Most men are not aware that they have a pelvic floor. But without it you would be unable to hold urine in your bladder or contract your bowels to prevent wind and faeces escaping, you would be unable to get an erection, and could suffer from the symptoms of prostatitis.
The pelvic floor and its functions within the body are a necessity. They help to keep a variety of pelvic health problems at bay.
Did You Know? Pelvic floor exercise has been proven to be effective in treating erectile dysfunction.
What is the Male Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is made up of layers of muscle, tissue, and ligaments. These layers stretch from the tailbone of your lower back, to your pubic bone in the front, like a hammock. They act as a supportive sling for your bladder and bowel, with your urethra and rectum passing through. The prostate surrounds the urethra and can enlarge as men age.
Why is the Male Pelvic Floor Important?
The male pelvic floor muscles are extremely important for the control of your bladder and bowel.
The muscles help to prevent the leakage of urine, faeces, or wind, by keeping the bladder and bowel openings closed, especially after treatment for prostate issues. They are also important in the process of passing urine and faeces, as the muscles relax to allow the function.
Furthermore, the muscles play an essential role in erectile function during intercourse. Toned pelvic floor muscles help maintain long and strong erections, and can also prevent premature ejaculation.
How Do You Maintain the Male Pelvic Floor?
Maintaining a strong pelvic floor is vital for your body to function correctly. Strengthening your pelvic floor is the UK NHS-endorsed way to cure male pelvic floor disorders, such as Incontinence and Erectile Dysfunction.
There are a variety of ways to improve, strengthen and maintain your pelvic floor muscles, such as:
Male Kegels - Otherwise known as pelvic floor exercises, male Kegels are the best way to strengthen and protect your pelvic floor. You can exercise your pelvic floor manually with Kegels, or alternatively, you can use an electronic male pelvic toner.
Posture - It's well known that bad posture leads to bad back pain, but it also leads to a bad pelvic floor too! When your core muscles are relaxed, your pelvic floor muscles also slacken, causing them to grow weaker over time. It's been medically proven that the more upright your posture is, the stronger the effect of pelvic floor exercise. Light strengthening exercises, such as yoga and swimming, can help to improve your posture. Alternatively, try using a posture cushion on your chair to avoid slouching.
Vitamins - To keep your pelvic floor strong, ensure you get enough vitamin D. Research has shown that people with sufficient levels of vitamin D are 45% less likely to develop incontinence as it supports the muscle strength.
Weight - Being an unhealthy weight can have a negative effect on your pelvic floor. The extra weight can cause extra pressure inside of you, putting a strain on your pelvic floor muscles, gradually making them weaker.
Bowel Health - Constipation can put a lot of excess pressure on your pelvic floor. Straining too often can lead to faecal incontinence! Around 50% of people with chronic constipation end up with a variant of a pelvic floor dysfunction. To tackle this, make sure you are including fibre-rich food within your diet, such as wholegrain and brown rice. Another way to avoid straining is to use a toilet stool. By changing your position on the toilet, you create an angle that opens up your bowels, simultaneously protecting your pelvic floor.
Breathing - When you breathe in deeply, your diaphragm and internal organs get pushed down, gently stretching your pelvic floor muscles. By breathing this way throughout the day, you can exercise your pelvic floor automatically.
Check out this video on how to do Diaphragmatic (belly) breathing:
How to Find Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
Before you begin exercising your pelvic floor muscles, you'll first need to locate them. To do this, you can either sit, stand, or lie down - depending which is the most comfortable - and relax your thighs, stomach, and bum.
Tighten the muscle around the opening of your anus, as if you're trying not to pass wind - then relax. Try not to squeeze your buttocks together or clench your stomach or thigh muscles.
At the same time, imagine that you are urinating. Tighten your muscles as if you are trying to stop mid-flow, then relax. It might help to try this once or twice whilst you're urinating if it helps you to find the right muscles - but don't do this regularly as it could cause bladder problems.
You can check if you're using the right muscles by placing your fingertips on the skin behind your scrotum. You'll feel the muscles lift away from your fingers each time you tighten if you're using the right muscles. If you feel that the muscles are pushing down, then you are not doing the exercises correctly.
You may also find it helpful to do the exercises in front of a mirror to begin with as you'll be able to see the base of your penis and your scrotum move.
What are the Problems Associated with the Male Pelvic Floor?
Although it plays a strong role in your bodily functions, the male pelvic floor is fragile. There are a multitude of problems that are associated with a weak male pelvic floor.
A few of these include:
Pelvic Pain - This is considered as any discomfort that is felt in the lower abdomen, below the belly button, including pain felt in the buttocks. It can be mild and last only a few days (acute), or could be debilitating and be continuous or recurrent for at least 6 months (chronic), preventing you from continuing with your daily routine and needing medical treatment to resolve. Pelvic pain is often a precursor or symptom of a more dangerous condition. Therefore, please speak to your GP or other healthcare professional if you are experiencing any pelvic pain.
Prostatitis - When Prostatitis occurs, your prostate gland becomes inflamed and swells. This can be painful and worrying. Unlike prostate cancer or prostate enlargement, Prostatitis can affect men of all ages, however it usually develops in men aged 30 and 50. When symptoms come and go over a period of several months, this is referred to as chronic Prostatitis. Men with chronic Prostatitis should try and focus on the relax part of their Kegel exercises in order to prevent further strain to their pelvic floor muscles.
Incontinence - Is recognised as the accidental leakage of urine, or faecal matter. It is a condition that mainly affects women due to the effects of childbirth and menopause on the pelvic floor. However, it is also a common condition in men. Increasingly so with age, with over 10% of men over the age of 65 suffering with a degree of urinary incontinence. This increases the chance of moving into a care home and your chance of suffering with bowel incontinence as well.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse - A rectal prolapse occurs when the connective tissues within the rectal passage loosen and stretch, until they protrude through the anus. As the rectum becomes more prolapsed, ligaments and muscles may weaken until the rectum completely and permanently protrudes out of the body through the anus. This stage is called a complete prolapse, or a full-thickness rectal prolapse. Initially, the rectum may protrude and retract depending on your movements and activities. If the condition remains untreated it may protrude permanently. As with most medical problems, it’s important not to put off treatment. Allowing your prolapse to go untreated for a long period of time leads to weakened pelvic muscles and damage to your anal sphincter and associated nerves - increasing the risk of it reoccurring. So avoid unnecessary delays and speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Erectile Dysfunction - Sexual function is an essential and critical part of mental and physical health and wellness for men. Therefore, when a problem arises it is often distressing. Male sexual dysfunction has been linked to a reduced quality of life, as well as negative interpersonal relationships. As men grow older, sexual dysfunctions become increasingly prevalent. Erectile problems are extremely common, particularly in men aged over 40. The two most prominent problems that are associated with erections are Erectile Dysfunction and Premature Ejaculation.
Prostate Cancer - Often grows slowly to begin with, and may never cause you any problems. However, some men have prostate cancer that is more likely to spread, therefore requiring treatment to prevent the spread of the dangerous cells. The direct causes of prostate cancer are widely unknown. Yet, there are certain things that can increase your risk of developing the condition. As you age, your chances of developing prostate cancer increase, with most cases developing in men aged 50 or over. This is because as men get older, their prostate gland enlarges and this is not normally due to prostate cancer, but rather a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or benign prostate enlargement (BPE). This condition is more common in men aged over 50 and usually isn't a serious threat.
Original article: Kegel8 Website