A vital part of our bodies is often ignored by exercise regimes. Does your pelvic floor need a workout?
I AM playing a video game on my phone, making a bird climb and dive to avoid hazards and collect points. It is pretty simple and unremarkable except for one thing: I am using my vagina as a game controller.
The device I am using, which looks like a sex toy and wirelessly talks to my phone via Bluetooth, is designed to encourage users to exercise something that is usually ignored: the pelvic floor. Hidden away at the base of our abdomen, this hammock of muscles, nerves and tissues supports internal organs including the bladder and bowel. It is a critical part of our anatomy, yet most people only start paying attention to it when it becomes too weak – and they experience incontinence – or too tight. Such problems are often thought of as a “female thing”, but everyone has a pelvic floor, with weakness also linked to erectile dysfunction.
Recently, there has been a renaissance in our understanding of what the pelvic floor is made of and how it can go wrong. Exercise programmes promise healing, and an ever-increasing array of digital devices, like the one connected to my phone, advertise strength training for these elusive muscles.
But many people aren’t getting their diagnoses or treatments right. The best known way to improve control of the pelvic floor muscles is squeezing exercises known as Kegels, but these aren’t suitable for everyone and won’t fix everything. Some people who would benefit from Kegels are activating the wrong muscles or not working the right ones hard enough. It’s time to get to know your pelvic floor better.
The pelvic floor is …