“I sometimes leak a little when I pick up the kids, exercise or sneeze, but my friends do too, so that’s normal and to be expected, right?”
Pelvic pain and dysfunction is very common, but it’s not normal. It should never be accepted as part of a women’s journey through life, be that during puberty, pregnancy or the menopause.
Leaking urine, painful sex, prolapse, abdominal muscle separation, recurrent infection, period pains, irregular cycles, infertility, mood swings, low energy, bloating, reduced libido, haemorrhoids and irritable bowel can affect women at any stage in their lives as a result of poor movement patterns, hormonal imbalances, sport or fitness training, childbirth, trauma or surgery.
At best these issues are often treated using basic, temporary fixes, sometimes creating long term problems. At worst, they are dismissed entirely. To fully address pelvic dysfunction we must consider the ‘when’, ‘why’ and ‘how’, not just the ‘what’. To do this we have to apply a total-body approach rather than just recommending a single corrective exercise, such as the Kegel, or focusing on a single area.
To achieve a permanent improvement you have to change your patterns of movement. This is achieved through body awareness.
Here are a handful of tips to get you thinking outside the pelvis:
• Pelvic Floor Exercises aren’t Enough
The chances are, that if you have only ever
done just Pelvic Floor (PF) exercises, you
are still experiencing symptoms. Learn new
ways to effectively strengthen your PF.
• Educate yourself
The PF is part of your core; continuous
with your abdominal muscles, diaphragm,
spinal muscles and sacrum. Therefore
exercise needs to target the core (and more)
to influence the PF.
• Breathe Easy
Learning how to breathe into the lower
ribs, relax the shoulders and fully utilise the
diaphragm improves the pressure within the
abdomen and off-loads the PF.
• Don’t slouch
Don’t sit in a C-shaped curve, sit up and off
your tailbone. This allows the tailbone to
move backwards, creating space and
improved tone in the PF.
• Feel the Bulge in the Basement
All muscles need to be long and strong to
be healthy, including the PF. A short, tight
PF is weak, so it is vital to learn how to
relax it too. As you inhale, allow the PF to relax and gently bulge, like lowering
the PF beyond the ‘ground floor’ and into
the ‘basement’. As you exhale engage and
lift the PF.
• Stay Active
Finding activities that engage the core and
the glute (buttock) muscles are key. Try
brisk walking with gradients and a variety
of terrains, and regain the lost art of
squatting. Begin with low impact
movement and progress from there.
• Avoid Straining and Constipation
Chronic coughing, constipation and being
overweight all increases the pressure on the
PF. Check your nutrition and general health.
Not all women need to strengthen their pelvic floor. Most need the opposite, as they’ve been gripping, lifting and bracing for so long, but until you are fully assessed, it’s just guesswork. You are how you eat, sleep, move and relax. By taking back control and responsibility of all these areas in your life, you can learn how to heal your pelvic dysfunction now and for your future.
We are not passive recipients of illness and dysfunction, but active participants in our health and wellbeing. If you’re fed up with having to accept your pelvic dysfunction as part and parcel of being a woman and feel ready to learn more, Emma Wightman is a specialist osteopath in women’s health and would be delighted to support you in your recovery journey.
Visit our website for a free download with this information in a handy printable guide.