At any age, women can experience pelvic health issues such as urinary incontinence, pelvic pain and pain or discomfort during intercourse. The Total Control program, now in its third year at Rush University Medical Center, is a national pelvic fitness and wellness program that has been shown to help participants gain better bladder control and relieve pain and discomfort.
The pelvic floor muscles run from a woman's pubic bone in front to the tailbone in back. The transversus abdominis muscles cover from your lower ribs down to your pubic bone and wrap around to attach in your back. And the multifidus muscles run along the lower to middle spine in the back. These three muscle groups combine to form the pelvic pyramid, which support a woman's genital organs. When these muscles are overstretched during childbirth or weaken as a result of aging, urinary symptoms and pelvic pain can result.
A Comprehensive Approach
The seven-week Total Control program offers twice weekly sessions where participants receive instruction from specialists on how to activate and strengthen their pelvic pyramids. These exercises enable participants to better handle a wide range of activities that can be especially problematic for people with incontinence issues. Participants learn how to properly activate their pelvic muscles during sustained activities, such as walking, as well as how to quickly engage muscles to prevent urine leakage during coughing or sneezing.
"These exercises are not a cardiovascular workout," says Maureen Brennan, PT, a physical therapist and course instructor at Rush. "They're gentle strengthening exercises — not meant to get your heart rate up — but to help you gain awareness of your body."
Each 75-minute session also includes an educational component. Participants learn practical knowledge from experts in urogynecology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and physical therapy about common dysfunctions and causes, treatment options, nutrition, proper bathroom habits, and much more.
In the classes she's taught, Brennan enjoys the camaraderie that is often established, helping women to feel comfortable and share their stories.
"Women often feel embarrassed or isolated when they have symptoms," says Brennan. "The class is a safe place, a free forum to speak about issues and experiences."
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Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.
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