Your pelvis does so much for you, and much of the time, asks for very little in return. How can you give your pelvis and pelvic floor muscles a little more appreciation and attention? Read along to see a few of the many ways that you can love your pelvic floor.
1. Give your pelvic muscles a squeeze!
When you contract your pelvic floor muscles (the ones that help you hold back gas or stop the flow of urine) you can protect against the forces created by a blasto sneeze or a strong cough. Think of this as good body mechanics for the pelvis! Similarly, if you are lifting something heavy, giving the pelvic floor muscles a gentle squeeze can help counteract the pressures from the strain of lifting.
2. Stop holding in your gut!
Did you know that when many people tighten their abdominal wall, other muscles like the pelvic floor can tighten too? Sucking in your gut unnaturally and for long periods can create too much tension and create soreness in your muscles from all of that clenching. This situation can make it difficult for the pelvic floor muscles to contract when you really need them, or rest and recover.
3. Go for a walk!
You don’t have to do high-intensity workouts to have many of the benefits of exercise. Moving your body by going for a walk gets your limbs, trunk and pelvis moving, your heart pumping, and keeps your pelvic floor active. Just about any exercise that you participate in will get your pelvic floor going, especially total body exercises like swimming, hiking, playing soccer or tennis.
4. Don’t push when you pee!
Emptying your bladder should not require much effort from you. When you pee, your pelvic floor muscles are supposed to relax, and the muscles surrounding your bladder are the ones doing the squeezing. If you are pushing to pee, there might be too much tension in your pelvic floor or you might be in too much of a hurry! Slow down a little, breathe, and let it flow.
5. Don’t strain when you poo!
Let your pelvic floor muscles relax when you have a bowel movement too. Just like when you empty your bladder, the lengthening and relaxing of the pelvic muscles helps the body empty during a bowel movement. A little effort with a bowel movement is ok, but straining for long periods of time or with outrageous efforts can harm your pelvic floor muscles.
6. Sit down on the toilet!
If you are hovering over the toilet, your pelvic floor muscles will not relax. See #4 and #5 for why this is important. If you *hate* public bathrooms, pack some travel size toilet seat covers in your car or purse, and use them if it helps you sit down. If you are accustomed to squatting or find that your legs dangle when sitting on a toilet, try using a small foot stool. Your pelvic floor will thank you.
7. If it hurts, get help.
If your pelvic floor muscles hurt when you try to tighten them, sit, have sex, when you are toiling, or during any other activity, talk to a healthcare provider. Getting a referral to a pelvic rehabilitation provider may be the first step in easing your pain. Although these issues may seem tough to talk about, rest assured that others area dealing with these same issues, and that you deserve to have any concerns heard.
8. Check things out “down there.”
How are you going to know what your genital area is supposed to look like if you’ve never checked it out? Use a mirror and see what your tissues look like. See what your pelvic floor muscles do during a contraction and relaxation! If you have questions, ask a healthcare provider for more information about what you see and what is normal for you.
9. Stop calling it “down there.”
One of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves and for our loved ones is to stop calling our body parts cutesy, strange names or avoiding using the anatomy terms out of embarrassed or because that’s what we were raised believing it should be called. Your pelvic floor muscles, vagina, or testicles are amazing parts of your body with really cool jobs, and deserve to be properly recognized.
10. Wear clothes that feel good.
If you aren’t comfortable or can’t move well because of the clothes you are wearing, or if you simply don’t like how you feel, try changing things up! Some folks like boxers, some like briefs, maybe it’s thong versus granny panties. Do jeans feel restrictive or skirts feel best? Wear what feels comfortable, and choose fabrics that allow your body to feel good.
11. Drink plenty of water.
Your body feels best when you are properly hydrated and when you are eliminating with ease. If you are dehydrated, your bladder can get irritated, or bowel movements can be painful to your pelvic floor. Keep some fresh water nearby and keep reaching for it!
12. Have more sex.
Healthy sex keeps the pelvic floor muscles active, in addition to other terrific benefits to the body and soul. Whether you are having sex with others or solo, sexual activity can be a great part of a pelvic health regimen. If you would like to learn more about your sexuality, finding a sex therapist or counselor can be of great benefit.
13. Buy some new underwear.
You read that right- some new underwear. While they may not directly impact your pelvic floor muscles, when you put on some well-fitting underwear that still retracts after being stretched, life feels a little bit better. Choose some in your favorite color, or that make you smile when you pull them on- remember Underoos and the power of the underclothes?
14. Find a pelvic health expert who lives nearby.
This last one is really important. When you feel confident that you are doing the right stretches, performing your Kegels correctly, or have a qualified person to help ease your aches, you’ve got a lifeline to some really intimate and valuable care. Even if you don’t need pelvic rehab today, keep in mind that at any age you or a loved one may benefit from expert care.