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Q: How do I know if I should see someone?

A: There are many different signs or symptoms that women can watch for to know if they should be seeing a pelvic floor therapist. Some of the big things to think about include:

  • leaking (urine or feces)
  • urgency and frequency (many trips to the bathroom, or getting to the bathroom and voiding small amounts)
  • pain with intercourse
  • pressure in the pelvic floor
  • feeling like things are falling down or falling out
  • needing to ‘lift’ the pelvic floor or ‘help down there’ to void the bladder or evacuate the bowel
  • inability to increase activity due to any symptoms
  • low back, pubic symphysis, hip or SIJ pain
  • recurring tightness of the hips and pelvis
  • you have been pregnant
  • you have delivered a baby (vaginally or via c-section)

… and this isn’t necessarily an exhaustive list, just the first things that come to mind for clientele that frequent the clinic. Essentially if you feel there is something that is ‘off’ or ‘wrong’ within the pelvic floor, abdomen or pelvis, seeing a pelvic floor therapist may be of benefit.

 

Q: Do you recommend that all women see a pelvic floor physio? Or just if they are “leaking”?

A: There are a great many symptoms

 

that can be indicating factors for pelvic floor dysfunction that doesn’t have anything to do with leaking in particular. To answer this question in short: yes. In long, I would say that many women would benefit from a pelvic floor assessment regardless of their “leaking” status, especially for women who have had children, or anyone who experiences pain with intercourse.

 

A big reason for the general answer of “yes” is the fact that what we know about pelvic floor is not necessarily functional working knowledge. Rather, most women ‘know’ they are supposed to do ‘kegels’, and yet no one has taken the time to explain or ensure that they are being done correctly. What we know about kegels is that they are meant to strengthen the pelvic floor, and most women describe that they imagine SQUEEZING the pelvic floor. As my clients know, the pelvic floor to work functionally needs to LIFT UP and IN, not squeeze, as well as RELAX down and out.

 

 

 

 

Just because you aren’t leaking, doesn’t necessarily mean that the pelvic floor is functioning well. Just the same as even though many people do not have knee pain, they often have weakness or tightness that could be addressed to prevent issues arising in the future.

 

Q: When do you recommend women be seen? During pregnancy? Post-partum?

A: Women can and should be seen whenever they are having issues. Issues are bound to arise during pregnancy and post-partum. So long as there aren’t any contraindications to a pelvic floor exam by the treating physician or OB assessment during pregnancy is possible as well (after the first trimester). During pregnancy some women will choose to attend an assessment for labor and delivery preparation after 32 weeks gestation to help get a better handle on relaxing the pelvic floor; we do want a baby to come down and out after all!

Post-partum we are able to see women that are painful as soon as they feel up for leaving the house, and specific for pelvic floor assessment approximately 6-8 weeks post-partum. Pelvic Floor

 

Therapy is able to address c-section healing and recovery, as well as perineal healing and recovery. Tearing, surgical incisions, other birth traumas can all be addressed in the post-partum phase.

Q: What if I haven’t had children in a few years but am experiencing problems? Can physio still help?

A: YES YES YES! The absolute best thing about the body is it’s propensity to change. It is never too late to see a pelvic floor physio, 8 weeks, 8months, 8 years or longer we can always see what changes can be made to help resolve any complaint

Q: What are some signs of a weak pelvic floor?

A: The simple answer for this one is leaking or incontinence. The long answer is – it depends on whether it is loose and weak (not very common) or tight and weak (much more common). Often we equate something being tight or taught with being strong, but this is definitely not the case with the pelvic floor. A tight but weak pelvic floor often progresses through one or a combination of: discomfort or pain with intercourse, constipation or difficulty completely emptying the bowels, discomfort or bruised feeling through the perineum or tail bone, hip tightness and restricted movement, low back pain… and more. One client had neck pain (right by the shoulders) that she had had since her second was born (5 years previous) and nothing seemed to help. Ultimately this client had pelvic floor weakness that was driving her neck pain!

Do you know someone having issues with this area? Maybe they have some of the complaints listed above – share with them! Are YOU someone suffering with these symptoms? Contact us today to get started your path to resolution!

Do you have some BURNING questions you want answered that wasn’t covered? Send them our way and we will get them going in Part 2!

