I have always been fascinated by human anatomy, but, while in physiotherapy school, I completely fell in love with our bodies’ unsung hero, the pelvic floor.
The pelvic floor is the hammock-like ‘sling’ of muscles that support the bladder, bowel, and uterus and is such an underappreciated but vital part of our bodies. Pelvic floor physiotherapy involves the internal and external assessment and treatment of this amazing muscle group.
Since starting at Lead, I have been so happy to see how valued pelvic floor education is and how empowered our clients are because of it! I love Lead’s holistic approach to the body and love watching my clients leave with even more confidence than when they came in.
In light of this, I would like to share some of my favourite facts, tips, and things I have learned practicing as a pelvic floor physiotherapist.
Despite the stigma, pelvic floor health should not be embarrassing. The pelvic floor is a part of our bodies like any other! Although we may be embarrassed about incontinence or pelvic floor pain, the first step is talking about it with your practitioner. By the time a client books in with me, they have already taken the proper steps to understand and destigmatize the pelvic floor, which is an amazing start.
Everyone can benefit from seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist. A common misconception is that only women of a certain age after a certain number of children need to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist. The truth is that everyone, men included, has a pelvic floor and everyone should take care of it! So many issues like tight hips, tense muscles, lack of flexibility, and uneven gait can be related to the pelvic floor.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is common, but it should not be “normal.” I see clients for a host of issues that are negatively affecting their quality of life. The common statement I hear is that it is not a big issue, because it is “normal.” We are told that it is “normal” to pee a little when you sneeze after having children, “normal” to experience pain during intercourse, or “normal” to rush to the bathroom thinking you have to pee urgently and then have nothing come out. All of these issues are common and happen to a lot of the population, but they are examples of a dysfunctional pelvic floor and we do not have to accept them, because we can fix them!
You do not need to wait until you have a “problem” to take care of your pelvic floor. We have a concept in the physio world called “prehab,” where we prevent injuries and issues before they occur. This can begin as soon as a client knows that something will be changing in their life, whether it’s increased tension from working from home, or having a baby. A lot of pregnant women are surprised when they ask when they should start pelvic floor physiotherapy and the answer is “right now”! We can keep women comfortable throughout pregnancy and prepare for delivery, leading to a less strenuous postpartum rehabilitation process.
Since we cannot see the pelvic floor, we tend to ignore the pelvic floor. However, the pelvic floor is an early muscle to get tense when we are stressed. Moments of high stress can be good opportunities to practice mindfulness and connect with your pelvic floor by doing a full body scan. The next time you are in a stressful situation, ask yourself where in your body you are holding tension. Your jaw? Your neck? Your pelvic floor? Try to release this tension with a few deep breaths.
Common practices can hurt the pelvic floor more than they help. Peeing a few times “just in case” before leaving the house or going to bed trains the brain that signals from our own bodies cannot be trusted. This leads to further dysfunction down the road. Doing kegels is also a practice that is often thought of as the answer when it is really the problem! So much pelvic floor dysfunction comes from muscles that are too tense, and doing kegels when they are not required can exacerbate that.
Pilates and the pelvic floor go hand in hand. My clients who take Pilates classes at Lead definitely have a “leg up” because of the focus on pelvic floor awareness. Since I started taking Beginner Mat classes, I have even incorporated some Pilates moves into my exercise prescriptions!
The pelvic floor is powerful. I find it fascinating how much the pelvic floor can go through and still rehab itself. It has been so challenging and so rewarding to look at the body holistically and find the right solution for my clients. I hope that you learn to adore the pelvic floor as much as I do!