Did you know most women do not have weak pelvic floors? We are so often told our leakage or other issues are due to weakness, but that's not what I'm finding. Most women have tight pelvic floor muscles or uncoordinated muscles which creates an imbalanced kegel contraction. Why then are we told we are weak? Because you do not have good strength without good range of motion. What do I mean? Flex your bicep like you are showing off and then try to keep contracting the muscle or flexing without extending your arm. The muscle keeps getting tighter, but you are not gaining function. This is what we typically do with a kegel. We contract, contract, contract the muscles, but never relax the muscles. There are many reasons we have pelvic floor tightness. Tight pelvic floor muscles have difficulty with relaxing.
We talk so much about needing a strong pelvic floor we lose track of having a functional pelvic floor. Our pelvic floor is designed to help regulate intra abdominal pressure and protect our pelvic organs so we can do all the activities in our day with out leakage or other issues. Instead of focusing on strength we need to focus on relaxation and connection. We need to focus on the full range of motion. Our pelvic floors should naturally lift and lower with our breath. As you inhale your pelvic floor should naturally lower as your respiratory diaphragm lowers. As you exhale you pelvic floor should naturally lift and engage.
Take a minute to connect with your pelvic floor.
Inhale. Can you feel your pelvic floor relax and lower?
Exhale. Can you feel it lift and engage? If not there may be a disconnect. It's ok. Just visualizing your pelvic floor relaxing and engaging with your breath will start you reconnecting your brain, breath, and pelvic floor.
If our pelvic floor is held tight as we clench our muscle trying not to leak or experience prolapse symptoms our muscles fatigue. We no longer experience the full range of motion the muscles need to be strong and functional. If you flex your bicep and keep it in a flexed position while you are actively squeezing you are going to get a tight bicep, but not a functional bicep. We need to be able to elongate the muscle to fully extend our arm. Can you lift more with you arm in a flexed position or when your arm is able to move in the full range of motion? I bet you are thinking, of course I am going to lift more when I can fully move my arm. This is what happens with our pelvic floor. We do 100's of kegels, but fail to use the full range of motion of the muscles. We end up with tight pelvic floors that appear weak because of a short range of motion and fatigue. Our symptoms never resolve. So before you do more kegels, practice relaxing your pelvic floor with your inhale and engaging with your exhale. This will help you regain your full range of motion and help your pelvic floor be ready to kick in when you really need it.
Warmest wishes in health,