Working with women, particularly pregnant and postnatal women, the phrase ‘pelvic floor’ is mentioned every day. It’s an important topic to discuss and it’s equally important that I have a firm understanding of how the pelvic floor functions so I have a better idea of when to refer to a Women’s Health Physio. That’s how I ended up on a physio bed, no pants on, while a physio poked her ultrasound probe up my undies and onto my perineum.
As I lay on that bed while four other female physios stood around watching, I thought to myself, wow, that’s slimy and cold and how did I get to this point in my life? But then, who cares, because my pelvic floor strength will be 5 out 5 for sure! I’ll show them!
Little did I know…
I was asked by Annette, the owner of Sans Souci Physio, to be a male subject for an inservice at her clinic. The inservice was education on pelvic floor function in men, obviously. And in case you didn’t know this already, there’s not a huge difference in the pelvic floor of a guy or a gal. I’m pretty sure some female clients I’ve had didn’t even know that men have a pelvic floor! So for the ladies out there who are in that boat, yes men have a pelvic floor just like you do, we just never have to push a baby through it.
Through this experience, I found out something really valuable about my own pelvic floor function. Something which, whether you’re a woman or a man, you should really be aware of; something which actually may be happening with you too!
I discovered, during that inservice, that I have a form of pelvic floor dysfunction. In my case, an over activity of my puborectalis muscle, which is one of many muscles which comprises the pelvic floor. The over activity meant that this particular muscle was dominating the contraction when I recruited my pelvic floor area and left out other pelvic floor muscles which should be activated just as much as the others.
To give you a brief understanding of what the puborectalis does, it basically helps you control bowel function by squeezing and releasing your anal sphincter.
Now at this stage it hadn’t been going on for that long, maybe a year or so. So the good news is that I’m aware of this now and I can go about rectifying the situation :-). I have been given some advice on how to down train this particular muscle and up train the muscles which haven’t had the chance to be contracted as much, so I can develop a better functioning pelvic floor in general.
A key takeaway point here for anyone, but in my case specifically, is that if I hadn’t had this checked out by a professional who specialises in pelvic health, I may have developed issues as time passed. Healthy bowel motions are integral for good health.
Over active pelvic floor can develop for a range of reasons, including UTI, traumatic labour or in my case, from something simple like always doing the wrong type of pelvic floor contractions in the gym. I also see it commonly in women who suffer from lower back pain, maybe because they have some hypermobility around the hips.
For the ladies specifically, as I always say to you, please visit your local Women’s Health Physio for a Women’s Health Assessment. If you’re pregnant it’s a good idea to have a check up, especially if you’re planning on a vaginal birth. If you’ve just been pregnant, even if you had a C-Section, it’s a good idea to have a check up as well. I know your GP or Obstetrician may do a quick run through with you at your 6 week check up, but this check generally doesn’t include a scan for muscular abnormalities, which may pose potential risks later on in life.
Chris runs specialised mums and bubs sessions in Dolls Point, South Sydney – please see his profile page for more information and to get in touch.