What is the normal function and firing pattern for our pelvic floor? Why do we have to re-train this firing pattern again in order to regain continence? These are great questions that I want to answer because understanding the function of our pelvic floor will put you one step closer to a healthy pelvic floor contraction.
Our pelvic floor is one of our deepest stabilizers that fires along with our transversus abdominus and our multifidi. These deep stabilizers actually fire a fraction of a second ahead of every lift, reach, cough, etc. in a healthy body. This pre-emptive firing serves the purpose of stabilizing our lumbosacral spine, as all of these muscles attach to and cradle our pelvis and lower spine. The strong hug provided by our pelvic floor, transversus abdominus, and multifidi muscles, allows us to generate greater force from the longer muscles of our trunk and legs that also attach to our pelvis.
The anticipatory firing of these deep stabilizers also helps to lift our pelvic floor and provide the tension to close down the pathways through the pelvic floor before an increase in intra-abdominal pressure. Contracting our tranversus abdominus, multifidi, and pelvic floor muscles helps to displace the pressure upward, squeezing like a cone, preventing the intra-abdominal pressure from forcing our pelvic organs down against the soft tissue of our pelvic floor, which can eventually lead to incontinence.
Re-training this healthy firing pattern initially means consciously thinking about contracting our pelvic floor and coordinating muscles before exerting. When our bodies are injured or weakened, we often lose the normal coordination of our stabilizing muscles, requiring us to reset the sequence in which our muscles fire when we return to our normal activities. If we consistently train our pelvic floor, our transverus abdominus, and our multifidi to fire first through an appropriate strengthening program, our bodies will eventually adapt this firing pattern and unconsciously contract our deepest stabilizers first, leading us closer to optimal pelvic floor function.
Tasha Mulligan, co-founder of PTpartnersLLC and creator of the Hab It: Pelvic Floor dvd available at www.hab-it.com
Published On: March 11, 2010