This post is part of the Natural Living Series. Guest Linda is educating us on pelvic floor disorders and what can be done naturally to alleviate this problem. For more information about Linda, be sure to check out the bottom of this post and for more posts on Natural Wellness, check out our week of Natural Wellness posts.
Pelvic floor disorders are experienced by most women to some degree, and severe cases can require corrective surgery. The use of transvaginal mesh in these procedures, however, can cause serious complications. Women should discuss all of their treatment options with their doctor before choosing transvaginal mesh.
SUI & POP
Pelvic floor disorders like stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP) are caused by a weakness in the pelvic floor that is largely attributed to the strains of pregnancy, childbirth and tissue loss during menopause. They have also been linked to high-impact activities, obesity, smoking, chronic cough and frequent straining to produce a bowel movement. In many cases, strengthening of the pelvic floor can prevent and even reverse symptoms and negate the need for surgery. A strong pelvic floor not only lowers the chances of developing pelvic floor disorders, it also affects sexual function, continence and balance.
Popularized as the go-to exercise for a better sex life, Kegel exercises are also useful in preventing pelvic floor disorders. Kegel exercises can effectively reverse SUI symptoms, and should be performed daily to keep the pelvic floor strong and prevent prolapse.
The objective is to contract pelvic floor muscles inward together and upward. To be effective, the right muscles must be isolated. To locate these, women can squeeze the muscles they use to stop urinating mid-stream.
To start, these discreet contractions should be performed in intervals of 10 contractions several times throughout the day, and can be performed while seated or lying down.
Gradually, Kegels can be done standing or while engaging in other activities. Women can try sprints—several contractions performed in rapid but controlled succession—and increase the hold time while decreasing the rest time in between. This can dramatically improve pelvic floor strength.
Physical therapy to treat pelvic floor disorders has a 50-80 percent success rate, and is also used effectively in their prevention. Physical therapists who specialize in women’s or pelvic health utilize a variety of techniques to strengthen the pelvic floor.
Biofeedback therapy, which is a staple of pelvic physiotherapy, can help therapists and patients distinguish problem areas. Small electrode pads, similar to those used during an EKG, are attached to the skin of the pelvic area. These pads are connected to a screen, which provides a visual representation for women learning to control and strengthen pelvic muscles.
Physical therapists may also suggest exercises that naturally lend themselves to engaging the pelvic floor, correcting posture and building core strength such as yoga or Pilates.
Physical therapists use manual stimulation, pelvic massage and trigger-point release techniques, and often provide instructions for women and/or their partners to complete these at home.
Breathing and relaxation exercises also can be useful in pain management. For women experiencing painful intercourse caused by pelvic floor disorders, physical therapists can customize treatments to minimize sexual dysfunction.
Linda Grayling writes about medical news for Drugwatch, a consumer advocacy website.