Incontinence and pelvic floor weakness are common problems that affect people as they age. While predominantly this issue affects women, it is also a condition that affects men as well. It is often an area in which management relies significantly on passive methods such as using sanitary support items. However one of the simple and effective ways to try and improve your pelvic floor function is postural correction particularly during sitting.
Like all things in life, we adapt to the activities and postures that we use most frequently. Unfortunately sitting has become a substantial part of most people’s life, and even more than this the way in which we sit is detrimental to our health. While the metabolic consequences of too much sitting are well known, the effects of sitting on the pelvic floor muscles are much lesser known.
Our pelvis has two important parts at the bottom known as the ischial tuberosities or in plain language the sitting bones. When we sit in a chair, especially for prolonged periods of time, instead of sitting with most pressure on these “sitting bones” we often tilt our pelvis and put the pressure onto our thigh bones and hip muscles instead. While this may not sound like a major problem, putting our pelvis into this position causes the pelvic floor muscles and the whole core system to shut down.
Practise makes permanent. This means, the more we sit with our pelvis tilted, the less frequently we use our pelvic floor muscles. Like all muscles in the body we need to “use them” so that we don’t “lose them”. Hence pelvic floor weaknesses can be directly associated with how long and how often we spend sitting. There are a couple of simple things that you can do to try and minimize these effects.
Firstly, the easiest change to implement is to make a conscious choice where possible to choose standing over sitting. While there are many of situations (such as driving) where we are unable to stand, there are also many situations in which sitting is not necessary. Secondly when we do sit, trying to make sure that the pelvis is in a neutral position can help to activate the pelvic floor and core muscles. It is normal to feel that this requires more conscious effort and you may not be able to sustain this posture for a long period of time, however over time the body will adapt and it will become easier.