggestions further down.
You might not feel anything to start with. it might take WEEKS before you do. But truly don't give up.
This is not a one minute wonder, you do have to put the effort and time in but the rewards are worth it.
You can do them anywhere! Standing in the queue at the supermarket, see how many items they can scan whilst you hold the contraction.
The long term benefits are worth the effort, you won't be spending your pension on incontinence pads!
You can keep jumping on a trampoline without worrying. Even run without leaking. All of these are common in younger and younger people. But its easily fixed.
However as I said earlier, you do have to put the time in, you cannot pay someone else to do it like your cleaning or your ironing. Some of you might need specialist help and that's not always easy to find.
Don't expect fast results, it can take up to 3 months to see significant improvement, but the results are totally worth it.
You can over do it, so make sure you fully let go after your contraction.
Karen Grinter, Mum, Pilates Teacher, Back Pain and Exercise Specialist, Business Owner and Millie's Owner!
"Pilates in my practice is mainstream, and Northants Pilates is a first class outfit that I wholeheartedly endorse."
Mr Nick Birch, Consultant Spinal Surgeon