Have you ever heard of slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibres?
Muscles that are predominantly made up of fast twitch muscle fibres are quick reacting, contract with greater force and fatigue rather quickly. Muscles made up of predominantly slow twitch muscle fibres are the less explosive muscles and are much longer lasting than their counterpart. Fast and slow twitch muscle fibres are further categorised into a number of different types, but I won’t bore you with the detail.
It’s not uncommon to hear of these two types of muscle fibres when comparing a sprinter to a marathon runner, but have you heard of slow and fast twitch muscles in reference to the pelvic floor muscles?
It is this combination of slow and fast twitch muscle fibres that provides an optimal functional pelvic floor.
It is the quick contractions - fast twitch muscle fibres of the pelvic floor sphincter; used to stop the flow of urine, passing wind, skipping, bouncing, jumping, sneezing or coughing that can contract quickly and with significant force, that contributes to optimal pelvic floor function. The steady, endurance - slow twitch muscle fibres of the levator ani muscles; part of the core stabilising muscles that are always on, (commonly referred to as the pelvic sling that runs from pubic bone to tail bone), support the uterus, bladder, and bowel. With sufficient tone the slow twitch levator ani muscles squeeze on the corridor from which urine travels from the bladder to the urethral opening preventing urine from leaking out of the bladder involuntarily that also contributes to optimal pelvic floor function.
Having a better understanding of the pelvic floor muscles and the importance of it’s slow and fast twitch muscle fibres helps to understand how to apply a daily pelvic floor strengthening program.
Maintaining a healthy tone of the pelvic floor muscles is increasingly important as we;
- undergo trauma and stresses such as childbirth,
- motor vehicle accidents, abdominal surgery,
- heavy lifting,
- spend longer periods of time in certain professions that can cause stress to the PF,
- repetitive sporting activities,
- hormone changes, such as monopause,
A pelvic floor program will work both the slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibres and will provide a baseline and a gradual routine to progress and develop strength and endurance. Specific sports may require greater pelvic floor strength and endurance to that of a person simply wishing to have sound function throughout everyday activities. Additionally, relaxation strategies must be included in a pelvic floor program.
"You might be asking how is this relevant to me?"
Well, if you are a mother and would like to cough, sneeze, run, jump and play with your children, laugh with your friends, have better orgasms, play your favourite sport; bootcamp, crossfit, netball, run, or lift heavy weights without the embarrassment of accidentally leaking then practicing pelvic floor exercises needs to be high on your priority list and considered as important as caring for your children.
I collaborate with Women's Health Physiotherapist in an effort to enable mums on a mission to return to exercise and their day to day activities void of pregnancy and postnatal conditions. If you would like to learn more about strengthening your Core and Pelvic Floor check out our next program here.
And please, if you have an concerns, please don't wait, contact a women's health physiotherapist today.