Want to learn more about pelvic floor issues? Sign up here to get educational (and entertaining!) videos and articles delivered to your inbox no more than once per week!
Why Do I Have Pelvic Floor Issues? I Don’t Have Kids!
Pelvic floor issues only happen after you give birth, right? Wrong! Most of us associate peeing our pants or having other embarrassing symptoms only after having kids, but there are actually a lot of reasons why pelvic floor dysfunction can occur besides after having a baby. I see quite a few women who have pelvic floor issues, such as leaking, pelvic heaviness, pain with sex, or pelvic pain, who have never had kids. Let’s discuss why this is and what can be done to fix it!
Non-Pregnancy Related Pelvic Floor Issues
There are a lot of reasons why the pelvic floor muscles can become weak, overworked, or tight. Let’s talk about the 3 of the most common non-pregnancy related reasons I see in the clinic: muscle imbalance, stress, and chronic straining.
Just like anywhere else in the body, if we have muscle imbalance (something is too tight or too weak), other muscles tend to get overworked or tight and angry. When it comes to the core and hips, the pelvic floor muscles can often take the brunt of this.
One of the jobs of our pelvic floor muscles is to provide stability to our pelvis, hips, and lower back. If other muscles in our core or hips aren’t pulling their weight, the pelvic floor muscles often try to help out and end up getting overworked and tight. Tight pelvic floor muscles can then cause leaking, constipation, pain with sex, back or hip pain, or bladder urgency or frequency, among other “fun” symptoms.
Fix Your Muscle Imbalance
Because of this, fixing muscle imbalances is a HUGE component of pelvic floor physical therapy. If you’re not addressing WHY the pelvic floor muscles are tight or overworked in the first place, the tightness will not resolve or will more easily return. Once you fix things, you want them fixed for good!
Because there are SO many muscles that directly impact our core and pelvic floor function, the best way to figure out if a muscle imbalance is contributing to your pelvic floor issues is to see a pelvic floor physical therapist.
Stress and Tension
Do you clench your jaw or have TMJ issues? Does your neck often feel tight or do you get headaches? These are areas many of us hold our stress and tension in. If we hold tension in these muscles, it’s likely that we may be holding tension in the pelvic floor muscles too. What?! You read that right! We unconsciously clench down there too!
Fix Your Stress and Tension
Ok, so how do we stop clenching down there? I don’t even realize I’m doing it! If your pelvic floor issues are caused by stress and tension, addressing the connection between stress and the pelvic floor tension is key. This connection is the nervous system!
If we often struggle with stress, anxiety, and tension, we most likely have an overactive sympathetic nervous system (= our flight or fight response). Doing things that calm this part of our nervous system can DIRECTLY improve our pelvic floor function. So cool!
One of my favorite ways to calm the sympathetic nervous system is with deep breathing. The breathing exercise below is one I give to literally everyone I see for pelvic floor issues. That’s how important it is and how helpful it can be!
Placing too much pressure down onto our pelvic floor on a regular basis can also lead to pelvic floor issues. Chronic straining can cause the pelvic floor muscles to become weak or tight and overworked. You may experience symptoms such as hemorrhoids, leaking, pelvic heaviness and pressure, or a bulging sensation down there. I commonly see this with women who are constipated often or have other GI issues, such as IBS or Crohn’s.
Fix Your Chronic Straining
First of all, it is important that you get any GI disorders under control by your doctor. Beyond that, there are a few habitual changes that can make a very big impact in improving constipation and reducing the need to strain when pooping!
If you experience constipation, try these tips:
- Make sure you are well hydrated. You should be drinking about half of your weight in fluid ounces daily and 2/3 of that should be water.
- Eat breakfast and do some movement or exercise early in the day. Both of these get your GI system moving right away in the morning.
- Increase the amount of fiber in your diet. Try adding in more fruits, veggies, nuts, or whole grains.
- Try a magnesium supplement. Magnesium improves GI motility (= how things move through our GI tract).
Here’s another important piece to improving chronic straining – did you know that many people poop incorrectly? Pooping correctly can greatly decrease the pressure down on the pelvic floor!
How to poop:
- Place your feet up on a squatty potty or stool. Lean forward and rest your elbows on your thighs. This position makes it easier for your body to pass stool.
- Don’t strain to get things moving. Instead, try relaxing and doing some deep breathing until you feel the urge to poop.
- Blow as you go! Breathe out as you GENTLY bear down to poop. (Gentle being a very important key word here.)
- If nothing is moving after 5 minutes, get off the toilet and try again later. That’s right – no one should be in the bathroom for 10 to 15 minutes or longer (ahem – husbands playing on their phones…).
*If you’re still having constipation or difficulty pooping even with applying these tips, check with your pelvic floor physical therapist to see if pelvic floor tightness may be causing your symptoms.
Resolve Your Pelvic Floor Issues
If you’ve never had kids and yet you’re experiencing pelvic floor issues, such as leaking, pelvic pressure or heaviness, pain with intercourse, or urinary urgency, don’t be discouraged! You are not alone! There are so many things that can be done to fix your pelvic floor issues. To figure out what may be contributing to your symptoms and resolve things for good, shoot us a message!