Historically, pelvic floor exercises, have been recommended for women with urinary incontinence. However, doctors have discovered that these same exercises are useful for men as well. This blog will discuss the use of pelvic floor exercise for men.
The muscles of the pelvic floor not only hold organs in place, but they are also important for bladder control. Because these muscles often weaken with age, men are advised to exercise them regularly by doing pelvic floor exercises in order to maintain their continence of urine as well as having improvement in their sexual functioning.
What are the pelvic floor muscles?
The muscles that support the organs in the pelvic area are known as pubococcygeus or pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are like a trampoline or sling that stretches along the bottom of the pelvic area from the pubic bone in the front to the tail bone (or coccyx) at the back, as well as from side to side between the sitting bones. In men, they support both the bladder and the bowel, with the urethra (the tube carrying urine from the bladder) and the rectum (back passage) passing through the muscles. Pelvic floor muscles are also important for erectile function, and they work with other muscles to help stabilise the back.
Why exercise the pelvic floor muscles?
The pelvic floor muscles naturally stretch and weaken with age, which can gradually make them less efficient. The muscles can also be weakened in men who often strain to empty their bowels – such as having constipation on a regular basis – who have a chronic cough, bronchitis or asthma, who perform tasks that involve repeated heavy lifting, and who are overweight or generally unfit. Having surgery for an enlarged prostate gland can cause the pelvic floor muscles to weaken, as can neurological damage such as from a stroke, diabetes, multiple sclerosis or a spinal injury.
Weak pelvic floor muscles in men can lead to stress urinary incontinence, in which small amounts of urine leak when pressure is placed on the bladder – for example, when bending forward, sitting, coughing or laughing – or urge incontinence, when there is an urgent need to urinate more often. You may leak just a few drops of urine, have a dribble after you finish urinating or leak a steady stream of urine. Weak pelvic floor muscles can affect erectile function too.
However, in a similar way that you can strengthen the muscles of your arms or legs through exercise, you can also strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
These exercises are also recommended for men prior to having surgery for an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer to help improve their bladder control. They are also recommended for men who experience chronic pelvic pain syndrome – performing the exercises when pain starts can help to interrupt a cycle of pain-spasm-pain.
How can you find your pelvic floor muscles?
Before you start doing pelvic floor muscle exercises, it’s important to find the correct muscles to ensure you are exercising them. The next time you urinate, stop urinating mid-stream and concentrate on the muscles that allowed you to do this – these are also the same ones you use to prevent passing wind. Once you have emptied your bladder (don’t stop the flow mid-stream more than once), try contracting the same muscles – you should notice the base of your penis rising towards your tummy and see your testicles move up as you contract the muscles.
Another way to find your pelvic floor muscles is to sit comfortably or lie down, ensuring the muscles of your abdomen, thighs and buttocks are relaxed. Now, tighten only the muscles that control your back passage as if you are trying to avoid passing wind for a few seconds, then relax.
To ensure you aren’t squeezing other muscles, try squeezing your pelvic floor muscles again and:
- Rest your hand on your tummy – you should not feel your abdominal muscles tighten
- Pay attention to your breath – if you are holding your breath, you are using your chest muscles; try to breathe normally while squeezing your pelvic floor muscles
- Sit in front of a mirror – if you notice your body moving up and down, even slightly, you are squeezing your buttocks
- Watch your thighs – their muscles should be relaxed without noticeable movement in the upper legs.
How should men do pelvic floor exercises?
Now that you’ve identified your pelvic floor muscles, simply contract them, squeezing and drawing up the muscles around your urethra and back passage at the same time, and holding them for a count of 5, then release the muscles slowly. By doing this simple technique, you have just flexed your pelvic floor muscles. Don’t hold your breath, and make sure you are not working other muscles such as those in the buttocks, thighs or abdominal area.
Wait a few seconds before repeating the technique, doing a set of 8-10 squeezes using strong slow contractions, then follow with one set of 8-10 quick rapid contractions. Repeat this sequence 4-5 times a day. Once you find it easy, you can increase the count for longer, up to 10 seconds. However, take care you don’t over-exercise the muscles and cause muscle fatigue towards the end of the day, thereby increasing urine leakage.
It will take 4-6 weeks before you notice any improvement, but after about 3 months you should experience the full benefit of doing pelvic floor exercises. At this point, you can change your routine to doing pelvic floor exercises twice a day.
If you have problems with incontinence or have recently had prostate surgery, you may be referred to a specialist who will help train you in how to do the exercise correctly and establish a program based on the strength of your muscles.
Pelvic floor exercises take very little time and can be done while sitting, standing, lying down or walking. Because others will not notice the muscles moving, you can do them discreetly during your everyday activities, such as while on a bus or train, sitting in a car, even standing in a queue – the main thing is to get into a routine of doing them every day. Try getting into the practice of doing them at the same time, such as when brushing your, after urinating, when commuting home from work or during advert breaks while watching the TV in the evening.
Bottom Line: Pelvic floor exercises aren’t just for women but men can also benefit from these exercises. Men should consider doing these exercises that don’t require any equipment, very little time, and have very effective results.