To know your body is to love your body.
As a women's health and nutrition coach and as a pelvic floor physical therapist, there is so much that I have learned throughout my education and my career that I wish all women knew about their pelvic floors. I’d love to share a few of those tidbits with you today.
You may be asking yourself, what is the pelvic floor? The pelvic floor is what we collectively call the muscles that support the pelvic organs (your bowel, bladder, and uterus). They play an important role in controlling your bowel and bladder movements, aid in pregnancy and birth, and even have a role in sexual function. They are just like any muscle in the body and can become too tight or weak in the same way that your hamstrings can feel tight or weak.
So what if you pee a little every time you go for a run?
We are often told as women that it’s totally normal to pee a little every time we run or do a double-under. It’s common to leak after pregnancy, with weight changes, or sometimes illness, but it’s not normal and it is easily fixed! Often it takes just a couple strengthening exercises to get back to being able to live life without having to worry about leaking every time you go for a run or step off a curb. Ps. it doesn’t matter how old your baby is now, you can always strengthen the pelvic floor. Yes, even if your baby is now 30 years old!
What about Kegels?
Most of us have heard mention of Kegels (pelvic floor strengthening exercises) and we may even do them occasionally. However, it’s important to know that Kegels don’t always fix everything and they may actually be making your symptoms worse. Kegels can be a great exercise if we are doing them correctly and if the muscles are weak. If the muscles are weak, though, because they are tight, then this exercise can actually cause the pelvic floor muscles to spasm and worsen the symptoms. Tight pelvic floor muscles can cause back pain, can cause you to go to the bathroom often, and can even make sex uncomfortable or keep you from being able to orgasm.
How does a leaky gut affect the pelvic floor?
Many of my patients that come in with pelvic pain often also have a leaky gut. This is because of the close proximity of the digestive organs to the pelvic floor muscles. When our digestive organs are inflamed, the inflammation can irritate the muscles and result in muscles that are overly tight (therefore causing pain and other symptoms). We must then focus first on healing the leaky gut (whether due to stress, food sensitivities, prolonged antibiotic use, etc) before we can focus on relaxing and stabilizing the pelvic floor muscles.
How does yoga affect the pelvic floor?
Yoga can be an incredibly beneficial part of healing your pelvic floor. The deep breathing that we learn in yoga can act as an important tool in relaxing the muscles in your body. As women we tend to carry a lot of our stress in our pelvic floor. Even something as small as taking 10 deep breaths, allowing the exhale to bring air to the pelvic floor, can help to relax the muscles. The core is also an important part of helping the pelvic floor function. This means that when we work our core during yoga, the poses can actually help to create more stability within the pelvic floor which allows the pelvic floor muscles to stay relaxed and strong during our daily activities.
What are your questions about the pelvic floor? Is any of this information new for you or do you feel pretty well connected to your pelvic floor? I’d love to hear your thoughts.