What are pelvic floor exercises?

Pelvic floor exercises help strengthen the muscles used in bowel control. They may help with:

  • urgency
  • bowel incontinence
  • difficulty emptying your bowel completely
  • wind.

The exercises work the muscles around the anus and a deeper layer of muscles, called the anterior pelvic floor muscles. These muscles also help with bladder control and are used in sex. Pelvic muscles support your bladder, back passage (rectum) and sex organs.

This is the most common treatment for bladder and bowel problems.

Your doctor or nurse may ask you to do pelvic floor exercises to prevent or help bladder or bowel problems after treatments affecting the pelvis, such as pelvic radiotherapy or rectal surgery

How do I do pelvic floor exercises?

You can do pelvic floor exercises while you are sitting or lying down. No one will know you are doing them. You squeeze and relax the muscles around your back passage (anus), as if you are trying to stop yourself passing wind.

Practising this exercise slowly then quickly several times a day for at least 3 months can strengthen the muscles. This will help you have more control over your bladder or bowel.

How do I know I'm doing pelvic floor exercises properly?

It is best to ask your doctor to refer you to a continence adviser. They can teach you how to do the exercises correctly. The Bladder and Bowel Community can also give you details of your nearest adviser and can send you information about pelvic floor exercises.

To get the most benefit from doing these exercises, it is important to:

  • do your pelvic floor exercises correctly
  • practise regularly to build up your muscles – aim for 3 times a day
  • continue to do the exercises
  • keep to a healthy weight, as being overweight puts extra stress on the pelvic floor muscles.

Try to do the exercises at the same times each day to get into a routine.

Biofeedback training

Biofeedback training helps you improve your bowel control. It helps you become more aware of signals from your own body and then learn how to use them. You may be offered it if you find it difficult to learn pelvic floor muscle exercises.

A probe with sensors is put into your back passage (rectum). As you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, sensors in the probe measure the pressure. This helps you know when you are doing the exercises in the right way. Your continence adviser can advise you on where you can get this training.

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