Being active is an essential part of creating long-term, lasting health. But what if participating in exercises classes, running, aerobic activities or heavy weight training results in bladder leakage? Is pushing through the discomfort, feelings of embarrassment or total avoidance of the issue the real lasting solution? Is peeing your pants during exercise ever normal?
You might be surprised to know, that your ‘’wee problem’’ is much larger issue than most people understand. Current statistics clearly show that an alarming 80% of women will suffer with a pelvic floor disorder at some stage in their lives and 1 in 9 woman will have surgery to fix their pelvic issues. 2015 can be a year of change for all of us: before we start to embark on grueling exercise routines, we need to take time to understand and consider the health of our pelvic floors.
Where Does The Problem Come From?
Any exercise that involves a change in intra-abdominal pressure, such as running, jumping, or lifting heavy objects can create a repetitive impact and/or stress on the area of the body known as the pelvic floor. If the pelvic floor is weakened or chronically tight, it cannot provide sufficient support to the bladder and other pelvic organs, resulting in peeing your pants while you try to burn Sunday’s lunch on a treadmill!
What Is The Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is group of muscles that run from the pubic symphysis at the front of the pelvis to the sacrum at the base of the spine. Its main purpose is to provide structural support to our internal organs, specifically the bladder, the uterus and the rectum. It also plays vital role in childbirth and helps maintain optimal intra-abdominal pressure. Healthy pelvic floor musculature supports the hips, lower back and pelvic joints and helps stabilize and support the torso and body. Ideally, a healthy pelvic floor ‘’turns on’’ automatically to help stabilize the pelvis before we begin any movement.
A common thought is that if you are female, over the age of 40, and have had a couple of kids your pelvic floor is guaranteed to be very weak. What I have actually found in many of my clients after years of working in pelvic rehab is that their pelvic floors live in chronic state of contraction and they haven’t been able to relax their tissues for a very long time.
How Can My Pelvic Floor Be Overly Tight And Weak?
Chronic shortening of the pelvic floor muscles, either due to Kegel overtraining, poor postural habits or trauma can lead to an increase in pelvic floor tightness; resulting in myriad of pelvic floor disorders. Too much tightness in your pelvic floor can easily manifest as urge incontinence, irritable bowel syndrome, cystitis or vulvadynia, to name a few.
Where Does The Kegel Fit In?
If you have a pelvic floor disorder and have looked for a solution to your discomfort, it is very likely that you have come across or been suggested to do the Kegel exercise. In fact, most women’s magazines and “fitness authorities” suggest that women do Kegels on a regular basis, and many times daily. But most people are unfamiliar with the mechanics of the Kegel exercise and how to facilitate the “most important exercise down there”.
I have been educating women on the health of their pelvises for a long time and have yet to come across a single patient or student who would know exactly what a Kegel is and how to do it.
Common thought is that Kegels represents “cutting off the urine flow,” but more often than not, when people think they are performing Kegels, they are instead squeezing their buttocks, firming their abdominals and/or clenching their jaws.
In addition, Kegels performed excessively over long periods of time will tighten the pelvic floor and can begin to pull the sacrum inwards. Imagine constantly contracting your biceps without every stretching it – the pelvic floor is no different and excessive contractions in the form of Kegels can result in a shortening of the musculature of pelvic floor. This is the same tightness I referred to previously that contributes to weakness and incontinence when running, jumping, coughing or sneezing.
Come back on Friday for my suggestions for pelvic floor fixes that don’t require Kegels!