Ladies, it’s time to talk about your pelvic floor
Ladies, let’s talk pelvic floors. From light bladder leakage to pelvic pain, and bowel issues to pelvic prolapses, there are myriad reasons why this is an important area of your body.
And yet, it can be a difficult topic to discuss.
Renew Physiotherapy’s Mel French has a wealth of experience treating women’s health and pelvic floors. She says it can often be difficult for women to discuss issues relating to the pelvis.
“Some women are embarrassed to discuss these concerns, even amongst their friends or mothers groups, and younger girls often find it difficult to speak about their concerns and give a true insight into their issues,” she says.
“I think a lot of it has to do with that fact that pelvic floor and urinary issues are portrayed in the media as being an older person’s issue, or only a concern for someone who has had a baby, and not something that a younger person or women who haven’t had children should be concerned with.
“First time mums can sometimes be a bit tentative initially, possibly be due to the fact that their bodies have gone through incredible changes and new symptoms may arise after birth that they have never experienced or heard of. This can also be quite scary and overwhelming.”
In these instances, Mel says it’s important to “reassure” clients.
“They need to know that they are not alone in experiencing these symptoms and that there is generally always something that can be done to help.
“I also tend to compare these issues to musculoskeletal conditions and injuries, for example, a pelvic floor injury sustained during birth is a musculoskeletal tear or injury, similar to the AFL footballer who tears his hamstring.
“They are both skeletal muscles that heal in a similar manner.”
Common women’s health-related injuries
Mel says she treats many ante-natal clients for pelvic girdle pain management, post-natal recovery, pelvic organ prolapse management, as well as general pelvic floor concerns such as urinary and bowel urgency and incontinence .
“During pregnancy, some women experience pelvic pain.
“This can be due to hormonal changes and changes in joint laxity.
“Muscles surrounding the pelvis, including the pelvic floor, and lumbar spine can become tight or weakened, so soft tissue manual therapy can help ease pain from tight muscles, and clinical pilates and exercises can help provide support to these pelvic joints.”
Mel says post-natal recovery – particularly in the first three months after giving birth – is a really important time to embrace education and treatment.
“During this time I provide lots of reassurance and education on healing time frames, hormonal changes and appropriate exercises and stretches.
“I find providing lots of handouts and information is helpful for new mums, as well as basic exercise guidelines.”
Pelvic floor prolapses can sometimes require further advanced management but Mel says there are also treatments she can prescribe.
“As a result of increased vaginal wall laxity and supporting tissue weakness, pelvic floor prolapses are essentially a descent or downward movement of the pelvic organs, such as the bladder, bowel, cervix and uterus”.
“This can be managed by pelvic floor exercise, global core and gluteal muscle strengthening exercises, support wear, education and advice for activity modification.
“But it’s important to note that possible referral on to a specialist for further advanced management can be required.”
Mel says treating women in this field provides her with a sense of satisfaction, particularly as she watches women slowly gain more confidence in their bodies.
“I really enjoy working with and empowering women with knowledge about their bodies and their potential for rehabilitation or change, particularly when they have the misconception that their symptoms/condition cannot be helped.”