This month we’re excited to bring you this guest blog, written by Lucy of Winchester Wellness.
Firstly, it is important to realise the importance of the pelvic floor. Some health and fitness professionals expect you know what this ‘pelvic floor’ is and how we ‘do’ it, but not many explain it very well, in our experience.
The pelvic floor is not a single muscle but a crucial bunch of muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia (layers of collagen and water covering and linking muscles together).
This group of soft tissues we call the pelvic floor supports:
- Abdominal and pelvic contents
- Bladder and bowel control
- Stability and mobility of the pelvis and lower back
- Sexual function
- Baby(ies) and placenta in the uterus whilst pregnant
The pelvic floor works with the diaphragm, multifidus and transversus abdominis to increase and decrease pressure in the abdominal area like a canister. These pressure changes are what influence core control.
Research has shown that the following can affect your core control:
- Bladder, Uterus or Bowel pain (e.g UTIs, endometriosis, IBS)
- Lower Back Pain
At Winchester Wellness, we do NOT believe a strong “core” equals a six-pack. Core control refers more to the control we have over movements of the whole body.
To gain core control, we require optimal timing and co-contraction of the pelvic floor with the other deep core muscles mentioned before. The aim of strengthening the pelvic floor is not to build bigger muscles but to improve function.
To improve the function of our pelvic floor, you may be surprised to hear that it is not as simple as “squeezing in and up”!
Here are 5 TOP TIPS to improve your pelvic floor health:
- Good head position! You want to keep length through the back of the neck so don’t let that chin fall forwards (cue everyone sit up and tuck their chin back!). Your brain and skull are heavy and if they are not sat directly on top of the spine then it will put excess strain on the neck and back muscles. If the head is poking forwards it will also shorten the muscles at the front of the neck as well as the fascia surrounding these muscles that extend over the chest and abdominal muscles creating unnecessary tension towards the core muscles.
- Good shoulder blade & ribcage position! Keeping your shoulder blades relaxing down the back will help to relieve the neck of any extra pressure. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t feel like a rigid stance and you should feel relaxed throughout the ribcage (front, sides & back). Make sure the front of the ribs are not poking forwards by really squeezing the shoulder blades together at the back, nor are the shoulders rounding forwards. A nice way to think about this is to imagine opening the chest or lengthening across the collarbones.
- Breathe!!! The link between the diaphragm and the pelvic floor cannot be ignored. The deepest stability muscles of the spine represent a canister where the pelvic floor is the base, diaphragm the lid and the transversus abdominis (TA) the wall. To gain optimal pressure changes around the spine for stability, the diaphragm, pelvic floor and TA need to be able to contract and relax together. Deep breathing will improve mobility of the diaphragm to assist in this and contracting the pelvic floor and TA whilst breathing out will synchronise the diaphragm to increase spinal stability, conversely breathing in whilst relaxing the PF and TA will allow for increased circulation, lymph drainage and organ function (digestion, excretion etc).
- Good mid-back movement! A stiff upper or middle back can seriously affect your ability to perform tips 1, 2 and 3.
- Good pelvic position! The lower back will have a natural arch – some more arched than others, however you may want to check in the mirror that you’re not sticking the butt out nor tucking it under and sticking your hips forwards. Your natural pelvic position should feel comfortable.
We hope you find those tips useful. Please get in touch with Winchester Wellness if you are pregnant and would like to know more about HOW to contract and relax your pelvic floor. We are passionate about prevention rather than cure and the feeling of pelvic floor muscle training differs between individuals so it is important that you are practising correctly, not over or under doing it!
At WW, we believe women are not educated enough about the recovery post partum and urge you to seek advice if you experience any of the following past 8 weeks post delivery:
- Pelvic, low back, neck pain
- Continued bleeding
- Leaking or loss of control of urine/stool/gas
- Pressure or bulging in the vagina or rectum
- Difficulty with daily activities
- Obvious separation of the stomach muscles (Diastasis Recti Abdominis)
Many of these issues are treatable, however can worsen if ignored. WW provide a virtual assessment option if you would like an initial opinion, or we recommend booking an appointment with a physiotherapist or your GP (who may then refer to physiotherapy).
To find out more about the services Winchester Wellness offer and how they can support you during your pregnancy and beyond, you’ll find them here:
You can also sign up to the Winchester Wellness newsletter via their website to keep up to date with all the latest health tips and tricks, including education and Pilates for ante- and post-natal wellbeing!