Do you know the importance of having a good posture and how your posture can affect you not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Do you watch your posture when sitting, standing, or working out? The concept of a "perfect" posture is questionable, and our postures will change throughout our years, but being aware of our posture and trying to achieve an alignment that reduces stress on our body is ideal.
Over time, bad posture can put tremendous stress on the body leading to back and neck pain, headaches, and muscle imbalances which alter lower limb alignment causing pain and injury. When you slouch or keep your back in an awkward position, your entire body suffers. Poor posture impacts every system in the body, including lung, brain, and digestive function, and it can have a dramatic affect on your confidence and self-image. Standing up straight can prevent a myriad of problems, reduce your risk of injury, help improve your balance and make you stronger.
Posture is the position in which you hold your body while standing, sitting, or lying down. Good posture is the optimal alignment of body parts supported by the right amount of muscle tension against gravity. When you concentrate on standing tall, you reduce the strain on your joints and allow your muscles to work optimally to support you. Every body is different!
Your posture can be affected by so may things: the job you do, how active you are, your mood and your confidence.
Just take a second - wherever you are and become aware of your body position. Now put yourself into a slumped position and feel how that affects you mentally and physically. While you are there, try and tighten your tummy muscles and see how hard it is. Now sit up tall, and feel the difference that makes... how just sitting up tall has a positive affect on your whole attitude, and how those abdominal muscles are automatically engaged to support your back.
It’s never too late to correct your posture. Our bodies serve us so well, so as a show of gratitude take a few minutes regularly throughout the day to think about your posture, and take the strain out of your day!!
Use a mirror to identify your postural type and look at what you need to do to improve your posture.
Use can also use a wall to help you find correct alignment.
Put little stickers (red dots) around the house to remind you to check your posture regularly through the day or remember to do it every time you read a text message or boil the kettle.
According to The Association for Pelvic Organ Support (APOPS http://www.pelvicorganprolapsesupport.org) one in every two women is estimated to experience some degree of POP. Despite this very high statistic, it remains a subject that most women are embarrassed to talk about and it is another of those conditions that many women just live with, considering it to be "normal" following childbirth. As women, we are not as informed as we could be on the preventive and healing strategies that can ease symptoms.
What is a Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
A POP occurs when the pelvic floor muscles weaken and one or more of the pelvic organs (the uterus, the bladder or the bowel) descend into the vaginal canal. In advanced cases of POP, tissues push through the vaginal canal and can protrude outside of the body.
There are four levels of severity - grade 1 is the most mild and a grade 4 is the most severe.
Vaginal childbirth and menopause are the 2 leading causes of pelvic organ prolapse and nearly every woman carries at least one risk factor for POP. Women who do develop POP, typically have multiple risk factors, but even 1 damaging child birthing experience can be sufficient to cause problems that evolve into pelvic organ prolapse. HOWEVER, women in every age demographic and from all over the world can experience pelvic organ prolapse, even those who have never given birth.
SYMPTOMS OF PELVIC ORGAN PROLAPSE
There are five different types of POP (relating to which organ has prolapsed) and each type has its own specific symptoms, but in general the most common symptoms include:
Once you have received a definitive diagnosis, a treatment plan can be put into place. Although surgical management of symptomatic POP is common it is not always necessary, so make sure you take good advice and consider all your options before diving in for surgery, I am sure you will have seen the recent controversies over surgical POP repair.
It is important to know that a Grade 1 or 2 prolapse will not inevitably worsen, so if you are suffering Grade 1 or 2 symptoms, preventative and healing strategies and changes in lifestyle can prevent your prolapse worsening, and reverse the symptoms.
CONSERVATIVE TREATMENT OPTIONS INCLUDE:
June is Pelvic Organ Prolapse awareness month and last week we looked at what Pelvic Organ Prolapse is, what symptoms you may experience if you have one and what to do about it. Remember - if this information does not apply to you, it may apply to your mum, your aunt, your sister or your friend - so spread the word, so many women live in a state of embarrassment or fear of what is happening to their bodies, not knowing what to do or who to talk to - this just isn't right.
For many women irregular bowel habits and constipation are a very real issue. A constipated bowel can cause or worsen pelvic floor dysfunction due to the pressure generated through the pelvic floor when trying to have a bowel movement. Let's face it, going to the toilet is not something we can just decide not to do ... eliminating waste is key to our health and well being, so what can you do to make sure that an every day habit does not have an adverse effect on your body.
