Pelvic Health 101: on the outside
A broader look at pelvic dysfunction
When discussing pelvic health, we often think about the pelvic exam. While the internal part plays an important role in designing a treatment plan, there are many external assessment and treatment techniques that can (and should) be utilized. If the thought of internal pelvic health physiotherapy makes you squeamish, consider these benefits of a pelvic health treatment, that don’t include any touching on the inside.
Posture – an assessment and correction of posture has a direct impact on the pelvic floor. The position of the spine and pelvis is important for our core stability, and poor posture can contribute to more downward pressure on the pelvic floor, which may lead to a higher likelihood of leaking or prolapse.
Breathing – the diaphragm is the top of our “core”, and the diaphragm and pelvic floor typically mirror one another. If you are a shallow breather, you likely have tightness in your diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles. Breathing also plays a huge role in our nervous system – how we breathe determines whether we are in “rest and digest” mode or “fight or flight” mode.
Overall tension and nervous system overactivity – many of us spend a lot of time stressed, tense, or worried. This shows in our bodies and has an effect on how our bodies are functioning. Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and body awareness are great tools to start at the root of the problem if you tend to be an overall tense person. (Fun fact: researchers put electrodes all over women’s bodies to measure their muscle activation, and made them watch scary movies. The first muscles to react to fear were the pelvic floor muscles – even before blinking or moving away from the scary stimulus. Crazy!)
Core strength, stability, and coordination – an assessment of the abdominal muscles (especially after having a baby) is important for pelvic health, and many other reasons too! Get checked for a rectus diastasis (separated abs) and ensure your transverse abdominus muscles are working well. Ps. these are NOT your sit-up muscles!
Muscle tightness and tender spots – having your muscles treated optimize their function and helps with muscle balance and coordination. There are many treatment techniques for tender spots in muscles – some of the areas a pelvic health therapist would focus on include the abdominals, lower back, around the pelvis, groin, and thighs.
Scar tissue – any abdominal surgery will leave scar tissue. This is a normal and healthy response to healing. What is not normal is if your scar is tight, sore, tender to touch, or thick and stuck to the underlying tissue. All of these symptoms can be treated and may improve your mobility, digestion, breathing, and pelvic floor function.
So, if you are experiencing any pelvic health issues (incontinence, prolapse, pain, digestive issues, urinary urgency or frequency) please seek out a pelvic health therapist! There are many techniques that can be used on the outside, that do not involve touching your pelvic floor at all, but do have a direct effect on it’s function. Please get in touch, there is help and hope!
Written by Kristie Norquay, Pelvic Health Physiotherapist