Lots of the women I speak to are very concerned about pelvic floor weakness, very few people know or understand about pelvic floor tightness or “hypertonicity”, whilst for the majority of the ladies I treat, especially those in pain, this is the problem.
Lets think about the pelvic floor simply, it is just like every other muscle in the body. It can be weak or strong, it can be flexible or tight, or it can be any combination. Ideally we want a strong but flexible pelvic floor- just like we would want that of any other muscle.
So, hopefully, when you exercise other parts of your body whether it be with weights or going for a run, you do stretches before and after…yes? But have you ever thought about stretching your pelvic floor? No? Most people haven’t, as we have been taught to just squeeze, squeeze and squeeze some more.
So these exercises aren’t just for those having problems, this should be routine, perhaps not every day but maybe once a week or whatever you have time for, try to put this gentle series into day.
When doing these exercises, I always recommend taking time out of the day, just 10 minutes, to fully concentrate on yourself. You do not want “mummy, mummy, mummy” whilst trying to do these, nor do you want to feel conscious that your husband is wondering what the hell you are doing. So wait until the children are in bed or being looked after, and take yourself to a calm area of the house. This needs your full attention. YOU need your full attention.
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Lie flat on your back, with the soles of your feet together and knees falling apart. Bring your feet comfortably close to your bottom. Hold an easy stretch for 30 seconds. Breathe deeply into your belly.
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Start with your feet on the floor and knees bent. Bring your right foot to the front of your left knee. Then lift your left knee towards your chest. Hold an easy stretch for 30 seconds. Breathe mindfully. Repeat the stretch the opposite way, with right foot to left knee etc.
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Start lying on your back with both legs straight and relax. Bend one knee to your chest. Hold an easy stretch for 30 seconds and breathe deeply into your belly. Repeat the stretch with the other leg.
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Start with your weight on your hands and feet. Relax your bottom down between your heels. Your elbows gently push your knees apart. Hold an easy stretch for 20 seconds. Breathe mindfully into your belly. This stretch is only good for people with good knees!
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Start lying on your back. Grasp the inside of each foot with your arms inside your knees. Allow your knees to widen apart. Hold for 30 seconds and breathe mindfully into your belly.
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Start on your hands and knees. Relax your bottom down towards your heels – your knees are wider apart, feet closer together. Hold an easy stretch for 30 seconds and breathe deeply into your belly. Your head can rest on the floor.
**You do not need to do all of these poses, I would recommend trying them all initially and seeing which ones you feel most comfortable and relaxed in, and sticking with those. As you might be able to tell from the picture, I am not so keen on the happy baby stretch- to me it just feels awkward but everybody is different and some people love it!
These exercises work well combined with some relaxation which might just be listening to some music you enjoy but something I recommend to many of my clients is an app called “head space”. I struggle with lots of fluffy stuff but this app is brilliant, it takes just 10 minutes and is very “normal”, not airy fairy, just simple- I find it hard to explain so just trust me and try it! Many of us, myself included, are so busy juggling kids/work/home life that we become very tense. Think again of your pelvic floor like the muscles in your shoulders…do you they get tight and need a warm bath and a stretch out from time to time? Well your pelvic floor is another area that can suffer from these “trigger points” of tight muscle which in turn can lead to pain.
Simply by giving yourself some “head space” and reducing you stress you can help relax your pelvic floor.
If you have specific concerns about your pelvic floor, suffer with incontinence and/or pain it is always advisable to see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist.
If you are in Cornwall Laura, Ottilie Founder, is highly trained and will always handle your situation sensitively and confidentially. If you want to have a chat to see if Physiotherapy can help you, please do not hesitate to get in contact.
We are looking at creating a portfolio of practitioners so please do get in touch if you can recommend a Physio that you have been to!