Electrical stimulation for pelvic floor
Ladies, as you age, your pelvic floor is bound to get weaker, just like the rest of your body. So, while you’re concerned about your skin, your heart, your hair, and your breasts as you get older,
give some thought to this body part that goes pretty much unnoticed until it’s too late.
The pelvic floor explained
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that support your pelvic organs. These organs include the urethra, the bladder, the colon (bowel), the uterus (womb) and the vagina. These muscles help to keep them in their rightful places, like a trampoline and can move up and down. The pelvic floor also controls the anal and urethral splinter muscles which give us the ability to hold and release feces, flatulence, and urine at will.
The rate at which these muscles weaken is gradual but can be increased by things such as pregnancy and childbirth, obesity, high intensity and impact exercise, chronic coughing, and strain from holding in urine or feces too long.
When this happens, you are at risk of certain conditions that arise due to weakened pelvic floor muscles. These can include:
• Urinary and fecal incontinence
• Frequent urge to urinate or defecate
• Levator ani syndrome
• Uterine prolapse
• Pelvic organ prolapse
• Lower back pain
• Increased risk of infections
• Pelvic muscle spasms
• Reduced vaginal stimulation
• Painful sex
To overcome these complications, you will have to seek some sort of treatment.
This article is all about a particular type of treatment used to rejuvenate the pelvic floor called electrical stimulation. Here’s all you need to know about it:
Electrical stimulation defined
Electrical stimulation , or e-stim for short, for pelvic floor muscles, is a painless, noninvasive procedure that uses electrical currents to address pelvic floor issues. It is similar to biofeedback in application and purpose, but it is more sophisticated and technically advanced.
How does electrical stimulation work?
Think of your pelvic floor muscles like any other muscle in the body. Go ahead, pick any one.
We chose the biceps. Okay, so if you don’t go to the gym or do any form of exercise or activity that involves arm workouts, then you’re likely to have weak or scrawny arms.
Let’s say you start to do some weight training, start to drink protein shakes and take supplements. Your muscle mass will increase and you’ll have nice, strong arms. You’ll be able to lift things more easily and your hands won’t get tired as fast. If you keep this up then old age won’t be able to defeat you as quickly and your active lifestyle can enable you to keep up with your grandkids.
Apply this same concept to your pelvic floor muscles. Doing pelvic floor exercises will ensure that they are strong and if you don’t do any, they’ll weaken with time and won’t be able to function as well. This is where electrical stimulation comes in.
Electrical stimulation works by sending electrical currents to the pelvic muscles to help stimulate or contract them. This contraction is like doing bicep curls. The slow, controlled movement helps to keep the muscle active and increases its strength.
What happens during electrical stimulation and how to prepare for it
Electrical stimulation is not for everyone so the first thing you should do is do some research. Find out the risks involved and the success rate for your condition, along with cost and if it is covered by your insurance.
After doing this, engage in a dialogue with your doctor to ask him/her the questions you have and have him/her clear up any misinformation that you may have stumbled upon. If your doctor gives you the green light then you can go ahead with the next step of electrical stimulation for the pelvic floor.
There are three ways you can go about finding a physical therapist or doctor that specializes in E-stim treatment for the pelvic floor. You can either:
Be sure to check all credentials before selecting a doctor. Once you find the best option, set up an appointment.
Use this appointment to find additional answers. You can ask about his/her experience with your particular issue and success rate. Don’t be scared to voice any fears or concerns and always do your own research.
At your E-stim session, your doctor will place some sort of sticky pads (electrode) onto the skin around the vagina or will insert a tampon-sized probe into your vagina or rectum. You will be advised of exactly what is happening to you and what will happen next.
Next, a small amount of electricity will be sent to these areas from the e-stim unit which stimulates the muscles, just like your nervous system would, and cause it to contract. E-stim is virtually painless but you may feel tingly sensations inside of your vagina or on the skin.
This session lasts for ten to thirty minutes, depending on your condition and is essentially an exercise for the pelvic floor. These sessions happen once or twice weekly and can go on for a couple of weeks depending on the severity of your condition.
It is not uncommon for [biofeedback] to be incorporated into these sessions since it can complement it well, especially when it is time to continue pelvic floor exercises at home.
After your session, you will be advised to continue kegel exercises at home once you can locate your pelvic floor muscles and contract and relax them properly.
You may even purchase your own E-stim device to use at home per your doctor’s advice.
How effective is electrical stimulation?
The efficacy of electrical stimulation for the pelvic floor has been debated for many years. Some find that the benefits are exaggerated but on the other hand, there are many others see its benefit and potential.
The consensus is that it may have some benefit, depending on the severity of the situation, but should not be relied upon as a primary treatment method. Instead, you will see more benefits if used to complement other treatments.
Benefits and drawbacks
Electrical stimulation for pelvic floor dysfunction has some great benefits. It also has some drawbacks. These include:
It’s non-invasive but it can be embarrassing
Many people feel a shiver down their spine whenever the thought of surgery crosses their mind or when they hear the word uttered. If you’re one of these women then you’ll be happy to find out that no cutting, snipping, poking or injecting is involved.
But that’s not all, if you’re not comfortable with the idea of someone touching your vagina, or inserting anything into your vagina or anus(outside of sex of course) then you might want to second guess this because it will happen.
It won’t disturb your normal life but you have to commit to it
You can go for your E-stim session during your lunchtime since it doesn’t usually take more than a half-hour. You don’t have to wear any special clothes, change your diet or do any form of preparation. You just have to show up and they’ll take care of the rest.
You do however have to set up an appointment and you can’t just walk in at whim. You have to do it regularly to see results, at least once a week, or else it will be pointless.
It can be effective but it isn’t the only way
Electrical stimulation can help you but it is no more effective than doing pelvic floor exercises at home.
It is most beneficial for women with very weak pelvic muscles or those who have trouble finding them.
If your insurance covers physical therapy then it is likely that they may cover it under that category.
At-home e-stim devices start as a low as $20 but as their quality increases, higher-end models can be in the hundreds of dollars.
Precautions/ safety concerns
E-stim is generally safe and can be used by anyone.
While it has been used on pregnant women to relieve labor pain, it is done under highly supervised conditions and is generally not recommended.
Electrical stimulation should not be used by persons with serious heart conditions, for instance, persons with pacemakers and any other implantable heart devices.
Electrical stimulation can easily be sub for Kegels or biofeedback once a patient is able to locate their pelvic muscles since they all have the same aim.
You can also be given medication or undergo surgery if your pelvic floor dysfunction is too severe to be treated with e-stim.
The pelvic floor is home to many organs. Taking care of their home keeps them healthy and functioning at their best.
Electrical stimulation for the pelvic floor is a great treatment because it is relatively inexpensive and you can get through a session in your lunchtime with little to no disruption to your regular life.
Always consult a professional before you get any E-stim devices online and do your research when necessary.