It's time to learn all those things they never taught us in health class - periods, pregnancy and pelvic floor!
I'm a women's health educator, a nerd when it comes to learning "all of the things", and my obsession is teaching women how to take control of their health and create a life they love!
In this episode, we’re talking about overactive pelvic floors. When your pelvic floor muscles have higher tone and activity than what we’d consider normal and why kegels are the very last thing you should be doing.
And while there is no denying that it’s a great thing that women are becoming more informed about their bodies and how important the pelvic floor is, for some women, weakness isn’t the problem. And when we’re all being bombarded with the message to do our pelvic floor exercises every single day, we’re not necessarily being told about symptoms other than weakness and leaking. And so any problem down there at all, we think can be fixed by squeezing and lifting every day.
And this could be doing more harm than good.
Hello, and welcome to episode 16 of The Mana Women’s Wellness Podcast. I’m your host, Rachel and today I’m talking about a topic that has popped up quite a few times in my DMs now, women who’ve been told they have an overactive pelvic floor and wanting to know more about what they can do to fix their symptoms.
And if you want to know a little more about your pelvic floor, then go back and have a listen to episode 3 – 5 things every woman needs to know about her pelvic floor. In that episode we cover the basics of what the pelvic floor is and why it’s so damn important.
or you want to know what questions to ask yourself to see if you have any symptoms that might need addressing, you can grab my free pelvic floor quiz. It’ll take a couple of minutes, just some yes and no questions to help you decide if your pelvic floor needs a little extra love.
And if you’re ready to dive deep into all things pelvic floor, you can sign up for my free pelvic floor bootcamp, you’ll get access to three days of video training and exercises to help you to manage your pelvic floor symptoms.
You can grab both of these freebies at www.fertilityco.com.au/freebies or head to today’s shownotes and I’ll include all the links there as well. And that’s over at www.fertilityco.com.au/overactive
And while there is no denying that it’s a great thing that women are becoming more informed about their bodies and how important the pelvic floor is, for some women, weakness isn’t the problem. And when we’re all being bombarded with the message to do our pelvic floor exercises, do our kegels every single day, we’re not necessarily being told about symptoms other than weakness and leaking. And so any problem down there at all, we think can be fixed by squeezing and lifting every day.
And so, let me begin today by saying that if you’re experiencing leaking or weakness or dragging or heaviness, then yes, you probably need to do pelvic floor exercises to strengthen your muscles and improve your symptoms. But kegels aren’t the be all and end all, there are situations where these strengthening exercises can do more harm than good. And that’s why it’s so so important to be assessed by a qualified women’s health physio. You need to have your pelvic floor checked. And if you start doing kegels and your symptoms get worse, stop. Self-diagnosis here can make your symptoms worse.
Now, an overactive pelvic floor, a hypertonic pelvic floor, a high tone pelvic floor refers to muscles that have a higher than normal tone at rest and have diffiuclty relaxing. Just as your neck or shoulder muscles might become tight, your pelvic floor muscles can too. But I don’t like to use the word tight when it comes to this area of the body because I think these days having a tight vagina is seen as a positive thing – and it isn’t, so we’ll called it overactive instead. This condition can kind of be considered the opposite of a weak pelvic floor. It’s not that the pelvic floor muscles are too strong, it’s that they have difficulty relaxing and they’re switched on more than we’d like.
Some common signs of an overactive pelvic floor include:
While there is no single definitive cause of an overactive pelvic floor, there are factors that are thought to contribute to tightening of the pelvic floor muscles.
When people experience pelvic floor dysfunction, their first thought is to do pelvic floor strengthening exercises. However, further activity and contraction of these already tight muscles can worsen your symptoms when your muscles are overactive. This is why it is so important to seek treatment from a qualified women’s health physiotherapist to check what type of dysfunction you are experiencing and to manage your symptoms before they progress.
When working with a physio, here are some of the things you might be doing:
Now I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in this area at all. Chronic pain, complex pain, is a still a very new area in physiotherapy and in healthcare really. And the way we treat chronic pain is very different to the way we would treat an acute injury, like a twisted ankle. Chronic pain changes the way we see our bodies, it changes our thinking patterns. And when it’s affecting the most intimate part of your body, it’s not obvious from the outside and it’s something that really affects a person’s life, their comfort wearing underwear, their relationships, their ability to have sex – it’s a hugely sensitive subject. And the mental toll that this would have on woman who struggles with it and her partner too, is huge. And so I guess here, if you’re noticing small symptoms, subtle symptoms, if you’ve recently had a baby and you’ve had a perineal tear and stitches – go and see a women’s health physio. In Australia, you don’t need a referral, you just need to book an appointment. Get this stuff sorted early to avoid your symptoms getting worse.
Ok, so now I want to take you through a quick pelvic floor relaxation exercise. This is something everyone can try and it’s even just something you can add to your daily routine, if you have a meditation practice, chuck it in at the start or the end.
So I want you to find a place to relax, free from noise and distractions.
Lie down in a comfortable position with your knees bent up and feet flat on the floor.
Close your eyes and slowly breathe in through your nose for around 3 seconds. Allow the air to flow down in to your belly, causing your belly to rise. Place your hands on your belly to feel this movement. This may be difficult to coordinate at first, your belly may not be used to stretching and rising with your breath.
Now that you’ve got your breathing pattern under control, add in your pelvic floor contraction.
Breathe in, then on your next breath out, lift and squeeze your pelvic floor.
But instead of focusing on contraction, I want you to focus on the relaxation because that’s where these muscles have trouble.
Imagine your pelvic floor is an elevator, squeeze and lift going up 123, Then relax your pelvic floor slowly and imagine the elevator going back down 3, 2, 1 levels.
Allow your pelvic floor to completely relax and imagine the doors of the elevator opening again.
Continue with this exercise for 1-2 minutes, coordinating your pelvic floor contraction with your breath out and the relaxation with your breath in.
Practice this exercise at least once a day.
Ok, we are going to wrap it up for today. I hope I shed some light and some new knowledge on an area that really isn’t addressed a lot. And while it’s great that women are learning more about their pelvic floor and starting to incorporate strengthening exercises into their daily routine, it’s just as important to take note of the signs that maybe your pelvic floor doesn’t need any more strengthening, that it really needs some help to relax instead. And I hope if you’ve related to any of the symptoms I’ve talked about in this episode, that maybe you’re feeling a little more inspired to get some help, to see physio to get assessed and work with them for an individualised treatment plan.
If you learnt something new or found value in today’s episode, or if you’ve got a question, I’d love to hear from you! Send me a DM on Instagram and ask away, or let me know what you want me to talk about. As always, this podcast is created with you in mind and so I want to talk about the things that are most important to you!
Don’t forget you can download the freebies I talked about in this episode – your pelvic floor quiz or you can join the 3 day pelvic floor bootcamp at www.fertilityco.com.au/freebies or head to today’s shownotes and I’ll include all the links there as well. And that’s over at www.fertilityco.com.au/overactive
I will see you in next week’s episode, where I am so so excited to have another guest joining me and I am getting schooled next week because we’re talking about something I know very little about and I am so excited to learn about this topic. I promise you won’t want to miss that one!
Ok, bye for now and don’t forget that knowledge is power!
When you truly understand your body, you are empowered to make informed decisions and take control of your health!
Until next time.
Does your pelvic floor need a little extra TLC? Take the Pelvic Floor Quiz and find out how to start strengthening your pelvic floor today!
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