Are you constipated?
Ideally you should be emptying your bowels daily but at the very least you should be going at least 3 times a week and not more than 3 x a day.
An ideal stool according to the Bristol Stool Chart is soft, sausage shaped and brown.
If you feel you are constipated here are a few tips you can try to see if they ease the problem, and help you to protect your pelvic floor from long-term damage in the future. If the problem persists or you notice anything unusual with your bowel you must seek medical advice.
FIVE TIPS FOR BETTER BOWEL HEALTH
DRINK MORE WATER
Sometimes the simple remedies are the most effective. Many women, for fear of leaking, simply reduce their intake of all fluids. While this might mean that you feel more confident when you are out and about, chronic dehydration is bad news for virtually every cell in your body and has the potential to reduce a range of bodily activities from brain function to fat loss.
I find it easier to drink more when I monitor my water intake and carry a water bottle with me all of the time. If you know you are not drinking enough, have a think about what might work to help you improve your fluid intake.
HOW AND WHAT ARE YOU EATING
Is the food you are eating delicious AND good for you?
Do you eat on the run?
Are you feeling guilty about what you eat?
Are you mindful about what and how you are eating?
Give some thought to not only your diet but your eating habits – try and make sure that you have time to chew and digest your food properly at each meal, this could make a huge difference to your digestion.
A DIET RICH IN FIBER
Increasing the fiber content of your diet can really help to improve the function of the digestive system. But ease into it slowly:
When we sit on the loo in an upright sitting position – part of the pelvic floor is only able to partially relax, keeping the colon kinked and blocking the flow of waste. In a more squat position the muscles can fully relax allowing the colon to empty quickly and completely. So an ideal toileting position has the knees higher than the hips– which can be achieved by placing a small stool or a couple of blocks under each foot.
Here is a rather humorous look at the "Squatty Potty" and the and-rectal angle!
I LOVE YOU MASSAGE
This is a lovely way to start the day and connect with your body – and I have found it really does help to eliminate any excess gas and move any waste that might be lingering a little longer than you wanted.
Every time you put pressure through your body, be that from knowingly exercising or unwittingly as you lift your shopping out of the trolley or bend to pick up another piece of lego from the floor, you need to be protecting your core.
WHAT EXACTLY IS YOUR CORE AND HOW CAN YOU DO THAT?
The core is comprised of four elements:
As you can see in the EXPANSION PHASE – when you BREATH IN/INHALE – the diaphragm descends to draw the breath in, the pelvic floor relaxes, the rib-cage expands and the abdominal wall relaxes and expands (swells).
In the COMPRESSION PHASE – when you BREATH OUT/EXHALE – the diaphragm lifts, the pelvic floor tensions and “lifts”, the rib-cage closes, the abdominal wall contracts and flattens and the thoraco-lumbar fascia and associated musculature tensions.
It is that lift and tensioning of the diaphragm, abdominal wall, pelvic floor and thoraco-lumbar fascia/muscles which protects and supports your core.
How many times have you found yourself holding your breath and actually bearing down into those vulnerable pelvic floor muscles when you are doing something strenuous. Think of all the everyday activities where you maybe inadvertently putting pressure down into your pelvic floor instead of lifting away – this is exactly when those leaky moments get the better of you. Keep doing it and those leaky moments could become a pelvic organ prolapse – not good at all.
HOW CAN YOU IMPROVE YOUR INTRINSIC CORE SYNERGY®
IMPROVE YOUR POSTURE
Incorporate stretches into your routine that will stretch tight tissues and allow the body to adopt a more optimal posture to enable optimal breathing patterns and core recruitment.
If you have any abdominal scars (new or old) these will most likely require hands on soft tissue work to reduce adhesions and increase connectivity.
IMPROVE YOUR BREATHING PATTERNS
The breath drives the core and the pelvic floor, and you breathe approximately 20,000 times a day, correcting faulty breathing patterns will optimise your core function. Not only that the breath is deeply restorative and nourishing for your body, as well as helping you to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system to find calm in this crazy world!
