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Just over a year ago during one of my regular physio appointments my physio pondered about pelvic floor strengthening. My pelvic joints are badly affected by my Hypermobility Syndrome and cause me alot of problems with my back and hips and one of the muscles responsible for providing some stability in these joints is the pelvic floor. Of course the pelvic floor isn't just one muscle but a collection of muscles that all support the pelvis and hold your organs in the right place, it also has to relax to allow toileting and contract throughout the day to support you when you do various things. My physio was wondering if we were struggling to get anywhere with stabilising my pelvis because of the pelvic floor and she recommended these cones. At the time of purchase these cost £25 but are now at £15 from Amazon and other online places.
In the Aquaflex set you get a triangular plastic case which is a calming light green colour, 2 cones of different sizes and weights. The weights are one 5g, one 10g and two 20g metal cylinders with holes in the centre. The cones are white plastic with rounded edges and a rounded point at one end, they unscrew into 2 halves and there is a plastic rod inside you feed the weights onto. There is a cord made out of plastic with a small plastic tag on the end so you know where it is when you want to remove the cones. There's also a leaflet that explains about stress incontinence which is caused by weak pelvic floor muscles and how to insert the cones. The cones should be washed after use (goes without saying) with warm soapy water then dried before being put back into the case.
To start with you should use the larger cone, this one is known as the starter cone and is about 2cm across. To begin with you use no weight and just insert the cone and see if it stays in place. These cones don't go as far in as tampons and should be placed just inside the vagina to make the muscles work. The leaflet says it should automatically make your muscles contract around the cone and you should aim for 20 minutes a day but you may have to work up to that. Once you can hold the cone in place easily for that length of time you start adding weights, work your way up on these too until you can hold all the weights in the starter cone easily for 20 minutes then you repeat the whole process with the second cone which is slimmer so therefore needs tighter muscles to hold it in place, this one is about 1cm across. If necessary lubricant can be used but not too much, you don't want the cone slipping out now do you?! When you have the cone in place you should be upright for the duration so the muscles have to work against gravity so that means standing, sitting or walking around. That's pretty much explained the whole process as it should be.
When the Aquaflex set arrived I remembered the episode on Embarrassing Bodies where they tested them against other pelvic floor toners and I can quite clearly recall the lady who used these cones saying she was making a conscious effort to hold the cones in place. This is quite confusing because the leaflet states the muscles will automatically contract to hold the cone but also tells you how to do a correct pelvic floor contraction (apparently almost 50% of women don't perform this correctly when asked to) so it's very confusing as to whether you should try and hold the cone in or not. I asked my physio and she said not so that's the method I intended to use. Obviously if you can't hold the starter cone in with no weights you need to see a physiotherapist to correct your pelvic floor contraction as this probably means you are pushing the pelvic floor down rather than lifting it up or it is severely weak and needs other treatment first.
Anyway, so I tried the empty starter cone first. This isn't very large and once in place just inside the body it can't be felt much and for me this stayed put no problem. I decided to start adding weight straight away but found the cone didn't want to come out again and it proved a struggle to remove the cone. I didn't think much about this, just assumed I was probably contracting the muscles so I started adding weights. I worked my way up to the maximum 55g in the starter cone with no effort whatsoever but I was still having the removal problem. I rapidly progressed to the second cone and as it was smaller it wasn't as reluctant to be removed but was still a bit of a struggle. I had no problem in holding that cone in either when it was empty and with weight added so felt something was wrong. I wasn't feeling any effort whatsoever with the cones and could have just left them in all day long with no muscle effort so asked my physio what she thought. She didn't know and advised me to see a Women's Health Physio as they specialise in pelvic floor problems so off I went.
