This article was originally published in the Crossfit Tempe Newsletter
The pelvic floor is the base of the core and has the job of supporting all our internal organs, assisting with engagement of the core muscles, as well as controlling urination. The pelvic floor is busy and under-appreciated—like most of us. Pelvic floor muscles that are overactive can cause pain, incontinence, and also have a negative impact on overall core strength. Hint: if you are unable to effectively engage your core or experience urine leakage during your workouts you likely have an overactive pelvic floor, so keep reading.
So tight – not like that.
When dealing with muscles that won’t engage properly the first instinct is to work on training the muscles involved. In the case of the pelvic floor, most people think of Kegels. But the reality is, it’s impossible for one to properly engage a muscle group that one is unable to fully relax, thus those with pelvic floor issues tend to not be Kegeling effectively. These chronically tight muscles become depleted and are no longer able to activate. This is almost always the case with stress incontinence. Imagine completing all those bicep curls we do at Crossfit, if your arm was so tight you could not straighten it—not possible right? Now add in a muscle that most of us are disconnected from and do not think about when engaging. This is why the first step in re-training these muscles is learning to feel and relax them. Things like carrying around extra weight, low core-muscle tone, poor posture, and pregnancy can all lead to overactive pelvic floor muscles.
Self care – get Zen and become one with your pelvic floor.
Self care is important when learning to connect with one’s pelvic floor. There are a variety of relaxation techniques and stretches you can do to learn to relax your pelvic floor.
1. Touch yourself. No really. Place your hands on your perineum and notice any tension under your fingers, breathe into that spot. Imagine the basket of pelvic floor muscles loosening under your fingers. Do this daily until you are able to relax your pelvic floor on demand.
2. Following this same principal, bring your fingers inside your inner thigh feel out the muscles connecting into your pelvis. Pick one and while holding your breath, work to actively relax the tissue under your fingers.
3. Use two tennis balls inside a sock and place one on each side of your sacrum between your ilium. Lay down and let the balls dig into your low back; this should not be painful, it should “hurt so good “or just feel nice.
4. Visualize your pelvic floor when you are wod-ing. How does it feel? Check in with your pelvic floor the same way you do your back and core. Check the alignment of your pelvis when you squat.
5. Roll out your gluteus. While the gluteal muscles are not the muscles and ligaments that primarily effect pelvic floor dysfunction, many of the smaller muscles located in the same region play an important roll in pelvic floor health. Rolling out your butt can help relax all of these muscles. Spend some time slowly and carefully moving the foam roller over each side of your butt on a regular basis.
Referrals and more information.
Pelvic floor issues are absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. While issues such as stress incontinence are not normal, they are common and highly treatable. Some massage therapists like myself who work with these issues can assist with relaxing the pelvic floor. There are also PTs who work with these issues and can prescribe therapies and teach exercises in order to retrain the pelvic floor; there are even acupuncturists or chiropractors who work with these issues. Because pelvic floor dysfunction treatments are a specialty not all therapists work with, it is important to ask around for a good referral.