Have you ever stopped to think about all the parts of your body that come together to make you who you are? When you consider it, it’s incredible: your heart pumps blood through your system non-stop, your spinal cord acts as the highway for information to and from your brain via your nerves, your digestive system processes food into energy, and it all happens without you even thinking about it. The body is full of unsung heroes—crucial body parts that keep us in good health, and there’s perhaps no better example of this than the all-important, but often-forgotten pelvic floor.
What is the pelvic floor?
The bones of your pelvis form a bowl shape, with the springy, elastic pelvic floor stretched in the middle like a drum. The pelvic floor serves many functions. These include:
- Acting as a support for your lower organs, such as bladder, bowel, uterus, and vagina
- Supporting increased weight of fetus during pregnancy
- Stabilizing the bones of the pelvis, as well as the hips and lower back
- Help to control bowel and bladder continence
Like anything else in the body, the pelvic floor is susceptible to becoming weak or damaged by an injury, body changes like pregnancy or menopause or simply with the aging process and inactivity.
Risks of a weak or tight pelvic floor
There are a number of potential problems caused by a weakened or damaged pelvic floor. The pelvic floor depends on its timing of activation, strength and elasticity in order to fulfill its functions in the body. You can think of the pelvic floor as a trampoline designed to support everything on top of it, and an ideal tension of it is crucial to prevent potential health issues. These can include:
- Problems with the urinary and bowel systems. If your pelvic floor is weakened or stretched, it could lead to issues with continence, which refers to the body’s ability to control leakage from the bowel and/or bladder. In women, a weak pelvic floor can influence pelvic organ prolapse, or a tight pelvic floor can lead to urinary tract infections, constipation or hip/back pain.
- Low sexual response. A healthy pelvic floor allows regular blood flow to the reproductive organs, which promotes a good nervous system response to the area, as well as good vaginal health.
As you can probably tell, there are many reasons to ensure your pelvic floor is in the best possible condition. So how do you ensure you’re taking good care of it? The answer is pelvic floor therapy.
What is pelvic floor physiotherapy?
Pelvic floor physiotherapy is a clinical treatment that focuses on the health of this very specific and important body part. Creating an ideal tension of muscles of the pelvic floor and surrounding muscles of the hip rotators, back extensors, and core muscles is necessary as they influence each other. Breathing also has a huge impact on the pelvic floor and pelvic organs, as a breath holding strategy while working out, can increase the intra-abdominal pressure creating a tight pelvic floor to keep the contents of the organs inside the body.
I have taken many courses in the diaphragm (breathing muscle), pelvic floor and incontinence courses as well as the diaphragm-pelvic floor piston system, on how they need to work together to create an ideal tension. Many of the courses focus on decreasing the pressures and tension put on the pelvic floor and core muscles and how the body’s posture and alignment can influence those pressures and resulting pelvic floor weakness or tone.
Treatment usually revolves around alignment of the ribcage and pelvis over the base of the feet and ensuring a good 3 dimension breath pattern which stretches out the pelvic floor, ensuring the elasticity to help activate it on the exhale. It can also include strength training in the muscles surrounding the pelvis, and hips, which allows your pelvic floor to be better supported. Pelvic floor physiotherapy may also involve relaxation techniques, breath work, fascial release work or bouncing, postural recommendations for changes to be made in daily habits and routines, as well as information about potential bladder irritants that can cause increase in symptoms that you might not be aware of.
One misconception about pelvic floor therapy is that it’s solely intended to help females, but this isn’t the case. Pelvic floor therapy can help people of any gender with a multitude of issues, including:
- Incontinence (problems controlling urine or fecal waste)
- Pain during urination
- Painful sex
- Chronic pain in the hips, lower back, or thighs
- Rectal pain
Pelvic floor physiotherapy is the best way to address the health of your pelvic floor and get ahead of any of these issues before they become major health concerns. A qualified therapist will be able to help you understand your exact health situation, and make a customized treatment plan that takes your medical history, current problems, and future health goals into account. I do NOT perform internal examinations and internal treatments, but I can refer you to those physiotherapists that do, if that is required based on your individual situation.
If you’re ready to take your health into your own hands, pelvic floor physiotherapy might be the treatment for you. With over twenty years of experience as a physiotherapist, I’ve seen firsthand the difference pelvic floor therapy can make in clients, and I truly believe in its ability to change your life for the better.
If you have more questions about the importance and benefits of pelvic floor therapy, or if you’re ready to set up an initial consultation with me today, don’t hesitate to contact me!