Being an Occupational Therapist specializing in Pelvic Floor health and a power lifter for recreation and health, I over hear many things at the gym.
Women and men making comments of always having to run to the bathroom during classes and work-outs, talks about leakage with running and jumping, bouts of constipation since they started working out, pain in the low-back, pelvic and hip region and vaginal pressure after the classes. I am writing this blog not only to help make women and men aware that you are not the only ones out there with these problems, but also to inform people even though these concerns are common they are not normal, and there is help.
Let’s start at the beginning. It all begins with breathing, surprising as that may seem. The correct technique with breathing can make all of the difference for pelvic health. Breathing affects your abdominal pressure which affects your posture, the motility of your intestines, provides pelvic stability, can help relax the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Learning the proper breathing techniques to utilize during your workouts can enhance your outcomes and make those annoying symptoms disappear.
It is important to understand how incorrect breathing can affect the body and lead to the symptoms mentioned above. If you think of your diaphragm as a balloon, when you inhale deeply through your nose you should be inflating your balloon, and as you exhale gently through your mouth you should be deflating your balloon and feel the low back gently relaxing posteriorly. In doing so, you began to engage the deepest layer of your abdomen muscles called the transverse abdominis aka TA’s. These muscles help support pelvic stability, the anterior wall, and help you move your pelvis without gripping the glutes (holding constant tension in your glute muscles). By using this technique you can decrease abdominal pressure during strenuous activities like squats, dead lifts, planks, crunches or a simple task of bending over to pick up an item. Believe it or not this technique should be used for all Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s).
When your breathing is incorrect, you increase abdominal pressure causing the oblique’s to tighten up to help you provide support. This increased pressure pushes down on your intestines and can slow motility leading to constipation; pushes down on the bladder causing frequency, urgency and even leakage; pushes down on the rectum causing difficulty pushing out gas or bowel movements and can even eventually lead to organ prolapses.
If you or anyone you know suffers from one or more of these symptoms you may have a pelvic floor dysfunction.
Lisa Edwards, MOTR/L, BSRS