Updated: Sep 19, 2020
The Pelvic Floor! It is surprising how many people don’t know the details of what their pelvic floor is and what it is designed to do. It is a part of our bodies, and we often have no awareness of it. You know what’s more shocking? Is that I went through a doctorate level of physical therapy school and even I only got maybe a lecture or two on this important part of our bodies! It takes extra focus and education even for a healthcare professional! Sad. But the tides are shifting and research is showing how important this part of our body is, how proper control can help with soooooo many different pain patterns, weaknesses, and even ailments in our organ systems, and how it is NOT taboo to discuss a part of our body that is considered “private” or “sexual”. I absolutely love doing workshops on this because the “ah-ha” moments are fantastic - I have never gotten anything but exciting feedback after a women learns about and taps into this part of her body. And since I have had babies of my own, struggled with and healed diastasis and a mild prolapse, I love love love spreading education and the power that comes with it!
So, let’s discuss.
What is the pelvic floor? It's important to understand exactly where the pelvic floor is and what the muscles look like when you are doing any pelvic or deep core stability work. Your pelvic floor IS a part of your core!
Don't worry about these scientific names because here are the Cliffs Notes.
The top image looks from the top down and the bottom image looks from the bottom up. You can see how many muscles are involved in this! Our pelvic floor system sits at the base of our pelvis and is similar to a "hammock" composed of muscles, fascia and ligaments. It supports our organs, closes our openings, and also adds to our hip and core stability as well as our posture! It is important to understand how your pelvic floor is linked with other muscle systems to get full strength and function: the breathing diaphragm, the glutes, the deep abdominals, and the deep hip muscles.
There is an inner layer and an outer layer. There is also an intermediate layer that you cannot see here, which houses our urethral and vaginal sphincter musculature.
In the top image you can see the inner layer, which is composed of the Levator Ani group (pubococcygeus, iliococcygeus, and puborectalis above) and the coccygeus. This inner layer interacts with many other structural components - such as our hips, our sacrum, our pelvic ligaments, our organs, and our core - and can give us lift and stability. You can see how some of the hip muscles - the piriformis and obturator internis - are integrated in with the pelvic floor in this bowl.
In the bottom image, you can see our external layer which is composed of our urogential triangle in the front which houses the sphincter muscles around our urethra and vaginal canal (associated with quick closure) and our anal sphincter in the back. Between the vaginal and anal opening you can see some thicker tissue which is the perineal body - or the perineum. This is often a marker that you can feel to see if you are doing a pelvic contraction (kegel) properly.
Men have a pelvic floor as well but it looks a little different and of course only has 2 openings. Men can do pelvic floor work too!
Why is this all important? Pelvic Issues affect up to 3/4 of women! Sometimes these women seek treatment, sometimes they try to ignore it, and sometimes they just whisper about it. What are these possible issues?
Incontinence: stress, running to bathroom, feeling like you need to empty bladder many times before exercising to make sure it’s all out, limiting water intake
Finding it difficult to empty or control your bowels, having to strain, or unable to control flatulence
Pelvic Organ Prolapse: feeling of “heaviness” or bulge in vagina or pelvis
Any pelvic pain, or pain in pubic symphasis. Hip pain! Low back pain!
Pain with intercourse or when inserting a tampon
Diastasis Recti and core weakness
Also can include internal based dysfunctions: IBS, digestive issues, endometriosis, UTIs, etc.
If you’ve had a baby your risk of these issues does increase, and sometimes troubles don’t show up until a few years after birth. I am not pointing that out to be scary, but just to bring awareness to the grace and attention you should give your body. Don’t settle for anything that feels “off”! Women who are approaching menopause are also at increased risk due to thinning of tissues and decreased estrogen. And the cool thing is, even if a woman is far from either of these big events, learning this stuff actually gives you power! Runners run faster. Lifters lift harder. There can be increased core strength and stability because tapping into this broad muscle system gives your body coordination, postural control, and access to new muscles we often ignore! The pelvis is at the true center of our body and is associated with our root chakra and our vitality as a woman. Re-connecting with this area can be very impactful for women, and not only can it resolve symptoms and health issues, but often they even report feeling more grounded, more powerful, and more in control of their bodies and their life. This is my favorite sneaky "spill-over" effect of the work that I do!
“It is in the roots, not the branches, that a tree’s greatest strength lies.”