The pelvic floor muscles span the area between the front of the pelvis and the bottom of the spine. When the pelvic floor muscles fail to work optimally, you can end up with one of many symptoms known as pelvic floor disorders. By the way, these disorders are common among all people, not only women who have given birth.
In women PF disorders can include incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and pelvic pain. Diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) is a close relative of PF disorder. Men with erectile dysfunction and prostate problems, guess what? Those are PF disorders, too.
I teach a Pelvic Health 101 workshop where we cover causes and corrective exercises, but one of the most important ways to help your body heal is to change your movement habits. Here are 5 non-exercise ways to support a healthy PF.
1. Ditch the heels.
I’m not talking only about high heels. Just about every shoe produced has at least some amount of heel rise. I know because I've spent a lot of time searching for the few that don’t. Here’s a list of shoe brands that have no heel rise. (I update this list periodically, so if you have a great minimal shoe, let me know.)
Why do I want you to ditch your heels?
"Muscle geometry and biomechanical science demonstrates that neutral pelvis will give you the optimal pelvic strength (not too much tension and not too little) every time. Any heel, high or low causes your pelvis to tilt from neutral." Katy Bowman, source
2. Fix your stance.
Speaking of neutral pelvis, your pelvis doesn’t belong out in front of your body or jutting out to one side. See how it feels to bring your pelvis back so your weight is in your heels and you can wiggle your toes. You’ll likely feel off balance in this position, and that’s because your posterior (back of the leg) muscles likely aren’t used to supporting your standing weight like they’re supposed to. You can gradually fix that by remembering to back up your pelvis over and over again. This will give you stronger glutes and a happier PF.
3. Don’t sit on your sacrum.
That’s the base of your spine, and it isn’t made to be sat upon. Instead, sit on the base of your pelvis, aka, the ischial tuberosity. You may have heard this called the "sit bones." If your chair or car seat are shaped in a way that makes sitting up difficult, try using a rolled towel or cushion to modify the seat shape so you can sit upright. Bonus points: When you sit up, try not to also pull your shoulders back. Let them relax.
4. Don’t sit all day.
It's hard to find a definitive number for how much the average American sits in a regular day, but it's likely 12+ hours. If you want your body parts to work as they’re supposed to, you have to let them work in the first place. That means sit less, move more. (Note that I didn't say exercise more. Stay tuned for another post where I'll distinguish between movement and exercise.)
5. Fix your digestion.
Straining to poop is a great, er, terrible way to strain the PF muscles. Straining puts a huge amount of pressure on all your southerly parts, and frankly, they don’t care for that kind of treatment, sir or madam. Fix your digestion so you can avoid the strain and you'll make your PF happy. The Squatty Potty is a great tool to help you get into an anatomically helpful position for strain-free pooping. You can also use a regular foot stool if owning something called a Squatty Potty isn't on your life achievement list.
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