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Taboo Struggles Women Endure - when there is help to be had

The best part of my job is seeing a smile on a woman’s face because she went for her first run without leaking urine, or the grandmother who picked up her grandson without losing control of her bowel, or the woman who was finally able to have intercourse with her partner and NOT be in pain.

These are the unheard struggles we deal with as women. These are the struggles that impact relationships, daily functioning and ultimately hold us back. One in three women experience leakage at some point in their life and one in seven deal with painful intercourse. Let's fight back and start talking openly about these symptoms! Spread the word that these symptoms can be corrected through education, exercise and hands on techniques by a pelvic floor physiotherapist. 
Research has indicated there is an 80% success rate in correction of these issues with pelvic floor physio and we see higher rates clinically.

I feel honored every day to help women say “NO” to pelvic floor problems!

  • Why are pelvic floor concerns so common?

To answer this question I would like to briefly discuss the anatomy of the pelvic floor.  These muscles sit at the base of our pelvis and maintain a constant state of contraction, thus providing an active floor that supports the weight of the abdominal and pelvic contents.  Other than supporting all these structures, they are responsible for protecting the contents against the forces of intra-abdominal pressure. By functioning appropriately, the pelvic floor musculature prevents constant or excessive strain on the pelvic ligaments and fascia. Another important job of these muscles are the keep the urogenital hiatus (area where the urethra passes through to get to to outside of our body) closed and draw the bottom parts of the urethra, vagina and rectum towards the pubic bone at the front of our pelvis.

With 1/3 women experiencing pelvic floor control issues (leakage of urine) and 1/7 dealing with pelvic pain, we have to ask the question "Why do so many woman struggle with pelvic floor dysfunction?"  Well the answer is different for every patient, but as women, our pelvis is wider and of course the injury to our pelvic floor muscles after delivery of a baby is unique. This does not mean women who deliver their baby by c-section are exempt from pelvic floor dysfunction as the lower core has fascia (a type of connective tissue) that is continuous with our pelvic floor.  If there is tight, pulling tissue in our lower abdomen, this can affect how our pelvic floor functions.   Even postpartum, we have seen that with tearing of the pelvic floor, the muscles heal back in a shortened position and scar tissue tends to pull/restrict the muscles, thereby affecting their function.

In the last 5 years, we have noticed a significant increase in pelvic pain associated with individuals dealing with mental health concerns like anxiety and stress. When we are stressed we activate a part of our nervous system which causes us to clench certain muscles and the pelvic floor tends to be one of the first muscles held in shortened position.  We also see pelvic floor issues in high level athletes who require vast range of motion of their joints to perform their sport.  The pelvic floor tends to be prone to tension in these athletes because they need a strong base of support for everything else to move.  When working with a pelvic therapist, the client learns it is not good to just have a "Tight" pelvic floor.  The muscles need to be able to have full flexibility and coordinate against pressures properly.  

These are just a few of the reasons our pelvic floor can become dysfunctional, but there are so many more.

  • Besides leakage, what are other symptoms?
  1. Urinating more than 8 times a day
  2. Difficulty initiating urination
  3. Feeling that you have not fully emptied your bladder after urination
  4. Feeling of pressure or heaviness in pelvic region
  5. Straining to have a bowel movement
  6. Pain during or after bowel movement
  7. Pain with sexual intercourse or difficulty with penetration
  8. Pelvic pain (vaginal, rectal or perineal)
  9. Pelvic girdle, buttock, low back or coccyx pain
  10. bowel incontinence
  • What mistakes do you see from people trying to correct on their own?

- We often see people performing as many Kegels  (contracting the pelvic floor muscles and holding) as they can which can actually cause a lot more harm than good. 

  • What tips do you have to correct?

- I would recommend having an assessment by a pelvic floor PT to see what your body needs.  Most people require a combination of deep core, posture, breathing, hip stabilization and pelvic floor retraining.  Every person has a pelvis that is shaped slightly differently and has a different history.  There is not one specific way to help solve the problem.  We first need to find out what has caused the problem in the first place. 

  • Is this just a female problem?

- Men also deal with pelvic floor dysfunction.  Especially those who have had prostate enlargement or surgery.

Kirstyn Cahoon practices out of the Creekside location and is one of the Pelvic Health Physiotherapists available to assist you at Momentum Health.  Call your nearest location to book with a practitioner of your choice.