OPTIMISE YOUR NUTRITION AND HYDRATION
Feed your body to promote healing, hormone balance and tissue quality, staying away from foods that promote inflammation.
EXHALE ON EXERTION
You can see from the breathing image above, that if you take a breath in and hold your breath, you will create pressure within the core. This is not an effective stabilising strategy and has the potential to cause injury to the abdominal wall, the lumbar spine and the pelvic floor. So if you want to protect your core and your continence, whether it’s doing simple tasks at home or more strenuous things in the gym – you need to use the "EXHALE" when you are exerting yourself.
In class we use:
No matter what your age or stage of life it is important to take care of and exercise your pelvic floor.
It is a common misconception that the only time in our lives when we need to think about exercising the pelvic floor is when we are pregnant, or immediately postnatally. While that part of our body is very much in the fore-front of our minds we feverishly work away at our pelvic floor and slowly as life with a toddler takes over it becomes less and less of a priority and we eventually stop. I am sure those of you that have never been pregnant think you have dodged a bullet and your pelvic floor is not something you will ever have to think about – sadly this is not the case.I hope that by reading this newsletter you will gain a better understanding of this extremely important part of your anatomy. Your pelvic floor is just like any other muscle in the body it needs regular exercise to stay strong and if you abuse it, it will become dysfunctional.
Living with a leaky pelvic floor is really not fun and it is NOT normal. Want to learn more…. read on!
WHAT IS THE PELVIC FLOOR?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and ligaments that support the bladder, uterus (womb) and bowel within the pelvis.
The openings from these organs, the urethra from the bladder, the vagina from the uterus and the anus from the bowel pass through the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles attach to your pubic bone at the front and the tail bone at the back and from the base of your pelvis – forming a supportive hammock.
WHAT DO THE PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES DO?
As well as supporting the pelvic organs, the pelvic floor is responsible for:
There are different stages of our life when the pelvic floor is more vulnerable than others:
When the pelvic floor muscles are weak or stretched you can develop:
Pelvic floor disorders often start during pregnancy, triggered by the weight and pressure of the baby and associated postural changes. There are also hormonal shifts and anatomical changes that result from giving birth, including stretching and possibly tearing or cutting of the vaginal muscles or perineum (such as an episiotomy). It is important to not only address the weakness in the pelvic floor but to correct any postural changes and muscle-skeletal dysfunctions at the same time. REMEMBER – it take 9 months to make a baby and it takes at least that to recover. Don’t try to do too much too soon.
THE PELVIC FLOOR AND SEX
Strengthening your pelvic core can improve your sex life and satisfaction a lot. That’s because the pelvic floor muscles surround the vagina as well as the clitoris.
Pelvic floor strength increases stimulation during intercourse due to increased blood flow, nerve sensitivity, and circulation to the area, which results in more sensitivity to touch. Research shows women with strong vaginal muscles achieve better, longer and multiple orgasms as well as increased ability to control the timing of them. So whats not to like about that!!
PELVIC FLOOR AND MENOPAUSE
As we learned last week during peri-menopause, women experience a decrease in oestrogen that can initiate thinning and weakening of the pelvic muscles and connective tissues. This makes women more susceptible to loss of tone, elasticity and suppleness in pelvic floor tissues.
As your body’s hormones fluctuate through perimenopause, pelvic floor changes can still occur whether you’ve given birth or not.
This is a time to feel empowered, DON’T REGRET GROWING OLDER IT’S A PRIVILGE DENIED TO MANY, embrace life and move. Now more than ever exercise is vital to your overall health, not just for your pelvic floor but for your brain, your bones and your heart. Do the exercise that makes you happy – dance, walk, swim – but its crucial to keep moving.
WHAT IS THE ANSWER TO A HEALTHY PELVIC FLOOR?
It is recommended that all women exercise their pelvic floor muscles every day throughout life, to prevent weakness or improve strength. Exercising weak muscles regularly, over a period of time can strengthen them and make them work effectively again. Regular gentle exercise, such as walking can also help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
NB – IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING PAIN IN YOUR PELVIC AREA, WHICH SEEMS TO BE AGGRAVATED BY EXERCISING IT – YOU MAY HAVE A HYPERTONIC PF (too tight) – PLS SEE A WOMEN’S HEALTH PHYSIO OR DR FOR THIS.