When I described this to the WH physio she nodded knowingly and then said we should test how tight my pelvic floor was. Most people think of the pelvic floor as only getting weak and loose, they don't consider it can get too tight as well. A session on the biofeedback machine, which involves inserting a sensor the same as you do the cones, revealed my pelvic floor was very, very tight so the cones were getting stuck in that tight, rigid muscle which is why I wasn't finding it easy to remove them. It also meant the cones were a bad idea for me as I needed to learn to relax the pelvic floor before we could establish if it needed any strengthening. So the cones went back into the lovely green case and got stuffed to the back of a cupboard where they have remained ever since. Maybe in the future at some point these cones will be of use to me but not when I have a very tight pelvic floor. There are lots of causes of tight pelvic floor muscles, mine is a reaction to my loose joints and is trying to stabilise the pelvis but trying way too hard! Classic symptoms of tight pelvic floor muscles are urinary urgency where you go from urge to urgent in seconds, urge incontinence which is the next step up from urinary urgency and urine is lost before you can reach the loo, constipation because the muscles can't relax, tailbone pain because the muscles attach to the tailbone, back pain as a tight pelvic floor alters the mechanics of the pelvis and spine, pain with sexual intercourse for women and erectile dysfunction in men (yes men have a pelvic floor too you know!). A tight pelvic floor is known as Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and needs treating just as a weak pelvic floor does.
Overall these cones have been useless for me right now, they are supposed to be very effective for weak pelvic floors and on Embarrassing Bodies were the method that worked best. I do recommend them for women who want to strengthen the pelvic floor but anyone having similar difficulties to me with the removal should definitely stop and get that investigated. The concept is a good one and it means you can work your pelvic floor while you walk around or do the housework. The set is a very neat little set and not something you'd feel the need to hide because it's obvious what it is, it could easily be a little make up set. I have no doubt that using weight would strengthen a weak pelvic floor, weights strengthen other muscles so why would this be any different? I definitely think they are worth a try with stress incontinence symptoms and now they only cost £15 it's not very much money to lose if you don't get on with them. My set are going back in the back of that cupboard now I've written the review and I'm giving them 4 stars because I'm sure they would work but the confusion over whether effort should be used or not loses the product that one star.
7 / 10 cases of stress incontinence can be greatlyimproved or cured by maintaining regular vaginal exercises, such asusing the Aquaflex® Pelvic Floor Toning System, for just 20 minutes aday for 12 weeks.A healthy pelvic floor is crucial at all stages of yourlife. By exercising your pelvic floor you will help to strengthen themuscles that support the vagina, urethra, bladder, uterus and rectum. Inturn this could dramatically alleviate urinary incontinence, supportchildbirth, discourage pelvic disease and menstrual problems, andimprove your sexual enjoyment and responsiveness.9 Million Women in the UK may Experience Stress Incontinence Research conducted by The Continence Foundation suggeststhat most women are too embarrassed to mention stress incontinence totheir doctor, friends or even their partner. Their research estimatesthat over 9 million women in the UK experienced this problem in the lastyear.How Aquaflex Pelvic Floor Exercise System Helps Stress IncontinenceWhen an Aquaflex cone is inserted into the vagina, thepelvic floor muscles automatically contract around the cone givingimmediate identification of the correct muscles. It may sometimes benecessary to put some voluntary effort in to retain the cone. It is thisreflex action that exercises and strengthens the pelvic floor muscles.Aquaflex is easy to use and only needs to be used for upto 20 minutes once a day or until the muscles are tired. An exerciseroutine using Aquaflex can be easily established. While using Aquaflex,you can continue with your everyday activities as you gradually buildyour pelvic floor muscles.How Aquaflex can help70% of cases of stress incontinence can be cured or improved byusing weighted vaginal cones. Aquaflex is a safe, natural solutionallowing the woman to take control.Once inserted correctly, Aquaflex cones automatically isolateand work the correct muscles to help strengthen the pelvic floormuscles.Aquaflex is convenient easy to use and effective. If used daily for 20 minutes good results can be expected in just 12 weeks.Using Aquaflex can be easily fitted into your daily routine.Aquaflex is clinically proven.Exercise Before the Problem ArisesEven if you have never experienced stress incontinence,you could use Aquaflex as a preventative measure, to strengthen yourpelvic floor muscles in preparation for pregnancy, or as part of anoverall fitness programme. As the human body gets older muscles can getweaker, you can help combat this by maintaining an exercise routine tokeep you feeling fit and healthy.MotherhoodAfter the strain of carrying a baby for nine months, andthe rigours of giving birth, it is not surprising that some mums willbe left with a weakened pelvic floor muscles and poor control over theirbladder. Regular use of the Aquaflex can help restore your body.