While as many as 1 in 3 women experience urinary ‘stress’ incontinence (USI), the condition is not something that should be ignored or considered ‘normal’.

Here, Rachel Bromley, Nuffield Health Senior Physiotherapist and Clinical Specialist Lead for Women’s Health, demonstrates some simple exercises that can be done to strengthen the pelvic floor and help you avoid the embarrassing and uncomfortable moments caused a weak pelvic floor can cause.

USI is most often the result of a weakened or damaged pelvic floor. It occurs when urinary sphincters and the muscles in the pelvic floor aren’t strong enough to prevent bladder leakage when put under pressure – such as when you cough, sneeze, laugh, or exercise.

Although both men and women can suffer from weak pelvic floors, women are more likely to experience difficulties due to the physical stresses of pregnancy, child birth and after menopause.

By performing simple pelvic floor exercises, either at home, work, or on the go, you can improve, and in some cases full resolve, any existing issues.

Getting started

Here are a few simple pelvic floor exercises you can begin today:

  • Start off lying down on your back or your side with your knees bent in front of you.
  • Try to squeeze your internal muscles as if you are trying to prevent yourself from urinating or passing wind. This should feel as though you are drawing your pelvic floor up and inwards towards the centre of your body. Check that you are not unintentionally squeezing your knees together or clenching other muscle groups in that area of your body, such as your buttocks.
  • Remember to keep your breathing steady as you squeeze your pelvic floor. Try to breathe deeply from your stomach and diaphragm. If you find yourself holding your breath, try counting out loud or humming a tune.
  • Do a mixuture of long and short squeezes. During long squeezes, lift and hold your pelvic floor for several seconds or for as long as you can. For short squeezes, lift your pelvic floor and immediately let go. Repeat until you get tired.
  • Aim to build up a daily routine of 10 fast and 10 slow squeezes, and do this three times every day.
  • Once you’ve mastered the technique, try to do the same exercises when you are sitting or standing up. Eventually, your goal is to be able to do the exercises during your daily activities, whether you are sitting at your desk, walking or watching television.
  • Sometimes we all need a little help. If you struggle to complete the exercises on your own or you’re not seeing the results you expected – don’t give up. A women’s health physiotherapist can help guide you on your journey to taking back control of your bladder and your life.

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