If you’re one of the millions of women worldwide having to deal with bladder leaks, then you’ve probably tried out a lot of different techniques to get those leaks to take a break. Exercising your pelvic floor is one such technique to help out with incontinence. Plus, it helps prevent pelvic prolapse and even makes bedroom activities more fun for all. Pelvic floor exercises can definitely work, but they’re a little more tricky than they might sound on paper.
So how do you know you’re doing pelvic floor exercises correctly?
Your Pelvic Floor
Let’s take a step back and talk about your pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor is a sling of muscles. This sling is, as the name implies, near the floor of your pelvis. It’s there to make sure all your internal organs stay in their spot, which is a very important job!
These muscles, though, are relatively small and we aren’t often aware of when we’re using them. That makes it a little tough figuring out if you’re actually exercising them or not. A lot of people end up working out their abdominal muscles on accident. That’s still good work but not exactly what we’re looking for to help with bladder leaks. Luckily, there’s a way to find out if you’re doing it right.
Biofeedback: What Is It?
So you know when you go to a doctor and they make you stand on a scale, take your temperature, maybe check your blood pressure, and really go through a whole ringer before you even see the doctor? That’s biofeedback. These instruments are ‘feeding back’ what’s going on with our body, whether that’s heart beats or muscle use or something else. In this instance, the biofeedback method is feeding back information about your pelvic floor.
To be honest, a lot of us don’t know much about our pelvic floor muscles and how they can help with bladder leaks. And this is where biofeedback therapy comes in. Biofeedback therapy teaches us about muscle contraction and how our very own pelvic floor muscles can stop those leaks in their tracks.
The tools used for biofeedback therapy can sense which pelvic floor muscles you’re using when you do a Kegel or other pelvic floor exercises. The electrodes from the sensors change electrical impulses into a line on a computer monitor so you can actually see your muscles relax and contract.
Then, a pelvic floor physical therapist can coach you on regaining control of your bladder. You may learn that you’re focusing too much on one muscle or that you’re not even using another! By focusing on the right muscles you may be able to say kiss leaks goodbye.
How Pelvic Floor Biofeedback Is Measured
Getting biofeedback on your pelvic floor is a tiny bit intrusive, but definitely worth the results. There are two different sensors physical therapists use for measuring the pelvic floor muscles and both of them go in the vagina. If you just wear some loose clothing on the day of your therapy, you hardly even have to think about it.
Want to know more about the sensors?. The first one is a tampon-looking thing that’s inserted into the vagina. This one can read the feedback from the vagina’s walls and get a really clear idea of what’s going on. The second is a two-piece set that are like little sticky pads that are placed on either side of your anus. Sound uncomfortable? The good news is that you won’t need them in there for long.
Incorporating the Feedback
Once you have some data on what’s going on with your pelvic floor, you’ll need a physical therapist to interpret the results and can use them to coach you on your technique. After all, there are a surprising number of muscles in your pelvic floor, a whopping 45 of them, and proper pelvic floor workouts will get every one of them moving.
Doing the whole bit with the sensors will probably take you about 30 minutes. Sadly, this isn’t a one and done situation. You’ll be going back for more biofeedback therapy a total of about four times, maybe more or less. It all depends on the issue you’re trying to fix
What to Consider Before Starting Biofeedback Treatment
If you’ve been dealing with bladder leaks for awhile, then biofeedback might be sounding pretty great to you. That said, there are some things to go over before you get started, like insurance. A lot of medical insurance plans won’t pay for biofeedback services. You’re going to have to check with your coverage to see what’s what first.
Other than inserting the probes, the next most difficult thing about using biofeedback in pelvic floor exercises is obeying doctor’s orders. If they say no bending or squatting or lifting, then they really mean it. You don’t want all this therapy and probing to be for nothing, right? You’ll also need a healthy dose of patience, because these exercises won’t work overnight. Given a little time, you’ll definitely start seeing improvements.
And in the meantime, while you’re working on your pelvic floor muscles, be sure to use some back up protection like Lily Bird pads or underwear. They’ll help to keep up your normal daily routine without worrying about bladder leaks.
Get to Work
Overall, the success of biofeedback comes down to you. The discipline to stay with this new regime and willingness to endure the probes are just some of the hurdles you’ll face with this treatment option. Pelvic floor exercises can definitely help you out, and biofeedback treatments can tell you how to do it right.
By Jessica Thomas, MPH