Physios in Valentine's campaign to encourage men and women to ‘pucker up’

Physiotherapists are using Valentine’s Day to highlight that pelvic floor training is not just for bladder problems but also for sexual function.

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Chelsea & Westminster Hospital women's health team

Chelsea & Westminster Hospital women's health team have been promoting the message with patients and staff with the use of posters (see 'files' below) and free samples of personal lubricant.

This week has seen the Pelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapists (POGP) launch their annual ‘Pucker up your pelvic floor’ campaign.

Members of the CSP professional network are challenged to use their creativity to communicate with the public about sexual health and particularly the role of the pelvic floor and specialist physios to relieve dysfunction and pain as well as improve performance, POGP spokesperson Amanda Savage told Frontline.

Two eye-catching posters (see 'files' below) have been produced for waiting rooms and members are being encouraged to re-purpose advice (below) and share it via their own social media, websites and local NHS communications.

Pleasurable vaginal sensations occur due to ‘pressure’ and ‘deep touch’ more than light sensations, explained Ms Savage.

‘Sexual pleasure comes from the movement and build-up from friction against the vaginal wall, which are layered with the pelvic floor muscles,’ she said.

‘Pelvic floor muscle exercises tone and strengthen these muscles, improving blood supply and nerve activity, all leading to greater pleasure.’

Most people associate pelvic floor muscle exercises (Kegels) with reducing incontinence but research has shown that strengthening and toning the muscular floor of the pelvis also has an impact on sexual performance and enjoyment too.

‘Many women report they are able to reach orgasm more easily, and that their orgasms are more powerful, after focusing on pelvic floor muscle exercises,’ said Ms Savage.

In addition UK-led research shows clear evidence that strengthening pelvic floor muscles improves problems of erectile dysfunction. The pelvic floor muscles help to trap blood in the penis to maintain an erection. As a result, pelvic floor exercises can help men obtain stronger, longer-lasting erections.

Advice for the public

Pelvic health physiotherapists specialise in teaching pelvic floor exercises. They recommend the following top tips for strengthening your pelvic floor

  • Use the whole pelvic floor – most people focus on contracting the muscles around the opening of the bladder tube (the urethra). But you should also practise tightening around the anal sphincter, as if stopping wind escaping. Contracting the back part and front part of the pelvic floor together creates more uplift and closure of the vaginal walls in women, and can help sustain an erection in men.
  • Vary the types of contractions – like all muscles in the body the pelvic floor muscles can perform in different ways. Practise short, powerful squeezes (10-15 in a row) but also less intense but longer contractions too – for example trying to sustain a pelvic floor muscle hold for 5-10 seconds, ideally while still breathing.
  • Remember to RELAX – relax the pelvic floor properly between each contraction. It is possible to overwork the muscles causing tension and tightness in the pelvic floor. Some people also experience pain and discomfort during sex because they find it difficult to relax their muscles. Make sure you both contract and then properly release the contraction before the next one.
  • Little and often works really well –  think of doing exercises at the same time as other routine tasks like when you clean your teeth or after you have a wee (it is no longer recommended to stop mid-flow). Exercise is good for all aspects of your health. Remember to let your pelvic floor muscles have a chance to get strong too. If you do regular classes and gym activities – build in a pelvic floor muscle moment each time to help build the perfect pucker for Valentine’s Day – and the day after...and the day after.. and for life.

Free pelvic floor information booklets, for both men and women, are available on the POGP website.

If you feel you would benefit from a proper assessment and individual help from a specialist physiotherapist talk to your GP about a referral to your local NHS team. Many services will now take self-referral.

If you are having difficulty finding a physiotherapist do contact POGP through their website, with your postcode, and they will give you the contact details of your nearest specialist physiotherapists.

Local specialist physiotherapists can also be found by contacting POGP through their website and providing your postcode. They will then respond with details about the nearest specialist physiotherapists to you.

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by Gary Henson

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