Ok, ladies, time to get personal here. Today, I’m sharing what you need to know about your pelvic floor. I know, it sounds like a snooze fest, but listen up because pelvic floor dysfunction affects one in four women in the US, it doesn’t discriminate based on age and not enough of us know about it.
Last year I discovered that a weak pelvic floor was affecting my day-to-day quality of life. I had symptoms like urinary urgency that I had forced myself to accept as part of everyday life. I shrugged it off as “getting older” until I finally spoke up about it and learned I didn’t have to live that way. We should never accept discomfort in any part of our lives. My quest to relieve the discomfort I was feeling brought me to Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy where I worked with Iwalani Crush, PT, DPT, who specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction.
She and I sat down to talk more in-depth about this taboo topic.
Q. In everyday terms what was going on in my own specific case?
A. Based on some of the symptoms you explained which were interfering with your day-to-day work and social routines and following a PT and biofeedback assessment of your hips, low back and pelvic floor flexibility and strength, you were objectively found to have an overactive or high tone pelvic floor, hip flexor and inner thigh muscles. As a result of your high tone/tension, your overall pelvic floor strength was weaker than normal for your age and gender.
Q.What are some common reasons women may experience pelvic floor dysfunction or weak pelvic floor muscles?
A. In women, typical causes of pelvic floor weakness are pregnancy, menopause and high impact exercises. Other reasons for a weak pelvic floor include:
Lack of exercise:Like any other muscle, these muscles become weak, stretched and no longer work well if not exercised.
Straining during bowel movements:Forcefull ‘pushing down’ to open the bowels can weaken the pelvic floor.
Excess weight: Too much weight adds pressure to the pelvic floor.
Chronic coughing: The act of coughing creates bouncing on the pelvic floor which can damage and stretch the muscles.
Q. Many women go to the gym and think about strengthening their abs and glutes and other body parts, but never even consider the importance of pelvic floor health. Why is it important to be proactive?
A. The pelvic floor is made of voluntary contractile muscular tissues, similar to other muscular groups in our body that we “work out” or rehabilitate after injury or surgery. As such, these muscle groups are subjected to stretch/strain/tear injuries, post surgical weakness or inhibition, age-related changes in loss of muscle mass/power/flexibility, improper use or integration with daily activities.
It’s important to be proactive because this group of muscles, ligaments, and other tissues have important roles in supporting organs like the bladder and rectum, as well as sexual and reproductive organs. Moreover the pelvic floor has other roles in maintaining bowel/bladder continence and sexual function with orgasm and procreation.
The lessening of these functions increases over time as we age and can impact physical independence and overall quality of life.
Q4. What are some simple exercises women’s can do to strengthen their pelvic floor?
A. Iwalani recommends these simple moves excerpted from Prevention Magazine.
Q5. What are some everyday signs or symptoms that your pelvic floor muscles may be weak? When should someone consider pelvic floor therapy?
A. Urinary incontinence is the most common. It can be anything from light leakage during exercise to more sudden and uncontrollable. Other symptoms may be fecal incontinence, shifting of pelvic organs – the vaginal wall, small intestine and uterus – also called pelvic organ prolapse, uncontrollable flatulence, and lack of or reduced sensation during intercourse.
Don’t ever hesitate to seek help even if these symptoms seem minor right now. More often than not, they will increase in severity over time if not treated. If your lifestyle is disrupted in any way as a result of any of the above symptoms, seek support immediately.
Q6. What are the long-term benefits of keeping your pelvic floor top of mind?
A. As a group, the pelvic floor muscles do more than affect bladder, bowels and sexual health. Think of your pelvic floor as the base of the spine attaching directly to your tailbone. It’s an anchor for staying upright on your hips to support your posture and keep you pain-free in your back, shoulders, neck and hips. Without a strong pelvic floor, your posture will always suffer. In turn, it affects your ability to walk and run.
Anytime there is weakness or imbalance in any group of muscles, injuries result. A healthy, functioning body depends on keeping these invisible and often forgotten muscles strong to reduce the risk of hip and back injuries, joint issues, sexual dysfunction and incontinence.
About Iwalani Crush, PT, DPT
Iwalani is a graduate of New York University, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 2005. She subsequently received her Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree with honors from New York University in 2009. As part of her Doctorate degree, Iwalani completed clinical rotations and observations treating a variety of orthopedic, pediatric, acute, cardiopulmonary, integumentary and neurological conditions in inpatient/hospital, outpatient/private practice settings located in Hawaii, West Africa, and New York City.
Prior to becoming a member of the Dynamic Sports physical therapy team, Iwalani was a therapist for 3 years at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, NY. While at Burke, Iwalani was involved in the multi-disciplinary management of patients in the Subacute/Nursing Home facilities, Single/Double Joint replacement and Amputee Unit, Cardiopulmonary Unit, and Traumatic Brain Injury/Spinal Cord Injury/Stroke Units. In addition to her experience at Burke, Iwalani has a comprehensive pediatric background from working in the NYC public and special education school systems through the Board of Education, and at outpatient Sensory Integration Gyms through Keep Children Moving. Recently, she has taken courses through Herman & Wallace for the evaluation and treatment of both male and female pelvic floor dysfunction.
Iwalani’s versatility in conjunction with her educational background equips her to holistically treat a variety of conditions, patient populations and age groups. Notably, she is Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers (CPR & AED) and First Aid, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, and Beginners Pilates Mat Certified.
Welcome! My name is Marissa and I'm a lover of all things health and wellness. As a NYC-based board-Certified Wellness Coach and Healthy Living Expert, I share my own health secrets, get-fit tips and the cooking expertise that has inspired countless women to change their relationship with food and turbocharge their health to become holistically hot in a way that’s fun and fearless.
No crazy diets or all-juice cleanses required.
Take comfort in knowing that wherever you are right now, is exactly "where you need to be"!