Hey y’all! Guess what? We’re about to talk to you about your pelvic floor. It’s part of your anatomy just like your arms, core, glutes, and everything else and we would venture to say that your pelvic floor plays a pretty major role in your life whether you realize it or not, so buckle up because here we go! (We would also like to note that we are not doctors or physical therapists or medical specialists. If you are local to the Phoenix area and would like to see a pelvic floor physical therapist here are a few we have had recommended to us by Lauren’s physical therapist: Desert Physical Therapy and Pelvic Health, desertpt.com and Sarah at Anatomy Optimized https://anatomyoptimized.com/scottsdale-az-pelvic-floor-physical-therapist/
If you are not local to Phoenix feel free to check out @thevaginawhisperer on instagram. She’s in NOLA so if you’re local to NOLA and need a pelvic floor PT go check her out! Now, onward)
What is the pelvic floor
Every human has a pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor is located from your pubic bone in the front of the body to the tailbone in the back of the body. In females it is the muscles, ligaments, nerves, and connective tissues that support the bladder, uterus, rectum, and vagina. In males the pelvic floor is the muscles, ligaments, tissues, and nerves that support the bladder, rectum and other pelvic organs. The pelvic floor also connects to your deep transverse abdominis. The pelvic floor kind of acts like a hammock or a trampoline for alllll of the muscles and organs listed above.
One of the most important complexes of muscles in the pelvic floor is the Levator Ani. (Levator Ani = think “elevator- there is some lift involved here.) The levator ani muscles are attached to the pubic bones (bottom of the pelvis) on the inside, from the front of the pubic bones back to spine, and attach to the deep hips on either side.
So, let’s stop and think: if the levator ani is supporting and stabilizing the bladder, recturm, uterus, vagina in females and the bladder and rectum in males, we should probably do a little better at paying attention to the pelvic floor. (More on how to do that in a bit!)
Jump Around, Jump Around, Jump Up Jump Up and Get Down
Remember when the first kid in your friend group got a trampoline and the joy you all had using that thing! (Look-I, Lauren, lived in rural East Texas growing up in the 80s and 90s-not everyone had a trampoline and trampoline parks didn’t exist.) Think of your pelvic floor as that trampoline. The pelvic floor moves up and down congruent with the diaphragm. When you inhale (go ahead, take a deep breath), your diaphragm moves down and your pelvic floor lowers slightly, kind of like a nice little stretch for it. When you exhale (and exhale that air now), your diaphragm rises up allowing the pelvic floor to rise as well and contract gently. It’s just like the trampoline mat from when we were little! (Or as adults. I still love a good trampoline.)
With the pelvic floor being, well, the floor, they’re the base of our core. The pelvic floor works with the other deep core muscles we’ve discussed this week and the diaphragm to regulate the pressure in the abdomen. When we workout the internal pressure in the core changes. If you pick up a heavy weight (or child, or chair or whatever) the pressure inside the core increases and when the weight, person, or object is set down the pressure then decreases. Just like any other place in the body, any time a part of the core or pelvic floor is weakened or damaged in some way, it will throw off this internal pressure, and what have we talked about our core is for?…to support the spine….which houses the central nervous system. So we want to make sure that we are taking care of the core as a whole.
‘Cause inside out, its wiggida-wiggida-wiggida-wack
How many of us have ever felt this way about our pelvic floor? (Hi, it’s us.) We know that you’ve heard about kegels being the answer to all the pelvic floor problems, but it’s a bit more nuanced than that. Since the pelvic floor is also part of the core, we need to be able to know when to contract the pelvic floor as well as when and how to relax the pelvic floor. A pelvic floor that is never relaxed (hypertonic) can also co-exist with problems like urinary urgency, pain with sex, painful bowel movements, pelvic pain, and erectile dysfunction. Pelvic floor problems can be caused by a myriad of reasons. Some being:
-lifting a weight that is too heavy for our ability at that moment
We could seriously write pages on pelvic floor issues and what they are, but we are not experts on them in the clinical sense and we want to stay in our lane. If you have any of the symptoms listed or just want to know more about pelvic floor PT, this is the time to call a pelvic floor physical therapist. Both men and women can benefit from pelvic floor PT! You don’t have to have just had a baby or be pregnant to benefit from pelvic floor PT, we know people that have gone whose babies are not 15yrs old.
What we CAN do is give you some exercises that if you feel you don’t need a physical therapist you can do for your pelvic floor!
Want to know the general idea of what a pelvic floor PT appointment would be like? Click here.
Work it out
Some exercises to help become more aware and engaged with the pelvic floor. First up, to help relax the pelvic floor:
Diaphragmatic breathing. Yep! This will help you understand when your pelvic floor is relaxing (on the inhale) and when it’s contracting (on the exhale) and also teaches you how to connect with the rest of your core. We have a whole instagram reel on it. Check it out!
2. Wide knee child’s pose. Shift your weight and hips back to your heels and let your arms reach out in front of you on your mat or floor. Breathe deeply for 10-20 breaths
3. Malasana. It's a pretty deep and low squat that helps to stretch the groin. In yoga we tell our clients that if their heels don't touch the floor that it is a-ok! You can always rest them on a towel, blanket or other low prop. (A block is probably too tall.)
4. Adductor stretch. This will help your inner thighs release which are attached to your pelvic floor. If your hip flexors are super tight no need to start with the knee/thigh on a roller or block or pillow. Always the option to move up incrementally.
We want to do this in a safe and secure way. It's not a race.
To activate the pelvic floor:
2. Glute bridges which can progress to glute bridge marches
3. Heel slides
4. Dead bugs we reeeealllly like all of these progressions. We both use them in our classes on the regular! (And soon we'll get them filmed with US doing them!)
5. Jumping…ok, hear us out. We’re not talking pole vaulting here, but remember those mini trampolines we all had in the 80s and 90s? Light jumping, incrementally, and working up to longer durations can help to strengthen the pelvic floor. If you're currently having leakage every time you head for a quick jog, or laugh, cough, sneeze etc. maybe check with a pelvic floor PT to see if they can help and if this exercise wold be good for you.
Whew! That was a lot! But we are passionate about helping people learn that their core isn’t just the front abs and we need ALL of it to work together. Will it ever be perfect? No, but can we all work to try to feel better? Heck yeah! Reach out with any questions! We’d love to hear from you!