Over 40 and hot: How to stretch the pelvic floor

By Haley Hernandez - Health Reporter

HOUSTON - The pelvic floor is a set of muscles that works as a support system for the organs of the pelvis, including the bladder and the uterus. 

As those muscles weaken, the organs can fall south. However, new therapies allow for physical therapists to teach patients how to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and eliminate a lot of problems.

During a consultation for pelvic floor physical therapy, Katie Beckham, Houston Methodist West Hospital pelvic floor physical therapist, tells women how it works.

She said weakening or over-tightening of the pelvic floor can happen after having children, after cancer treatments or simply with age.

“One of the biggest mistakes people make, trying to pull up and exercise the pelvic floor but they're holding their breath,” Beckham explained. ‘Then we perform the activity like picking up our grandchild carrier seat, we have to let that pressure out somewhere or we're going to dribble.”

Lacking support in the pelvic floor can lead to lower back pain, urine urgency or difficulty emptying the bladder.

“A physical therapist that specializes in this, teaches a patient how to maintain its proper pressures, how to use body mechanics properly, how to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, how to let them go, how to let things in and out,” Beckham said.

Beckham teaches that by showing patients which lower ab muscles to strengthen.

“Tightening two big sets of muscles, the lower abs, which I teach as skinny jeans,” she explained. “So, if you want to put on a pair of size 2 jeans and you really need a 12, you're going to have to hollow out your belly, you're going to have to pull your belly button towards your spine.”

Showing patients with an internal exam is an option. Although maybe awkward, Beckham said it leads to fast, positive results.

“Then the other big set, I teach it like an elevator, it's the pelvic floor muscles, those are the muscles that shore up and close the opening to the urethra in the vagina and the rectum. So, we want to pull those up, it's as if I had an exam finger in your vagina and I asked you to close the door of the elevator and pull the elevator up into your belly.”

This kind of physical therapy can take anywhere from three weeks to three months.

There are pelvic floor physical therapists at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, The Woman’s Hospital of Texas and these locations for Houston Methodist.

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