Pilates for Your Pelvic Floor
Do you know how you can go years without hearing a particular phrase and then once you hear it, it seems to pop up over and over again? This is how I came to be thinking about the pelvic floor and Pilates. One person mentioned it to me in the context of symptoms they were experiencing, another person mentioned some exercises she did to strengthen her pelvic floor, and pretty soon I seemed to be hearing these two words all the time. And because I'm a Pilates instructor, I started wondering how Pilates could benefit those of you who experience pelvic floor dysfunction.
You may very well be wondering what the pelvic floor is and whether you have one. You do. We all do. It's a muscular sling at the base of your torso that supports your organs, particularly the reproductive organs, the bladder and the rectum. When functioning properly, the pelvic floor muscles tighten and relax to allow you to go to the bathroom with no pain or trouble at all. But with pelvic floor dysfunction, these normal daily operations can become strained, painful, and overly frequent. And while it used to be thought of as primarily a women's health issue, pelvic floor dysfunction is now understood to affect men nearly as much as women.
It's important to consult your doctor if you're experiencing pelvic pain and discomfort; they can make a diagnosis and start you on your journey to better pelvic health. You can also check out the links at the bottom of this article for more patient-focused information.
While you're waiting to see your doctor, there are a few things you can do to improve your pelvic health on your own. First, make sure you're adequately hydrated. If you tend to have a cup of coffee, tea or soda at arm's length throughout the day, make sure you swap some of those drinks for plain old water. The Mayo Clinic has a great guide on staying hydrated.
In addition, eating plenty of fiber will help keep your digestive tract moving smoothly. By eating seasonally, you can put a spotlight on the freshest fruits and veggies, which will make your meals more vibrant and flavorful. The Seasonal Food Guide is like an encyclopedia for seasonal eating with beautiful photos, a great search capability and even an app for you to download. The Wellness Mama wrote a terrific article that includes both ingredients and recipes broken out by month.
Lastly, if you're already exercising, keep it up. Plenty of movement and fresh air are good for body, mind and soul. Which brings us to Pilates...let's consider how Pilates can help with pelvic health.
While everyone's experience can be different, there are a few symptoms that seem to be common in those with pelvic floor dysfunction: tight hips, lack of spinal mobility (often leading to low back pain) and a stooped posture resulting from hunching or rounding forward due to low abdominal pain. Pilates can improve each of these imbalances, and ultimately reduce pain and discomfort. It's important to stretch these areas on a regular basis (daily stretching is terrific), and to begin strengthening as well. In the video linked below, I'll move you through stretching and strengthening the hips, glutes, chest and upper back. If you'd like a 30-minute class focused on these areas, leave a comment below; if enough people are interested, I'll add one to the class schedule.
For more information about pelvic floor dysfunction, head over to these websites: