What if I’m not pregnant and experiencing incontinence?
Your pelvic floor is such a central part of your anatomy and functions in reaction to and in support of our spine, abdominals, hips, glutes and even how we breathe. So, if you have incontinence with activity, aka stress incontinence, please see a pelvic floor physical therapist for a personal evaluation, this is not just for pregnancy and postpartum. Also, you are not alone. So many women suffer with stress incontinence in silence and you can get full resolution with the right treatment. If you would like help finding someone in your area, please let me know.
I think the best way to support your pelvic health and prevent or remedy incontinence during sport is truly understanding your pelvic floor function and how your movement or tendencies support your pelvic floor or not.
For basic anatomy of your pelvic floor check out my instagram posts, pelvic floor function 101, Part 1 and Part 2.
Assessing your ability to relax and lengthen, lift and close quickly, and your endurance, are all the first line in determining your pelvic floor function. You can do this with a physical therapist, who can also teach you how to self-assess.
Here are the 3 main ways to support your pelvic floor function through athleticism!
1. MANAGE PRESSURE
To support your pelvic floor, you need to be aware of and control the amount of pressure physically pushing down on your pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor should act like a trampoline to intra-abdominal pressure coming from your diaphragm. It descends with an inhale and springs back up with an exhale. If you can’t complete a skill without having to bear down, grunt, or hold your breath, then this skill may be outside of your current strength ability and unable to maintain optimal pressure on your pelvic floor. Instead, promote deep core support from the bottom up like an elevator; first, a pre-contraction of your pelvic floor, then drawing in your TrA and exhaling through the effort through the hard part of the movement. This literally blows off pressure of your pelvic floor which may be causing leakage or prolapse symptoms over time. Respect your body’s strength where it’s at without compromising your pelvic floor.
2. GAIN FULL RANGE OF MOTION OF YOUR PELVIC FLOOR
Some people are pelvic floor clinchers and butt tuckers, this over-activation of your pelvic floor and posterior pelvic tilt posture never allows your pelvic floor to go through its full range of motion. Instead, those muscles are always shortened. This can be the cause of some people’s pelvic pain, urinary urgency, and also stress incontinence. A shortened muscle can’t react quickly to changes in pressure and can also be weak. So, if you are in an activity that consistently requires a posterior pelvic tilt, then it is imperative to perform pelvic floor lengthening and anterior pelvic tilt mobility. Activities such as belly breathing with cat/cow, child’s pose and happy baby pose are great to get out of that tucked and clinched posture.
3. BUILD STRENGTH AND COORDINATION IN THE SUPPORTING CAST
Your glutes are facilitators or your pelvic floor and strong glutes change the resting position of your pelvic floor.
Strong glutes = elevation of your pelvic floor = elevation of your bladder, uterus and colon = happier bodily functions!
Maintain active and passive hip rotation. Hip internal rotation is crucial to allow for full range of motion of your pelvic floor. So, don’t just work on stretching into split positions, but also hip internal rotation! Add strengthening into rotation, like lunging with a twist, crossover step ups and lateral step ups, or 90/90 hip drives from the floor. This increased hip motion will also support a healthier back and it’s no surprise low back pain and pelvic floor dysfunction often show up together. Check out my “glutes” instagram highlights for a rant on hip rotation.