A pelvic floor exercise to help control flatulance that isn’t diet related
Talking to a similiarly aged friend at the gym, he mentioned that both he and his partner (also similiarly aged) have been suffering from more flatulance, seemingly as a result of getting older. The same has happened to me.
(Note that another common term for flatulence is farting. So if you suffer from excess farting that isn’t strictly diet related, this article and the anti-farting or fart-control exercise in it may be for you.)
Sometimes flatulence is the result of something that we’ve eaten or our diet in general. However, the focus in this article is on flatulence that results from loose or untoned pelvic floor musculature.
Why regular Kegels don't help with uncontrolled flatulence
My similiarly aged acquaintance mentioned that kegel’s don’t help. And that makes sense. The general directive when doing Kegels is to imagine stopping the flow of pee. With this instruction, Kegels tend to work on muscles related to stopping the flow of urine. These same muscles don't work to control flatulence.
The Keleher: an exercise for toning the muscles that support and surround the anus
A modified Kegle exercise for helping to prevent excessive farting, which could be called a Keleher (the term refers to the exercise, not the excessive farting!) involves a slightly different activation.
Create a pull on the tip of your tail bone towards your pubic bone
The first step is to note your pubic bone and the tip of your tailbone. From there, create a pull on the tip of your tailbone towards your pubic bone. Release and repeat a few times till you can get a feel for a line of tension that comes about when creating this pull.
Resist your tailbone pulling forwards
If you don’t get a sensation, you may have to resist your tailbone pulling forwards. This can be akin to creating a pull on a rope so that tension is created within the rope. If one end of the rope isn’t fixed, you’ll simply pull the rope along the floor. However, if the other end is fixed, then you can pull on the rope and feel the pull.
Likewise with this exercise, you may have to anchor the tailbone. Prevent it from moving forwards even as you create a forward pull on it. This should help you to cause your pubococygeus muscle to activate.
Developing control over your pubococcygeus
As you may or may not have guessed, the pubococcygeus is a muscle that extends from the tip of the tailbone to the pubic bone. The anus is positioned along the midline of this muscle.
Creating a resisted line of pull from your tailbone to your pubic bone is one way of learning to activate this muscle. This may help in developing better control of unexpected flatulence or farting.
Developing control over your puborectalis
Another muscle that loops around the anus is called the puborectalis. The puborectalis attaches from to the pubic bone and from there passes rearwards (note the emphasis... because of the word rear...) and then loops around the anus from either side. If the pubococcygeus is activate first, it's fibers become tense and that may serve to help anchor the puborectalis so that it's fibers can more effectively activate.
Once you've activated, or learned to activate pubococcygeus, you can then try activating puborectalis by generating a forward pull on your anus. Or simply try creating a tightening sensation around it.
An additional line of pull for sphincter control
Note that if sitting with your lower back rounded, you may find that you can also create a line of pull upwards and rearwards on your anus. You can try this after creating a forward pull. Alternatively, try creating this pull after activating pubococcygeus. You may notice that you get a forward pull on the anus as a side effect.
DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. The above exercises are exercises and if you haven't exercised your pelvic floor before now, you may find that you get a little bit sore. So go slowly initially or if you do get some soreness, realize it's just because you exercised a little too vigorously to begin with.
One other line of pull
Another line of pull you can play with is pulling upwards just in front of the anus or conversely, just behind the pubic bone. Note that this is entering the realm of the Kegel. That being said, if you learn to play with lines of pull, you can apply this same awareness to learning to feel and control other muscles.
Practicing pelvic floor activation with different pelvic positions
Because the pelvic floor muscles, of which both of these muscles are a part of, work against the lower transverse abdominis and the lumbar multifidii (which extend upwards from the back of the sacrum), you may notice lower belly or lower back muscle activation or both. Note that all together these muscles can help to stabilize the si joints.
Because of this, you may find it helpful to practice in an upright position both with the pelvis tilted back (so lumbar spine relative flattened) and with the pelvis tilted forward (so that the arch of the lumbar spine is accentuated.)
Resisting the forward pull on the tailbone
As a side note, it's worth mentioning the muscle (or muscles) that help to resist the forward pull on the pubic bone. The lumbar multifidii extend up the back of the coccyx (tailbone) and sacrum to attach to the rear of the lumbar vertebrae and beyond. These muscle fascicles can act to resist the tailbone pulling forwards.
Activating your lumbar multifidus
You can practice activating these muscles in relative isolation by trying to gently flick your tailbone rearwards. The resulting sensations can feel like you have an imaginary tail and are lifting it. Going without the visualization, if you can notice tension along the back of your sacrum while doing this visualization, that can generally indicated that you've activated your lumbar multifidus.
Note that this action, flicking your tailbone rearwards, can be another way of engaging your pelvic floor musculature. Since muscles create force when they activate, they need an opposing force to work against in order to activate. (Newton's third law.) When you use your lumbar multifidus to generate a rearwards pull on your tailbone and you focus on generating sensation, the pelvic floor muscles activate to resist the pull back.
When playing with lumbar multifidus control, as you get a feel for it, work at creating balanced tension along either side of the back of your sacrum.
Try with pelvic tilted forwards and rearwards
As with pubococcygeus activation, try multifidus activation with your pelvis tilted forwards. Also try it with your pelvis tilted rearwards.
Suggestions for exercise technique when working on your pubococcygeus
When doing any of these exercise variations (including those for the multifidus), rather than trying to hold the activation, work at activating and then relaxing. Work towards a slow and smooth activation. Likewise work towards relaxing slowly and smoothly.
Final notes on practicing control of pubococcygeus and other related muscles
Once you get a feel for your pubococcygeus and other muscles you may find that at some point you don't need to practice deliberately activating them as much. Ideally, practicing these actions helps to improve control of flatulence, but it isn't guaranteed. That being said, if you find these exercises work initially but then after a period of time don't work so well, you may have to extend your muscle control efforts.
Because these muscles work together to help stabilize the SI joint (as well as being involved in other bodily functions) they can affect, and be affected by the hip joints which in turn can be affected by the knees. They can also affect and be affected by the spine and ribcage.
Note that the same approach, feeling and controlling your bones and muscles can be applied to these structures also.
Published: 2023 03 07
Updated: 2023 03 08