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strengthen your pelvic floor
Image courtesy of Nike
Fitness giants Nike recently reached out to me for an article entitled "How To Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor, According to a Physiotherapist", and of course I was glad to offer my insights. It's great to see such a highly visible company in the fitness market taking interest in the topic of pelvic floor health. While at first blush taking care of the pelvic floor may not seem as "sexy" a topic as sculptured calves or bulging biceps, at Femina PT we of course understand the pivotal role that pelvic floor health plays in sexual function (of course!), proper posture, freedom from back and hip pain, avoiding embarrassing bouts of incontinence, and so on. That said, here are some snippets from the article, interspersed with my onw commentary. A link to full article at Nike's site is included below.

Heather Jeffcoat, DPT

Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor to Improve Your Core

What if you can't "Just Do It?"

Nike's longstanding slogan presupposes that your pelvic floor is in full health - but what if it isn't? Pelvic floor issues can have a profound effect on your ability to enjoy sports and other activities, and even if you are able to participate, recovery times may increase and other issues such as incontinence may come into play if things are quite right "down there".

In this article we take a quick look at how to best strengthen your pelvic floor with the aim of improving not only athletic performance but overall wellbeing.

Located at the base of the pelvis, the pelvic floor is made up of a web of muscles and fascia that spans back to front and side to side, said Heather Jeffcoat, a doctor of physiotherapy who specialises in sexual dysfunction, pain and incontinence. "These muscles work together to support the pelvic organs, provide control for your sphincters to prevent leakage, help you maintain an upright posture, aid in sexual function and more", she said.

What Does the Pelvic Floor Do, Exactly?

As I mentioned in the interview, there are 14 muscles that make up the pelvic-floor hammock. These muscles' primary function is to support the pelvic organs (including the uterus, bladder, and rectum). In addition to keeping your reproductive and excretory organs in place, the pelvic floor also aids in keeping you upright, supports childbirth, and supports blood supply and lymphatic supply throughout the body.

The Common Causes and Signs of Pelvic-Floor Dysfunction

According to the article, research shows that 24 percent of women and 16 percent of men have pelvic-floor dysfunction. Unfortunately, for a range of reasons ranging from childbirth and menopause to constipation and chronic stress, many people have pelvic-floor muscles that don't operate optimally.

Hypertonic pelvic floor

Some people have pelvic-floor muscles that can contract properly, but cannot relax fully. These people cannot produce optimal muscle force to contract, usually as a result of chronic stress or frequently holding in pee. Often diagnosed as an overactive or hypertonic pelvic floor, this can lead to leakage, constipation and chronic pelvic or abdominal pain, hip pain and buttock pain.

Hypotonic pelvic floor

Other people have muscles that are consistently in a relaxed position because their pelvic-floor muscle fibre cannot contract. This is known as a hypotonic pelvic floor and causes symptoms similar to that of over-contracted muscles, such as leakage and pelvic pressure, as well as reduced vaginal sensation, and unexplained bladder, abdominal and pelvic pain.

How To Diagnose and Treat Pelvic-Floor Dysfunction

The treatment protocol is different for different pelvic-floor conditions as outlined above. If the muscles are found to be too relaxed, then doing strengthening exercises would be a part of the care plan. Meanwhile, if the muscles are found to be non-relaxing, then doing stretching exercises would be a better start to the treatment plan.

We have a lot more information here regarding various pelvic floor diagnoses we treat.

Pelvic-Floor Exercises for Pelvic-Floor Health

The article then goes into some exercises that can help strengthen your pelvic floor, including:

1. Kegels

Kegels can help with symptoms related to a hypotonic pelvic floor as described above, but they aren't for everyone because they can worsen symptoms in people who have shortened or contracted (hypertonic) pelvic floor muscles. Doing kegels when you have an overly contracted pelvic floor would be like trying to flex your calf when you already have a cramp.

2. Side-lying Clams

Kegels may be part of a proper treatment plan for individuals with pelvic-floor weakness, but they are not a full treatment plan. They also need to be accompanied by hip- and core-strengthening moves like side-lying clams.

3. Happy Baby Stretch

This popular yoga stretch is known for its ability to open the hips—and it does this effectively. It also stretches the muscles in the pelvic floor, which can be beneficial for individuals experiencing internal tightness.

Click here for the full lowdown on the above exercises strengthen your pelvic floor in the full article at Nike's website, and click here if you're ready to take the plunge with one of our trained physical therapists.

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I just wanted to thank you for everything you've done for me for the past 19 months. I literally could not have reached my goals without you and your practice. You gave me the courage to keep moving forth with my treatment no matter how afraid and anxious I was. You were always there to answer questions and made this whole process so much easier than I expected it to be.

It's because of you that my marriage is on the right track, that I can get pregnant and that this part of my life is finally over. I really feel that Fusion Wellness is a team of people you can call family and are there to root for you and cheer you on until you reach your goals. There is nothing better than knowing I accomplished this with you guys by my side and as calmly and patiently as I needed. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for always being there and helping me reach my goals.

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Testimonial by M.M.

My husband and I were married for 5 years and unable to have intercourse, but I never knew why. After numerous awful experiences at doctor’s offices (where many doctors told me I “just needed to relax”), a surgery that didn’t fix the problem, and a year of owning dilators that didn’t get me anywhere, someone finally referred me to Heather for Physical Therapy. I finally had answers and information from someone who knew exactly what I was dealing with!

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Testimonial by M.M.

A personal journey and testimonial from one of my patients:

My husband and I were married for 5 years before we were able to have intercourse due to my vaginismus. There was nothing traumatic in my past but for some reason, even though I wanted sex, I mentally avoided "that area" of my body and didn't even admit to myself that there was a problem for a long time, even though I was never able to put tampons in. Once I finally opened my eyes up to the fact that I had a problem, I had a surgery that was supposed to fix the issue.

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Testimonial by Ann V.

I wish i could give this place 10 stars!! 
I have been suffering from vaginismus for 5 years and never found the cure to it. I had seen an ob/gyn and he diagnosed me with vaginismus and told me i needed a surgery to cure my condition, which i refused to do. He also referred me to a PT that he works with, i had given them multiple calls and they never responded back to me, so i started searching yelp for another PT. I am SO HAPPY I found Heather's office! I was working with Laureen, and with her guidance and techniques i was able to be cured from vaginismus in only 2 1/2 short months!!! I couldn't believe how quickly their program worked for me! I am forever grateful and thankful from Heather, and Laureen! They are the absolute best at what they do!

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While pregnant with my twins, Heather took care with keeping me on my feet and pain free. She saved my back, my sanity and the holidays! I would recommend her to every “mom” looking to stay on her feet during pregnancy and post-partum.

-- T.C.

Testimonial by S.P., Age 26

I would like to start off by thanking Heather Jeffcoat for educating me and curing me of Vaginismus. I had been married for almost three years before I was referred to Heather. I never knew about Vaginismus until almost three years into my marriage. I knew something was wrong when I went on my honeymoon and came back a Virgin. I had always imagined how magical my first night would be but boy was I wrong.

Read more: Testimonial by S.P., Age 26

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