I wanted to touch upon a subject that I see quite frequently in my practice…women, and men, who suffer from incontinence (involuntary loss of urine or feces) often also suffer from a decrease in balance and have a corresponding history of falling.
The pelvic floor muscle (or Kegel muscle as some may call it) lies at the bottom of your pelvis, attaching at the back to your tailbone area, at the front to your pubic symphysis (the hard bone located at the bottom of your abdomen) and from side to side to the interior of your pelvis with other attachments to hip muscles. It is this placement that provides a deep, internal stabilization of the pelvis and hips and therefore provides the “foundation” for stability in your legs, and therefore your balance.
When the pelvic floor becomes weakened, and the symptoms of incontinence become present, it can be a signal that your balance will be the next to be affected. You should not only be exercising your pelvic floor to address the incontinence but you should also be adding in balance exercises. Here are a few samples BUT if your loss of balance is severe, or if you are at risk for fracture if you fall, be sure to contact your physician or local physical therapist (such as myself) for appropriate exercises.
PLACE A CHAIR BEHIND YOU so you can sit down to rest when needed….
¨ Hold onto your kitchen counter or back of a very sturdy chair for support
¨ Stand on one leg, SLOWLY begin to let go of the counter/chair ONLY TO THE POINT where you can maintain balance (you may have to keep a few fingertips in contact to do this)
¨ Count to 10
¨ Switch legs, repeat with other leg
¨ ALTERNATE for a total of 20 times
¨ GOAL: When you can do this without holding on, increase the challenge by standing on a pillow. Again, you may have to start off by holding on!
¨ Standing tall, hold onto counter or chair back for support
¨ Lift one leg out to the side, KEEPING YOUR BODY TALL (your leg may not lift up very high; this is just fine!)
¨ Point your toes and pretend you are drawing a small circle 10 times in one direction with your big toe
¨ Keep your toes pointed and draw circles in the opposite direction
¨ Do this 10 times
¨ Repeat with other leg
¨ *You’ll REALLY feel this in the leg you are standing on…you can take breaks when needed as it may take some time to build up to doing all of these in a row! Eventually you’ll be able to these without holding on.
¨ Holding onto counter or chair back, feet hip width apart
¨ Bend your knees and STICK YOUR BOTTOM OUT TO THE BACK as if you are going to sit down in a chair
¨ HOLD this position for a count of 10
¨ Stand tall
¨ Do this 10 times
¨ GOAL: to do this without holding onto counter/chair, lifting your arms out in front of you.
These exercises should be safe as all involve you holding on, but, as previously stated, do not put yourself at risk of falling if your balance is VERY poor and if you have osteoporosis or other conditions that may result in a fracture if you do fall.