Ladies – How’s your “core and pelvic floor?”

By Rebecca Steele

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, it is timely for all women to have a think about the health of their “core and floor”. The “core” muscles, refers to the deep muscles of the abdomen and lower back which have a stabilising role in the body and help to maintain a good posture. In addition to this important function, in women who are pregnant or have had a baby, they are vital for minimising the strain placed on the lower back while pregnant, and help to re-gain abdominal tone post pregnancy. A lot of women perform sit-ups diligently, but still have the tell-tale “pot belly” in the lower abdomen due to the lack of tone and endurance in the core muscles. The deep abdominal “core” muscles do not just return to normal function after they have been stretched, cut (caesarean section) or inhibited by moderate to severe back pain. They need specific exercises which can be taught to you by a physiotherapist or other suitably qualified fitness professional. The up-side to getting your core muscles working again is that the overall tone of your abdomen will improve, along with your posture.

The other essential health area for women to be aware of is their pelvic floor. Most women have heard of pelvic floor exercises but aren’t exactly sure of what they need to do and if they are doing it correctly. There are also some myths surrounding whether or not they should be performed while pregnant. The pelvic floor muscles are a sling of muscles which run from the tail bone at the back, through to the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis. The openings for the bladder, womb and bowel, all pass through the pelvic floor muscles, which are essential for the optimal functioning and support of the pelvic organs. Weak pelvic floor muscles can develop for numerous reasons, including pregnancy, childbirth, hormone changes, straining to pass bowel motions and chronic coughing. It is essential for all women, regardless of their age, to understand how to correctly perform a pelvic floor contraction, and ensure that they exercise the muscles regularly, especially when pregnant and following the birth. Like any muscle, if you don’t use it, you lose it. This is even more important as we age, as the hormone effects contribute to muscle weakness. Weak pelvic floor muscles can contribute to prolapses, incontinence and urgency symptoms in the bladder and bowel.

The “core” and “floor” (pelvic floor muscles) work together to provide a support network to the trunk from around and below. Squeezing up your pelvic floor while you are training your core muscles can assist the core muscles to work. However, if you suffer from pelvic floor weakness or incontinence, it is important to ensure you are performing an adequate pelvic floor contraction before doing core exercises, otherwise, more strain can be placed on the already weak pelvic floor. The good news is that pelvic floor weakness and incontinence can often be managed by a physiotherapist who has had extra training in assessing and treating conditions of the pelvic floor. Core muscle exercises can be provided by a physiotherapist, or suitably qualified health/fitness professional.

If you have any concerns about your “core and floor” please contact an appropriate health professional. Rebecca Steele co-owns Hinteractive Physio in Cooroy and can be contacted on 5442 5556.

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