Pelvic Floor: The Underdog

Summer is here and I’m all about getting outside and being active. And if you’re like me, you want that outdoor activity to make you feel alive and energized rather than leaving you feeling tired and achey.  I find consistently with my clients and students, that a 10-15 minute movement practice each day can change how you feel and how you move through life.

I believe the Pelvic Floor to be, the keystone to your quality of life.

I realize that sounds like a strong statement. It is. Let me explain.

The P.F. is getting a lot more attention these days, and for good reason… both men and women can experience pelvic pain and have the urge to urinate frequently. These are both serious health concerns that can impact your social life and enjoyment of pleasure.

Let’s think about it for a moment. Your pelvic floor is the foundation of your abdomen which is responsible for elimination, sex, and child bearing. It is also involved in core strength, agility, movement of your legs, breathing, and your bodies ability to absorb, transfer and dissipate load during movement.

A healthy pelvic floor is responsive so it can provide support, stability, strength and ease. A healthy pelvic floor provides freedom from pain, allows us to experience pleasure, confidence and playfulness without worry.

We often don’t think about our pelvic floor unless there is a specific problem. And even then it is often ignored.

Did you know that 53% of women between the ages of 20-80 experience urinary incontinence at some point in their lives? That’s a lot. 
Unfortunately less than half of these women do not report it to their doctors because they are too embarrassed, or they think it is normal to experience ‘a bit of leakage’ when they sneeze or laugh. Or, that it is normal after pregnancy or with age. Or, that it is normal because their mom, sister, and best friend all experience a ‘bit of leakage’ too.

But it is not normal.
Yes, it is common, but not normal.
Urinary incontinence can be prevented and treated in most cases. The cost associated with urinary incontinence is over $900 annually not to mention the lowered quality of life and inconveniences associated with it.

Other common pelvic floor problems includes organ prolapse, pelvic pain, sexual challenges, and back pain or hip pain. These dysfunctions of the Pelvic Floor can arise from a variety of reasons. One common dysfunction is overuse. This means the muscles are tense and tight and don’t relax. They are overworked or in a state of constant contraction. This may be a protective mechanism from injury or a compensation for a limitation happening somewhere else. Another reason could be under-use. These are tissues that lack tone and are weak. These muscles are not creating the necessary support. Other reasons could be from injury, or related to functional compensation patterns that often get labelled as being from poor posture or alignment.

An experienced pelvic floor physiotherapist can help you learn more about your specific issue.

If your curious about your pelvic floor let’s try this:

1. Sit on a surface that creates pressure on your pelvic floor. You can sit on a chair, or straddle a bolster or a pillow. Using a heating pad can bring more sensation to the area. If you contract your pelvic floor by squeezing it in and up and then release, does it relax? Or stay the same?  
Try this a couple times and see what you notice.
Then, try feeling your breath moving in and out of the pelvic floor…

 You may sense a gentle/subtle downward pressure as you inhale and a release or lift as you exhale (without consciously having to do anything). 
If you can’t feel it, visualize the breath moving in and out. You can try this in different positions, sitting, laying on your belly, or laying on your back.
 You may find that one position allows you to feel more than another position.  Typically after practicing this for 5 minutes over a few days, clients start to notice subtle changes and shifts in their experience.

So, why does a well functioning pelvic floor matter? Your P.F. is the foundation for all that you do. Your pelvis is the foundation from which our leg bones swing, that propel us through space as we walk or run. A supple p.f. is responsive and responds to our breathing – so it works with your diaphragm. (If you are tight through your ribcage or thoracic area your breathing might be limited which will also impact the pelvic floor and vice versa.) And the p.f. also must be able to absorb, transfer and dissipate load from walking, running, jumping, changing direction, lifting something heavy like a child, sneezing and the other things that we do.

Check out my practice videos on YouTube to explore some gentle movements to help improve your bodies relationship to the pelvic floor. If you feel limited or stuck in one or more of these exercises, keep practicing to help your body free up some space and develop better movement patterns.

Happy Exploring!