Activities That Cause Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
About 1 in every 12 women in the US suffer from pelvic floor disorders. Since most of the symptoms associated with these group of conditions are under-reported, researchers suspect that the rate is much higher.
Although not normal but common, most women attribute leaking urine with physical activity or coughing as a part of getting old and therefore don’t report it to their Gynecologist.
Sad to say, but if these minor issues are addressed early on you can avoid surgery in your 70s.
What is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
Pelvic floor dysfunction is the loss of control of the pelvic floor muscles due to weakness or excessive tightness. 9 months of pregnancy and then hours of labor and delivery can significantly alter your pelvic floor muscle, ligaments, nerves and connective tissue. Unfortunately, pregnancy and vaginal delivery is the leading cause of pelvic floor dysfunction for women. Prostate surgery is the leading cause of pelvic floor dysfunction for men.
If you don’t prepare your body for pregnancy, delivery and post delivery you are at risk for pelvic floor dysfunction. You are at a greater risk if you are obese, have multiple births, multiple pregnancies, traumatic delivery or a large baby.
The purpose of this post is not to discourage you from having babies, but to inform of the regular modifiable activities that you might engage in on a day to day basis that can further weaken your pelvic floor muscles.
Anyone who plans to become pregnant, is pregnant or post pregnancy should know this information and therefore modify activities when possible.
Although you should stay active and maintain a healthy weight ante and postpartum, you should choose gentle exercises and avoid strenuous ones. There are plenty of work out options.
Pelvic floor dysfunction leads to the following symptoms:
- Urinary and fecal incontinence
- Lower back pain
- Pain in the pelvic region and genitals
- Discomfort during sex
- Muscle spasm in the pelvis
- Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Other than pregnancy and childbirth these are non modifiable risk factor that can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction:
- Nerve damage
- Traumatic injury to the pelvis
- surgeries to the pelvic region
- Diastatis rectus abdominus
- Obesity (modifiable)
- Neuromuscular Disease
Certain exercises can relieve pelvic dysfunction. However, the excess pelvic floor pressure that occurs with some activities and exercises can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction. Here is an overview of the common causes of this condition.
These are activities that we do, not knowing that they can have a negative impact on our pelvic floor especially when we are pregnant.
Excessive Jumping and Jogging
Jogging and jumping are good for your health, as they help you stay in shape. But too much of anything can be harmful. Studies link excessive jogging and jumping with urine leakage. Both these exercises can cause pelvic floor dysfunction if you go overboard.
Doing Aerobic Exercises When Pelvic Muscles Aren’t Strong
It isn’t necessary that urinary incontinence only happens due to pelvic dysfunction. Many women experience urinary leakage as their bladder muscles aren’t strong. To strengthen your bladder muscles, you need to do some exercise.
But doing heavy aerobic exercises will cause more harm than good if your pelvic muscles aren’t strong. You need to follow proper instructions for doing pelvic floor exercises. You must consult a doctor or professional before you start, in case you have a leaky bladder.
Doing Core Exercises That Strains You Down
It’s better to keep up with light exercises for your pelvic floor. Doing strenuous exercise can push your pelvis down and can lead to its dysfunction. Instead of increasing pressure, increase the duration of your workout.
Before you perform any exercise that puts a strain on your pelvis, lie down and lift and squeeze your pelvis. Remember to keep breathing throughout the exercise.
Squats are great if you want to strengthen your pelvic floor. However, if you already suffer from urinary incontinence or uterine prolapse, don’t do full squats. Do half squats instead. Bend halfway till the floor with your legs no more than shoulder-width apart.
High Impact Exercises
High impact exercises have their pros and cons. They’re great for achieving fitness goals. They also save your body from risks of heart disease. But they can cause muscle injury and pelvic dysfunction.
If you’re obese and want to lose weight, don’t start a high impact workout right away. Start with low and moderate impact exercises. When you see your body changing, gradually add high impact exercises to your workout. Your overweight body can’t handle the strain of high impact exercise and may lead to pelvic dysfunction along with other negative effects in your body.
To avoid pelvic dysfunction, you must know whether you can really do high impact exercises or not. It’s necessary to start with proper warm-up exercises and cross-training to protect your pelvic and other organs.
Not Relaxing Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
You can’t exercise your pelvic muscles without contracting them well. But it doesn’t mean that your muscles shouldn’t relax during exercise. Your muscles need to relax and soften up. Excessive tightening without relaxing can cause pain and tension in the muscles. You will have a hard time inserting a tampon. Plus, sex will be painful too.
Over the pass few years, the use of waist trainers has been on the rise. If you don’t know what waste trainer is then let me tell you. It is a form of abdominal binder that women wear to help flatten their stomach and give them a cinched waistline. The tighter the better. Therefore most women go for tight.
You can also see women working out in these garments. Excessive abdominal fat plus the waist trainer can cause double trauma to the pelvic floor. As with all the other activities that increase pressure in the pelvic region, this too can weaken the pelvic floor muscles.
To tighten your pelvic floor, you need to exercise your pelvic muscles. But you need to follow instructions and perform exercises which your body can handle. You must not overdo any workout especially if you just gave birth. There are exercises that are specifically designed for postpartum moms that will help you strengthen your muscles gradually. Ask your OB/GYN for recommendations or a referral to a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist.