Pelvic Floor Health

In our second Mothers Day installment, Osteopath Gabby helps the mothers (and fathers) of the inner west understand the physical challenges that can emerge post pregnancy.

Hands up ladies (and gents because this affects you too!) if you pee when when you run / jump/ laugh/ sneeze / cough?

I may not be able to see you but I know you’re out there nodding and raising that arm ever so slightly because you know what I’m talking about but want to ignore it. That’s OK…… because guess what? You are not alone!

I bet that unless you are or have been pregnant and you’ve been told by a therapist or midwife, or you’ve jumped into your first pilates class to have the instructor say 100 times, “Now squeeze your pelvic floor” you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

I was one of those people too once upon a time. It wasn’t until I did my Matwork Pilates training at 25 years old that I truly understood the significance of the pelvic floor muscles. I remember being in the class thinkning, “Well I’m already a group fitness instructor and Osteopath, this can’t be that hard”. Well I was wrong. In that one hour never had I ever had to THINK about every movement, breath and contraction (especially the pelvic floor) I was doing, compared to other exercise styles I was used to.

So what is the Pelvic Floor?

Found in both men and women, the pelvic floor is a group of “forgotten muscles”. That’s because nobody knows about them till there’s a problem.

Don’t think of your pelvic floor as one muscle, but rather like a bowl of muscles that sit at the base of your pelvic bone. These muscles stretch across the bottom of your pelvis, like a taught, flexible elastic. They attach to the pubic bone at the front, the tail bone at the back and from side to side.

How does the Pelvic Floor function?

Together they perform four main functions:

1. supportive role by holding up the organs like the bladder, uterus and rectum

2. working with the abdominal wall muscles, diaphragm and deep lower back muscles they stabilize the core with walking, lifting and standing

3. a sexual role contributing to orgasm

4. they contract to control urine and feces

When they are FUNCTIONING it is called continence. Dysfunction in the pelvic floor muscles is called incontinence.

If you leak when force is applied to your bladder and pelvic floor such as during jumping or running, that’s considered stress urinary incontinence (SUI).

It can be due to the muscles:

  • Being too weak to contract
  • Coordination and timing to be off
  • Being strong enough but they have lost the ability to fire at the appropriate time
  • Being too tight to function properly

Causes of Dysfunction relation to SUI

  • SUI during pregnancy and after childbirth : due to the increased weight of baby, amniotic fluid and placenta, increased production of the relaxin hormone which loosens the ligaments causing the pelvis to stretch so the pelvic floor with stretch further
  • Giving birth : prolonged labour and delivery
  • Menopause
  • Getting older
  • Trauma or surgery to the pelvic area
  • Women of all ages and athletic backgrounds: dancers, gymnasts, weightlifters
  • Improper breathing patterns, poor body mechanics and poor posture can affect it
  • History of back pain
  • Being overweight or obese

Urinary incontinence is common, not normal.

70% of people with urinary leakage do not seek advice and treatment from a health professional. That’s because they are either told “it’s normal” or may be embarrassed or anxious to seek help.

Remember… you are not alone and there’s something that can be done about it.

How Osteopathy can help?

As Osteopaths we work on the mechanisms of structural dysfunction and imbalance to correct better movement and function of the muscles, joints and nervous system. In relation to pelvic floor muscle dysfunctions, we would address the corresponding muscles and joints that play an important role along side it. Such as the hips, sacro iliac joints, pubic joint, lower back, diaphragm muscle, and strength of the gluteals and abdominals.

Further referrals can be made to a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist for a proper assessment on the cause and appropriate exercises needed if it’s not related to simply stress urinary incontinence.

Learning to understand how the pelvic floor muscles are contracted and the right cues to visualize how to do this are the key to getting it right one squeeze at a time!

Here’s a video that shows how the pelvic floor muscles in females work

If you’re looking to improve you’re pelvic floor health we have many options available. From Osteopathy with Gabby to Pilates in our boutique stuido, we can find an approach that works for you. Feel free to contact Gabby via email, phone 93978877 or book your session here.