Claire Brodie, Women’s Health Physiotherapist and owner of Spring Physio answers some common questions about pelvic health and exercise.
Why is it important that we raise the awareness of pelvic health?
The pelvic floor is an often neglected group of muscles, despite a staggering number of people having issues with them. 1 in 3 women suffer urinary incontinence, 1 in 2 women over 50 have a prolapse and 1 in 10 women experience fecal incontinence. Whilst the stats are lower for men, they have issues too! Historically, talk of problems such as prolapse and incontinence have been taboo and as a result of this women wait 7 years (on average) to seek help. The use of social media campaigns such as www.pelvicroar.org are doing a great job of raising awareness.
What does your pelvic floor do?
Your pelvic floor provides support to your pelvic organs and stops you leaking wee, poop and wind. It helps with sexual function; forms part of our core muscles and therefore has an important role in rehabilitation of back and pelvic problems
Aren’t symptoms like incontinence normal after childbirth?
Absolutely not! Just because something is common doesn’t make it normal. Having issues with incontinence can have lots of detrimental side effects – lowering self esteem, avoiding certain kind of exercise, fear of having an accident in public and the financial implications of regularly buying pads.
The great news is that for most women, conservative management will be effective at resolving their symptoms.
I’ve already tried to doing kegels at home and nothing has changed. Does that mean conservative management won’t help?
No! Kegels are just the beginning of the story. It is important that the pelvic floor is trained functionally and to the level that is required for each individual in everyday life. The amount of pelvic floor endurance required when comparing a sedentary person and a cross fitter is very different. Effective pelvic floor rehabilitation ensures the pelvic floor has been trained to tolerate the load required for each individual person.
I’m leaking when I exercise, should I stop exercising?
There are lots of ways to modify exercise to stop leaking in the short term. This may be altering the way you run or lift, changing the weight or reps; reducing impact. Pessaries can also be useful for running if you have a symptomatic prolapse. A women’s health Physiotherapist can guide you through this process and ensure you exercise at the right level.
In the long term the goal is to strengthen your pelvic floor enough to manage the pressure that’s being created during exercise so that your can return to your normal regime without fear of symptoms.
Should I buy a pelvic floor strengthening device to use at home?
Many of the gadgets on sale on line are expensive and are not always suitable. I would advise having an assessment with a women’s health Physiotherapist first to accurately assess your problem and provide direction on the best course of treatment. You can see your GP for referral on the NHS or see a Physiotherapist privately.