Most women start trying to do pelvic floor exercises without understanding anything about where these muscles are and what they do.
A small amount of knowledge about your anatomy can help you to appreciate where your pelvic floor muscles are placed. This will be really helpful if you want to assess your own muscles and devise a treatment plan.
As pelvic floor muscles cannot be seen from the outside like many other muscles in the body it can be very difficult to visualise where they are.
If you imagine you are sitting on a bike the area of your body that is in contact with the saddle is the ‘pelvic floor region’.
The base or the ‘floor’ of the pelvis is made up of both muscles and ligaments. If you hold both your hands out together palm upwards this looks very much like the basin shape of your pelvic floor.
Pelvic floor muscles and ligaments that are strong work to hold your bladder, womb and bowel in a well-supported position. When these ligaments and muscles become stretched and weakened they do not provide that necessary support.
The two most common symptoms you can experience when this happens are prolapse and stress incontinence.
Prolapse means your bladder, womb or bowel press or sag down. This bulging can often be seen from the outside and may be worse if you have been on your feet all day. Some women say a prolapse feels like a tampon that has fallen out of place.
Stress incontinence is when urine leaks if you cough or sneeze. The leaks are often small but it can depend how much urine is in your bladder when you sneeze. Stress Incontinence can occur when running, jumping or even walking down hills.
The Pelvic Floor Muscle Layers
There are 2 pelvic floor muscle layers;
1. The deep muscles
The first part of this muscle is often described as a sling that sits underneath the pelvis. It would follow the line of a pair of G – string panties as they pass underneath your body between your legs.
This section of muscle originates just behind the pubic bone at the front and sends muscle fibres backwards to form loops around the following structures;
- the urethra (this is the tube that urine passes down when leaving the body)
- the vagina
- the back passage
As the pelvic floor muscle tightens it closes the openings and lifts the urethra, vagina and back passage upwards and forwards towards the pubic bone.
The second part of this deep muscle starts at the right and left sides of the pelvis and crosses into the centre. It forms more of a horizontal basin.
Together these two deep muscles form the floor of the pelvis.They prevent leaks from the bladder and bowel openings.
They also provide support for the pelvic organs and therefore have a role to play in reducing symptoms of prolapse.
2. The shallow muscles
These pelvic floor muscles sit nearer the surface of the body.
They start from bones on the right and left side of the pelvis and surround the vaginal opening. They then travel forwards and meet at the front attaching to the clitoral area.
These muscles play a part in heightening sensation during intercourse.
If you place your hand over the front of your pubic bone and clitoris you may be able to feel these superficial muscles tighten if you are able to contract your pelvic floor muscles correctly.
Pelvic floor blogs
Find other posts in this section of the site about pelvic floor issues including how to assess your own muscles and how to perform exercises correctly.
Chartered Physiotherapist, Jane Appleyard will be providing information about different products and types of equipment that can be used for treating and managing pelvic floor and bladder problems and reviewing the evidence to support new devices.
Women often want to know;
- how different devices actually help to reduce bladder leaks and improve pelvic muscle tone.
- which type of product is most likely to benefit their specific condition.
Electrical stimulation devices can be used to activate weaker pelvic floor muscles.
Biofeedback units are used to check that you’re doing exercises properly, visualise the results, and monitor your progress at home.To view our range of Pelvic Floor Toning Products, please visit our online shop.
de Smit Medical has been working alongside Chartered Physiotherapist, Jane Appleyard to create a blog for advice and thoughts on a range of topics relating to the pelvic floor. Return to our blog for more articles and videos.
Jane Appleyard has over 30 years' experience as a Chartered Physiotherapist and specialises in pelvic health. You can read Jane's bio here.