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  • Dr. Norbert Martin, DPT

Strong Pelvic Floor, Stronger You: Tips and Exercises for Both Men and Women

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

By Dr. Norbert Martin, DPT

Pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) is a condition that affects both men and women. In men, it is often diagnosed as prostatitis, but it can occur regardless of whether prostatitis is present or not. PFD occurs when the muscles, ligaments, and fascia of the pelvic floor are not functioning properly, leading to a range of symptoms.

The most common cause of PFD in males is an injury to the pelvic floor muscles, ligaments, or fascia. This can occur because of trauma or surgery in the pelvic region. Stress, bacteria, and inflammation can cause the pelvic floor muscles to elicit a protective response, tightening the muscles to protect against the stressor. This can result in chronic tension and dysfunction of the pelvic floor.

Symptoms of PFD in men can include urinary dysfunction, erectile dysfunction (ED), and prostatitis. Urinary dysfunction may include difficulty starting or stopping urination, weak or interrupted flow, and frequent urination. ED can occur due to damage to the nerves and blood vessels that support an erection. Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland, which can cause pain and discomfort in the pelvic area.

Physical therapy is a highly effective treatment for PFD. Pelvic floor physical therapy involves exercises and techniques to strengthen and relax the pelvic floor muscles. This can improve bladder and bowel function, reduce pain, and improve sexual function.

Please note that PFD and incontinence are not the same things. PFD refers to the inability to correctly relax and coordinate the pelvic floor muscles to have a bowel movement. Incontinence, on the other hand, refers to the involuntary leakage of urine or stool. There are different types of incontinence, including stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

PFD can cause incontinence when the pelvic floor muscles are not supportive or strong enough. A person suffering from weak pelvic floor muscles may experience bladder or bowel leakage (incontinence). However, not everyone with PFD will experience incontinence, and not everyone with incontinence has PFD.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of PFD or incontinence, please tell your healthcare provider. They can help determine the underlying cause of your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment options, including pelvic floor physical therapy. With the right treatment and support, many people with PFD and incontinence can improve their symptoms and quality of life.

The Importance of Strengthening and Relaxing the Pelvic Floor Muscles

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that support the bladder, bowel, and uterus (in women). These muscles play an important role in controlling the release of urine and feces, as well as in sexual function. Like any other muscle group in the body, the pelvic floor muscles need to be both strong and flexible to function properly.

Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles can help prevent or improve conditions such as incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. Relaxing the pelvic floor muscles, on the other hand, can help relieve tension and pain in the pelvic area and can also improve bowel and bladder function.

Many exercises can help both strengthen and relax the pelvic floor muscles. A physical therapist can tailor an exercise routine for you based on a comprehensive evaluation. Nonetheless, here are a few exercises to try:

Strengthening exercises:

  • Kegels: Contract and relax the pelvic floor muscles. There are two types of Kegels: endurance Kegels, where you hold a contraction for 5-10 seconds, then relax for 5-10 seconds, and repeat 10 times; and quick Kegels, where you quickly contract and relax the muscles 10 times.

  • Heel slides: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slowly slide one heel away from your body while keeping your other foot in place. Slide your heel back to the starting position and repeat on the other side. This exercise targets the muscles on the inner thighs and pelvic floor, helping to strengthen them.

Relaxation exercises:

  • Deep breathing: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Take a deep breath in through your nose, allowing your stomach to rise as you fill your lungs with air. Exhale slowly through your mouth, allowing your stomach to fall. Repeat for several breaths. This exercise can help relax the muscles of the pelvic floor, reducing tension and improving overall function.

Consult with a healthcare provider before starting any exercise program to ensure that it is safe and appropriate for you. By incorporating both strengthening and relaxation exercises into your routine, you can help keep your pelvic floor muscles healthy and functioning properly. With the right exercises and techniques, you can improve your pelvic floor function, reduce pain and discomfort, and enhance your overall quality of life.


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