Relationship between abdominal and pelvic floor muscle activation and intravaginal pressure during pelvic floor muscle contractions in healthy continent women

Neurourol Urodyn. 2006;25(7):722-30. doi: 10.1002/nau.20285.


Aim: Activation of the abdominal muscles might contribute to the generation of a strong pelvic floor muscle contraction, and consequently may contribute to the continence mechanism in women. The purpose of this study was to determine the abdominal muscle activation levels and the patterns of muscle activity associated with voluntary pelvic floor muscle (PFM) contractions in urinary continent women.

Methods: Fifteen healthy continent women participated. They performed three maximal contractions of each of the four abdominal muscles and of their PFMs while in supine. Abdominal and PFM activity was recorded using electromyography (EMG), and intravaginal pressure was recorded using a custom modified Femiscan probe.

Results: During voluntary maximal PFM contractions, rectus abdominus was activated to 9.61 (+/-7.42)% maximal voluntary electrical activity (MVE), transversus abdominus was activated to 224.30(+/-47.4)% MVE, the external obliques were activated to 18.72(+/-13.33)% MVE, and the internal obliques were activated to 81.47(+/-63.57)% MVE. A clear pattern of activation emerged, whereby the transversus abdominus, internal oblique, and rectus abdominus muscles worked with the PFM in the initial generation of maximal intravaginal pressure. PFM activity predominated in the initial rise in lower vaginal pressure, with later increases in pressure (up to 70% maximum pressure) being associated with the combined activation of the PFM, rectus abdominus, internal obliques, and transverses abdominus. These abdominal muscles were the primary source of intravaginal pressure increases in the latter 30% of the task, whereas there was little increase in PFM activation from this point on. The external oblique muscles showed no clear pattern of activity, but worked at approximately 20% MVE throughout the PFM contractions, suggesting that their role may be predominantly in postural setting prior to the initiation of intravaginal pressure increases.

Conclusions: Defined patterns of abdominal muscle activity were found in response to voluntary PFM contractions in healthy continent women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Muscles / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Calibration
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Pelvic Floor / physiology*
  • Pressure
  • Reference Values
  • Vagina / physiology*