My pelvic floor works hard for me. It makes sure blood and lymph pumps through the pelvis; it supports the organs inside the pelvis such as the bladder, uterus, rectum and then the digestive system on top of that; it is part of the core system that works hard to provide support to the back, pelvis and hips before and during movement; and it keeps urine and stool inside, so we don’t have to wear pads or diapers and lastly it plays an important role in sexual function.
The pelvic floor is amazing!
When you stop to think about what it does, I hope it gives you a sense of appreciation of the hard work these muscles do for us and inspiration to give it the attention it deserves. Taking a proactive approach to the pelvic floor really has lifelong benefits and can be protective against developing pelvic floor dysfunction. For the ladies, getting in tune with the pelvic floor prior to pregnancy or even during pregnancy can have positive effects for labour and delivery, as well as recovery. Don’t worry if you have given birth recently or 15 years ago, your pelvic floor muscles are muscles and can change at any point in your life.
We cannot control everything that happens to our pelvic floor, for example, during birth or after a surgery or a fall, etc., however, should the situation arise, having good body awareness and connection to these muscles can really help in overcoming challenging situations.
How does one get good awareness and connection to the pelvic floor?
Seeing a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist is a good place to start! Did you know that 30% of women when tested on performing a Kegel the first time performed them incorrectly? Getting proper feedback and training is key.
Taking care of pelvic floor is not just about kegels.
We live in a go, go, go society. We are often running from one activity to another. There are so many distractions and demands on us. What I tend to find a lot of is tension in the pelvic floor region. The pelvic floor needs to move through its full range of motion to be most effective and healthy. So not only is it important for us to use the muscles in exercise, but equally important is learning how to relax them and give them a break from their long shifts. If there is tension present in the pelvic floor, performing Kegels may make symptoms worse and/or even create pain. In these cases, a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist would teach Reverse Kegels first.
Other important considerations for optimizing pelvic floor function is posture and breathing. How we position our bodies in space impacts the ability of the pelvic floor muscles to move. In order to train these muscle initially, we need to position ourselves for success, which is something I teach my clients.
The importance of breathing is often overlooked
The diaphragm muscle and the pelvic floor work together. They move up and down together and therefore need to be trained together. Why? Well these 2 muscles along with the transverse abdominis (deep tummy muscle) and multifidus (deep back muscle) make up “The Core”. So if you are doing “core” workouts and it doesn’t include the pelvic floor and breathing, then you may not be getting the full activation of the deep muscle system. This coordination of the 4 muscles becomes really important in higher impact fitness, sports and training. I hope this article has given you a deeper appreciation for these muscles and a better understanding of the different ways they can be re-trained. Whatever your goals are, preparing for birth, overcoming symptoms of incontinence or pain, wanting to return to exercise safely, pelvic physiotherapy can help you achieve your goals.
Madelaine Golec is a Registered Pelvic Health Physiotherapist and the owner of ECO Physiotherapy in Mississauga, ON. She completed her physiotherapy training at McMaster University in 2012 and started her training in pelvic health in 2014. She is a first time mom of Alice and since 2016 is only focused on treating pelvic health clients. In her spare time she enjoys traveling to South America with her family, playing with her 2 Shih Tzu’s and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.