Pelvic floor basics part three— how to treat and prevent pelvic floor problems

Pelvic pain
September 10, 2018
Emma McGeorge
woman_in_white_underwear_holding_her_hands_on_her_crotch

Now that you’re a pelvic floor ninja and know all about what the pelvic floor is  and pelvic floor dysfunction you understand just how important it is to take care of this amazing part of your body. So, in this blog we’ll look at some treatment options if you’re having pelvic floor problems and we’ll also cover some preventative measures you can take to keep your pelvic floor healthy.

Treating pelvic floor problems

If you’re experiencing pain, incontinence or other symptoms we know how frustrating and terribly isolating it can feel. Finding the right treatment isn’t an exact science. 

Because it’s such a complex area, many people with pelvic floor dysfunction actually find that they need a combination of treatments, from a variety of experts, to see some improvement in their condition. Think of it like building a team of awesome people who have your health as their top priority.

First things first, get an assessment

Your pelvic floor is an intricate and complex part of your body, so 

DIY-ing diagnosis and treatment is a really bad idea. Right up there with stalking your ex on social media or cutting your own fringe.

Pelvic floor dysfunction can be so tricky that even medical professionals sometimes have a hard time getting the diagnosis right. And without understanding exactly what is going on with your body, treating your pain and symptoms is almost impossible.

If you think something might be going janky with your pelvic floor your first step is to find an awesome pelvic health specialist who’ll help you get to the bottom of your issues (like a physiotherapist or gynaecologist).

Your specialist will give you a thorough check over and assess where your body is at. During your assessment you’ll get an internal and external examination to check the function of your pelvic floor muscles. Your specialist will check how you contract and relax the muscles and will feel for any tight spots or trigger points. They might also check how the bones and muscles of your ribs, lower back, hips and sacroiliac joints are working given it’s all connected.

Types of treatment

Depending on what your specialist finds, there’s a whole array of treatments to help you manage your pain and symptoms, including:

  • biofeedback
  • physiotherapy
  • relaxation exercises
  • dilation therapy
  • valium suppositories
  • acupuncture
  • kegel exercises
  • botox injections
  • trigger point massage
  • trigger point injections
  • laser therapy
  • deep breathing
  • posture correction
  • yoga/pilates/gyrotonic
  • dietary changes
  • rest

Self care

Self care is really underrated when it comes to treating medical issues, but it’s absolutely crucial for anyone living with pelvic floor dysfunction because anxiety and stress, as well as negative thoughts, attitudes and beliefs can exacerbate pain.

Self care looks different to everyone— taking a warm bath or long walk, petting your cat, talking to a friend, cooking a delicious (and nutritious) meal, calling your Mum, making a playlist of your favourite music, volunteering, getting a pedicure, going to the movies, using a beautiful hand cream, taking a nap, knitting, reading… and the list goes on!

Self care doesn’t have to be costly or time-consuming, it’s about recognising what you need to feel good about yourself, wherever your body is at right now. 

For one of our team members who has young kids at home her biggest self care goal is simply leaving the house and getting outdoors once a day!

Preventing pelvic floor problems and maintaining health

There are some things you can do at home to keep your pelvic floor healthy and maintain current function. These eight tips will make sure you’re not exacerbating any existing niggles and will help you to prevent future problems too.

1. Get a check up. 

Yup, even if you think everything is fine and dandy, it doesn’t hurt to get a check up so you know exactly how your pelvic floor is doing. Use the opportunity to talk to your specialist about how you can improve some of your everyday habits to maintain the health of your pelvic floor.

2. Do the exercises your pelvic health specialists prescribes. 

Whether it’s kegels, stretching or relaxation exercises, if you do the work at home your body (and your specialist!) will thank you.

3. Practice good toilet habits.

And we don’t mean washing your hands afterwards (although, if you don’t, ewww). Avoid pushing or straining as much as possible. The best way to do this is to work on your posture and breath, and position yourself so gravity does the work.

The Continence Foundation of Australia recommends getting into a squat position where your knees are higher than your hips (a stool can help), leaning forward with your elbows on your knees, straightening your spine, relaxing and letting your tummy settle onto your thighs.

Only go to the toilet when you need to. Going "just in case" can train your bladder to hold less urine than it should.

When you do go make sure you empty your bladder and bowel completely by waiting a few seconds even after you think you’re done.

4. Brace!

If you’re about to sneeze, cough, blow your nose, lift, push or pull you can counteract the downward force in your core by gently engaging your pelvic floor muscles. But be careful. You can over-brace and over-tighten your pelvic floor muscles. If you experience any pain while bracing check in with your specialist.

5. Eat healthy.

This advice is repeated so often it is borderline boring, but it’s cited so much because it really works. Research is showing more and more the impact diet has on pain and pelvic health. Eating a diet full of high-quality, nutrient-dense, ‘real’ food and avoiding foods your body is sensitive to is a great protective mechanism for pelvic floor dysfunction (and helps your body function to its full potential). Avoid packaged foods and choose organic fruits and vegetables and grass-fed, hormone-free meat where possible. We know real life, budget and time all come into play, so it’s not about perfection. Small changes can make a significant difference. Limiting bladder irritating ingredients like caffeine, alcohol and artificial sugars can also help you keep your pelvic floor happy.

6. Exercise moderately.

High-intensity, high-impact exercise really challenges your pelvic floor. Running, jumping, boxing, sit-ups, planks, crunches, lifts and heavy-weight lifting are the equivalent to the Olympics for your pelvic floor. Low impact exercise like pilates, yoga, swimming, and walking can be gentler alternatives to consider. We’re not saying you should stop doing what you love, but if you have any niggly concerns, swapping to something low impact and non-irritating in the short term, could be a good move. Or perhaps look at modifying your high intensity exercise routine before your symptoms come on. If you run 8k and you start leaking at 5k maybe consider running for 4k, and do the work to get back to that 8k goal.

7. Work on that posture.

There’s a lot to this point and we’ll cover postural stuff in a future post, we’ll just quickly say now that doing some work to improve your posture and how you move can do wonders to improve your pelvic floor and your overall health.

8. Breathe.

Yeah, we know how silly it sounds, but breathing in a way that supports optimal core health isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone. Regular deep breathing is an important part of learning to relax tension in all of your muscles, but particularly the pelvic floor. We cover this in part three of this blog series.

About kegels (a cautionary note)

Loads of people think pelvic floor exercises (aka kegels) are the key to improving their pelvic floor and keeping it strong, but everybody is different. If you get the technique wrong, or you aren’t doing the right exercises for your specific needs, you might actually make things worse. That’s why talking to an expert who can give you advice on the right treatment for you is super important.

You don’t have to put up with pain and symptoms

We get it, if you’ve got a niggly issue (or even a big issue) it can sometimes feel easier to put your head in the sand and get on with things than seek help. But you deserve a fabulous life!

You don’t have to put up with pain and symptoms. There can be alternative avenues to explore if a treatment doesn’t work for you, or if your improvement plateaus. And knowing you have options can help you to advocate for your health when you’re talking to doctors and other specialists.

We know we have covered a lot and we have so much more to say .We hate leaving anything out! Keep your eye out for our spotlight series on pelvic floor treatments. If there’s anything in particular you want to learn about we’d love to hear it. Drop us a line at hello@thepelvichub.com with your questions and suggestions!

More info

Pelvic floor basics part one— the pelvic floor what it is, what it does and why you should care 

Pelvic floor basics part two— pelvic floor dysfunction 

Pelvic floor basics part four— breathing, you’re doing it wrong 

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