Three Damaging Pelvic Floor Rehab Myths
With increased awareness around pelvic floor problems, we are seeing more and more information on social media and even in the mainstream media about solutions to pelvic organ prolapse, incontinence and other dysfunctions of the pelvis.
For the most part this is a GREAT thing!
The more commonly discussed the topic, the more likely it is that women will feel less shame and embarrassment around the topic, but also that they will find SOLUTIONS!
But, as is often the case, drifting amongst lots of helpful and positive information is some misleading concepts and myths that will work AGAINST YOU as you try to rehab your pelvic floor.
Let’s check out some of the most popular ones in circulation!
Myth #1 Focus On The Floor!
I LOVE me some pelvic floor talk, but I have concerns. In insisting that the pelvic floor be considered, we have to be mindful of the message we are communicating.
We can’t ignore or forget it’s part of the whole, because...
IT’S PART OF THE WHOLE.
And we have to treat it as such.
In my personal experience and my experience working with clients I have observed that truly “strong” pelvic floors are the ones that work well and know their place.
They do their job, and ONLY their job.
They are surrounded and supported by strength.
They know how to relax.
They know when to work and how hard.
An anxious body, a dysbiotic microbiome, a pressure management system that is out of sync, or an imbalanced nervous system will all wreak havoc on a pelvic floor no matter how many kegels we do.
Let’s remember to #zoomout and acknowledge that pelvic floors have their own unique jobs that we want them to do well. They are supported and operated by our endocrine, neurological and microbiological (gut) systems, they have to work well with others and they can’t work alone.
Gosh, so much we can learn from these pelvic floors, eh??!!
Myth #2 Pilates and Yoga Are the ONLY Safe Forms of Exercise
For whatever reason, Pilates and gentle yoga have earned the reputation as the safe and ideal forms of exercise for postpartum moms and anyone struggling with prolapse or incontinence.
Like “Do your kegels, and then go do your Pilates and all your problems will resolve!”🤔🙄
If Pilates and yoga are your jam and you can find ways to do them that support your unique rehab process, i.e. they help you re-establish reflexive core stability, breath with the diaphragm, coordinate your PF with your diaphragm and recruit your pelvic floor optimally, then YAY!
But don’t kid yourself in thinking that these modalities are guaranteed to solve all of your pelvic health problems, because they ain’t.
And if you’re like me and you don’t want to be limited to those forms of movement and exercise, that is absolutely ok too!
You see, I’m all about that iron, particularly the kettlebell! To me it represents functional whole body strength and they are fun as heck to train with.
Besides that, there are countless exercises you can do with the kettlebell to build your body and support your core and pelvic floor.
Kettlebells come in many different weights, so you control volume and intensity of your movement. And with a handle that lends itself to all sorts of cool carries to help you train not just for sport, but for utility, because, hello, we have to carry stuff! Carrying kids, groceries, even just my body used to increase my POP symptoms, until I started TRAINING how to be strong and manage pressure WITH kettlebells!
I’m not saying kettlebells are the End All Be All of fixing your pelvic health problems. They are no more of a panacea than #kegels are.
But they are an incredible tool that when applied well, can re-build strength in movement for clients of ALL ages and fitness capabilities.
And this can be said for MANY other forms of training besides yoga and Pilates.
Let’s stop limiting people to what has been deemed “safe” and let’s find things that inspire and address weaknesses!
Myth #3 Tight and Tense= Strong
We put emphasis on the need for pelvic floors (and vaginas) to be “strong” but many women hear “tight” and “forceful” and so they practice squeezing and contracting.
But the reality is that the optimal heath of the pelvic floor is SO MUCH MORE complex and wonderful than that.
Exclusively focusing on what we perceive to be “strength” can be insufficient for optimizing pelvic health and often times causes harm.
The pelvic floor has jobs to do and a range of motion to move through.
If you define “strength” as the ability to do your assigned job well, then sure, let’s make our pelvic floors STRONG.
BUT if you think a “strong” pelvic floor is one that is tight, lifted, contracted, tense and/or rigid, then read this graphic a few times.
Sarah Smith is a former athletic coach, personal trainer, level two Russian Kettlebell Instructor, postnatal fitness specialist and functional pelvic floor and gut health advocate with a Masters in Soil Science and Agricultural.
She works online and in her garage gym in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Sarah is a published author and has a decade experience conducting research at The National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, University of Arizona and North Carolina State University. She uses evidence-based strategies to help her clients grow strong, confident and capable in their bodies-even when struggling with pelvic floor dysfunction, pelvic organ prolapse, gut health complications and other injuries or health conditions.
She is a mom to three boys and one English Bulldog. She loves kettlebells, leisure walks, chickens, soil, coffee, not folding laundry and watching people move, in a non-creepy way.