Introduction to Elvie!
Elvie is a trendy connected toy used to enhance your ability to perform your pelvic floor exercises. It is marketed as improving “core strength, control, and even better sex”, but before to see what it does exactly and in which cases it is actually useful, let’s see where it comes from!
Origin of Elvie:
Pelvic floor rehabilitation is a global approach including various techniques selected in function of the new mum needs.
Urine leakage occurring rarely in sitting position (more commonly running or lifting heavy weight...), it is essential to perform an active/functional rehabilitation, which means standing up, walking, standing on one leg…
Benefit of Elvie and Biofeedback:
Consequently, manual techniques are not enough and it is necessary to use a biofeedback machine. This tool allow to engage your pelvis muscles and to visualize on a screen their contraction/relaxation, and this in any position: lying on your back, sitting, standing, walking or even jumping.
Biofeedback also brings a didactic approach as you can actually see on the screen what you are doing. It is very helpful to develop a good awareness, sensation and control of the perineum. However, it is not a miracle and to do the trick it needs to be associated with a good manual, abdominal and postural rehabilitation as all these aspects have to be addressed at the same time.
Disadvantage of Elvie and Biofeedback:
BUT it is very easy to cheat with biofeedback machines if you use it without an initial supervision. The probe of the biofeedback or the Elvie can't differentiate if you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, your abs, you psoas or your adductor muscles (all these muscles are around your pelvis).
So the drawback, of doing it on your own, is the risk to engage the wrong group of muscles without realising it. Not only you are not engaging/strengthening your pelvic floor muscles but you might end up creating more damage.
For example, by squeezing your abs (rectus abdominus) instead of your pelvic floor you will increase your intra-abdominal pressure harming your pelvic floor. To put it clearly, instead of engaging gently your pelvic floor to improve its function, you are pushing/smashing on it which might lead to prolapse...
Another issue: using manual rehabilitation, you are able to identify precisely the different pelvis muscles (there is 3 very important ones) but if you only work with the probe or Elvie, you can’t.
Therefore, you will only engage the strongest one, the 2 other muscles remaining weaker. To regain a competent pelvic floor you need to have a good strength's balance between the 3. Otherwise, it is unsteady and could lead to pain, weakness and other issues.
When to use Elvie ?
Your pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles which need to be trained regularly (every day or every other day as any muscles). Human body is lazy and always tries to save energy, so when we don't use a tissue, it is considered useless and will disappear, and for muscles we call it amyotrophy (muscle wasting).
Like astronaut who come back on earth and can't walk any more. You walk every day, if you stay lying down for 2 entire days, you will feel bad/weak the next day. The same goes for your pelvic floor.
Obviously, you can't see your women's health physio every day. In my work most of my patients are very busy, it is often difficult to find time or they are too tired to lie down and to do pelvic floor contractions/exercises.
But with Elvie, it is different!
Elvie make it is fun! Or at least more enjoyable: you have a goal, a time to respect and you can monitor your progress.
Furthermore, like biofeedback (it is what I like the most), you have a screen to visualise what you do and you can work standing in a functional positions. You can make sense of what you are doing.
As there are different exercises, you can work different fibers (fast contractions, long contractions, steps to squeeze, steps to relax, squeeze slowly, squeeze at 50% of your maximum…). So many possibilities!
My personal opinion on Elvie:
For all these reasons, I think Elvie or Perifit (similar toy/app developed through crowdfunding) are essential as homework but it can't completely replace a global pelvic floor rehabilitation. Physiotherapy sessions remain essential at least at the beginning to understand how to squeeze correctly, to check if all muscles are ok or if there is other issues preventing a complete recovery.