I just got back from my great-niece’s first birthday party in Ottawa. I adore her! It seems she’s inherited my passion for hands-on helping. Future osteopath?
I find the drive tedious, so we decided to take the train. An opportunity to view the brilliant fall colours and catch up on reading. Sadly, Via Rail’s new seats are bum-numbingly uncomfortable. Almost impossible to sit in correct alignment. Add vibration for hours, and even with a well-developed gluteal mass, you might end up with a real pain in the a#s.
Pelvic Position Affects Muscle Function
I tried to sit with a neutral pelvis, rearranged myself into various positions and got up to pace the aisles and stretch. Why? Because too much sitting, especially with a tucked-under butt, will shorten and tighten your pelvic floor. You can watch Katy Bowman’s Pelvic Floor Demystified video to learn about the science/physics but to sum it up: SHORT + TIGHT = WEAK.
The pelvic floor is more like a funnel than a floor. Comprised of multiple layers of muscles in different orientations, it attaches to your coccyx, sacrum, ischial and pubic bones. It envelops your pelvic organs, then spirals downward with hiatuses for your urethra, vagina, and rectum. It plays a role in:
- Elimination – urination and defecation
- Visceral (organ) support – bladder, uterus, rectum
- Sexual function
We learned how to assess and treat the pelvic floor, along with the respiratory diaphragm, on day one of osteopathy school. Quite the icebreaker. When I started studying restorative exercise, it was one of the first lessons too. I think that speaks to its importance!
Your Diaphragm & Pelvic Floor Work Together
The diaphragm and pelvic floor (also known as the pelvic diaphragm) work together to balance pressures in the body’s cavities. If they’re out of sync, you’ll have impaired circulation, drainage, and nervous system function. I see the result far too often: diastasis recti, hernias, varicose veins, constipation and hemorrhoids, pelvic organ prolapse, swollen ankles, high blood pressure… Altered pelvic floor tone can contribute to incontinence issues, sexual dysfunction and prostate problems too.
Pelvic floors get a lot of attention in the pre and postnatal communities, being part of your ‘core’. But a functional pelvic floor is important for everyone and affects more than just your core. Low back, knee, foot, neck or shoulder pain can have their root here. It’s all connected.
A Whole Body Approach to Pelvic Floor Health
A healthy pelvic floor requires biomechanically correct whole body alignment. I don’t treat anything in isolation. I’ll look at related structures, both locally – pelvic muscles (piriformis, psoas, adductor, hamstring) and organs (uterus, colon, bladder) and globally – feet, diaphragm, spine, even cranium if indicated. The goal is to find your areas of restriction, mobilize them and reintegrate for optimal function. Where those are depends on your particular body, history, and habits.
Align & Move – Squat & Walk
From a restorative exercise perspective, your stance is a good place to start. The best calf stretch ever will help you get aligned from the ground up. Plus you need to squat and of course, walk.
For more on how you can help yourself, read Petra Fisher’s 3 Fast Fixes For Your Pelvic Floor. Even better, join her six-week, in-depth Restore Your Core workshop. It starts November 5th at my office. You’ll get all the tools you need to nurture life-long pelvic health. And have a whole lot of fun!