Haylie has been practicing women’s health and focused in prenatal and post-partum care since graduating from the U of S MPT program in 2011. Advocating for treatment for women, ensuring appropriate and effective care throughout pregnancy and post-partum, and helping all expecting and post-partum moms brought her to open her family-friendly clinic; where clients are encouraged to bring their infants and children to treatment. Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness has been nominated for the 2016 WMBEXA and ABEX Awards, is a WMBEXA award recipient of 2017, and Haylie was recognized as YWCA Women of Distinction for Health & Wellness in 2017.

It seems the topic of “Diastasis” is picking up speed in a variety of forums. Particularly on social media in mom groups and exercise discussions. There also appears to be a wide array of misinformation that continues to be spread around. I had one client tell me “I have been doing some research and one place I went to online said that if I have a diastasis I will ALWAYS look a minimum of 3 months pregnant.” This, for the vast majority, doesn’t necessarily need to be true; especially when you know what to do. I have been asked to write a few key things in regards to diastasis from a physiotherapy rehabilitation perspective.

…if I have a diastasis I will ALWAYS look 3 months pregnant

Let’s discuss what a diastasis is. The short version is it is the ‘splitting of the abdominal muscles’. A more specific answer is that in response to pregnancy, the abdominal muscles and associated tissue (fascia) stretch to allow room for a growing fetus. The muscles that are most affected by this is the rectus abdominis (the 6-pack ab muscles that sit in the front). This is not ‘bad’, cannot be prevented, and is in fact necessary during pregnancy. From a clinical perspective, I would say 100% of women who are pregnant, that look pregnant at the time of delivery, will have developed some diastasis during pregnancy. (Side note: diastasis  can also occur outside of pregnancy, but that is another discussion.)

In theory, after labor and delivery, the diastasis will ‘snap’ back together and the core muscles will work in perfect unison… Sometimes this coordination comes naturally to women post-partum. However, often women require some help in getting all the pieces working well together in a functional and coordinated fashion.

…after labor and delivery, the diastasis will ‘snap’ back together 

This is where people profit off our post-partum mommas  “Get your body BACK after baby”, “Post-partum BOOTCAMP”, “Get rid of MUMMY TUMMY in 1 simple exercise”. Unless someone is checking for diastasis recti, do so on a regular (weekly, daily) basis, and can ensure that you are coordinating those muscles well… claiming to be a Post-Partum Specialist is likely an over statement. Often times I see that someone has “healed” their own diastasis and want to “show you how” with their main credential being that they went through the same thing, and they are fine after starting back into heavy exercise at “6” weeks post-partum.

Simply asking people if they have a diastasis is not enough. Knowledge of the issue without being able to assist in modifying exercises to appropriately return to function is where many people stand. Are you wanting to start a class? Ask the instructor what they know about diastasis. If you don’t know if you have one, will they check? How many people have they checked? If they are claiming that their class is ‘safe’ for diastasis and you are being targeted to come under 12 weeks, you would likely benefit from continuing to evaluate your options.

A diastasis is not necessarily a ‘quick fix’, and often people don’t realize they have it since it typically isn’t painful. What we do KNOW is that a diastasis present at 8 weeks post-partum is likely to continue to be present and problematic at a year post-partum. But what does ‘problematic’ mean if it’s not painful?

The tissue (fascia) of the diastasis doesn’t need to close in the sense of getting back to how it was, but it does need to be able to generate tension. If it can generate tension well and it is separated 2.5cm that person is going to have better function than if it is separated 1.5cm and not generating tension. (Think of tension as whether you have a firm uncooked noodle versus a soft, cooked noodle between the muscles. The cooked noodle will give away under pressure of the muscles on either side, and the uncooked noodle will hold and transfer force). Problematic could also be the contribution of diastasis to back pain, diaphragm dysfunction, and pelvic floor issues.

Focusing on the diastasis alone is a simplification of a complex situation, and each person will require slightly different treatment approaches.

What do I recommend? Contact your local pelvic floor physiotherapist, there is no time limit on when to go, but within the first 8-12 weeks will give time to get into a routine with baby and be early enough to have minimal “bad habits” or compensations to combat; or before you start back into exercise. It  is never too late to address anything that has developed during pregnancy and post-partum.