You are not alone: Women’s Health conditions need to be talked about
Incontinence, prolapse, pelvic pain or constipation; 1 in 3 women will experience some kind of women’s health problem during their lifetime. The good news… there’s growing evidence that physiotherapy can provide help and treatment that can alleviate, and in many cases cure these symptoms.
- Leak urine if you cough, sneeze, laugh or during exercise?
- Have problems controlling your bowels or suffer with constipation?
- Experience urgency to empty your bladder and struggle to get there in time?
- Need to empty your bladder more than eight times in 24 hours?
- Often get up to empty your bladder more than once in the night?
- Feel you are not emptying your bladder fully?
- Have difficulty exercising your pelvic floor muscles or don;t know if you’re doing the exercises correctly?
- Have any symptoms of prolapse, or are you recovering from a hysterectomy / prolapse repair surgery?
The pelvic floor is a complex structure, made up of a group of muscles acting like a hammock to support the pelvic organs above. These muscles need to be able to contract to keep you continent, but they must also relax to allow for urination, bowel movements, child birth and sexual intercourse. Problems with the pelvic floor can occur when these muscles are either too weak, or too tight.
When the pelvic floor muscles are weak
Symptoms such as urinary or bowel incontinence, urgency and pelvic organ prolapse can occur. This is because the hammock becomes less effective at supporting the pelvic organs. This is NOT a normal part of aging and the muscles can become weak for many reasons.
The good news… a structured exercise programme to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles can help and often cure symptoms in 80% of women.
When the pelvic floor muscles are too tight
Causing urinary frequency, urgency, painful urination or incomplete emptying. The muscles are unable to relax fully to allow the passage of urine. You may also experience constipation or pain with bowel movements, unexplained pain in your low back, pelvic region or genital area. There are many reasons for these changes to occur in the pelvic floor muscles, such as childbirth, following gynaecological intervention / surgery, chronic low back or hip pain or after an infection.
It is often difficult to exercise the pelvic floor muscles when they are already in a state of increased tone. In this case, it is important to first relax the muscles by treating the tension. Treatment techniques can include manual therapy to release the pelvic floor muscles, abdomen, hips and pelvis. Advice is often provided regarding relaxation, breathing techniques and positional modifications. Once the muscles have reached a normal resting tone and are able to relax fully, strengthening exercises can commence.
Incontinence during pregnancy
Pelvic girdle pain and stress urinary incontinence are common in pregnant women. These symptoms often occur due to hormonal changes and the ever increasing weight of your baby and uterus.
You may notice that you leak urine when you sneeze or find it harder to hold your urine when you need to ‘go’. Urinary incontinence in pregnancy should not be ignored. Research suggests that if you develop symptoms during your pregnancy, or within 6 weeks following childbirth, you are more likely to suffer from incontinence 5 years later.
An assessment with a Women’s Health Physiotherapist is often all you need to prevent this. Making sure that you are doing the right pelvic floor exercises; activating the correct muscles for a suitable length of time is important in maintaining a strong pelvic floor through your pregnancy and beyond.
Pilates based pelvic stability exercises are also valuable through pregnancy to strengthen the supporting muscles of the pelvis and ease the pressure on the pelvic floor. At PremierPhysio, we have an APPI qualified Physiotherapist, who can work with you on a 1:1 Pilates programme.