There are many myths about pelvic floor muscle exercises. Here we explore the most common myths and misconceptions and reveal the truth between fact and fiction.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises are not always easy to do. The pelvic floor muscles are complicated muscles which are hard to isolate.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises can be learned from a pamphlet by some people, but research shows that up to 50% of women trying to do pelvic floor muscle exercises from a pamphlet get the technique wrong. For both men and women, practicing the wrong technique will not help and could even make the problem worse.
Research shows that pelvic floor muscle exercises are effective for some types of incontinence such as stress incontinence and/or an overactive bladder causing urge incontinence. They can also help faecal incontinence when the cause of the problem is a weak pelvic floor. However, they will not work if there are other causes of urine or bowel motion leakage (for example, infection, inflammation or underlying bowel disease).
There is ample evidence to show that pelvic floor muscle exercises are effective when the exercises are done correctly and when taught and supervised by a physiotherapist who specialises in continence and women's health or a Continence Nurse Advisor. If your 'do-it-yourself' pelvic floor muscle exercise program did not work, then chances are they were not done the right way. Get help from a health professional to confirm that your technique is correct and have an individualised training program specifically developed for your problem and the condition of your pelvic floor muscles.
This is a common misconception. Stopping the flow of urine on the toilet is not an exercise but is one way of identifying the pelvic floor muscles.
Some people say "Pelvic floor muscle exercises won't work for me, I'm too old". This is not true. Age is no barrier to the benefits of pelvic floor muscle exercises. There is evidence to suggest that older people are just as likely to benefit from pelvic floor muscle exercises for incontinence as younger people.
Just because you've had a baby doesn't mean pelvic floor muscle exercises won't help. Postnatal pelvic floor muscle exercises have been shown to assist in the recovery of pelvic floor muscle function and to reduce or cure the likelihood of urinary incontinence in women who have had instrumental births or big babies.
Everyone (including women who haven't had a baby, and men) can benefit from doing pelvic floor muscle exercises. For women, pelvic floor muscle training is important to control incontinence which may start during pregnancy. Pelvic floor muscle exercises done during pregnancy will help the recovery of pelvic floor muscle function and bladder control after the birth of the child. New research shows that strong pelvic floor muscles will not make birthing more difficult.
For men, pelvic floor muscles not only help to control the bladder and bowel but they also assist in sexual function.
Some people think that pelvic floor muscle exercises are done on the floor. In reality however, these exercises can be done in any position. The word 'floor' merely refers to their position at the bottom (or floor) of the pelvis. In fact, they should especially be done standing up as control of urine leakage is usually most necessary when upright.
Men do have pelvic floor muscles. These muscles can even be trained to improve bladder control after prostate surgery.