Just in time for your New Year’s Resolutions, here’s another awesome exercise from Kierstin Elliot, Pilates Teacher at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy!
Goal: Strengthen the glutes and balance
Exercise: Slingshot Lunges on the Reformer
Set Up: Standing on the floor with right foot near foot bar and left foot against the shoulder rest. Keep left knee straight and tilt upper body forward creating one long diagonal line from head to back toes. Use one blue spring as resistance. Belly button and chin are tucked in with neck lengthened and shoulders rounded back.
Execution: Inhale to send pelvis back into lunge bending the front knee 90 degrees while reaching arms forward and keeping the pelvis level and squared off to the front. Keep shoulders away from ears. Exhale to straighten the front knee, lower arms to sides, and return to your starting position.
Focus: Be sure to keep proper alignment throughout the spine. Lumbar spine should be elongated and supported throughout the entire exercise. Maintain core connection by dropping bottom ribs towards the top of your hips bones. Hips should also be level and squared off to the front- make sure there’s no pelvic rotation during lunges.
Importance: One of the best exercises for strengthening your glutes! This exercise also enhances your ability to stabilize the pelvis and lower back while connecting to the core for improved balance.
Modifications: Limit the range of motion in standard position, or drop back knee to the carriage. Dropping the back knee may draw more focus to the quad, making the exercise feel more like a stretch, however, the focus should still be held on standing glute. For an added challenge, grab a set of 3 pound free weights for your arms for added core control.
Low back pain is the most common cause of disability and lost work time among working-age adults in industrialized countries (1). In fact, the worldwide prevalence of chronic low back pain has been estimated to be 11.9% of the population on a given day, and 23.2% of the population in a one-month period (2). That is a significant number of people! Determining effective treatments for low back pain can be challenging for various reasons: 1. there are no clearly defined risk factors that predict the development or outcome of low back pain; 2. most patients do not present with any significant findings physiologically or anatomically; 3. and pain can generate and spread at numerous locations within the nervous system, and can constantly change (1).
Treatment of Low Back Pain
There are many challenges associated with low back pain diagnosis and outcomes. Because of this, and the fact that so many people across the globe are impacted by it, there are many options out there for treating this condition. Some methods that have been proven to be effective are spinal manipulation (a high-velocity thrust applied directly on the vertebrae, or backbones, to improve movement and decrease pain), trunk coordination, strengthening, and endurance exercises (to target deep abdominal and back muscles that help to stabilize the spine), general fitness exercise, and patient education (1). These types of interventions are certainly helpful and have allowed many individuals experiencing low back pain to return to their daily lives. However, perhaps the areas that are being addressed with these interventions are not getting to the whole story… There is another area of the body that plays a significant role in the stability of the back but does not regularly get addressed with standard treatment to low back pain: the pelvic floor.
Treating the Pelvic Floor to Address Low Back Pain
Several studies have looked at incorporating pelvic floor-specific strengthening programs in the treatment of chronic low back pain. One study looked at women who were experiencing low back pain and urinary incontinence (the involuntary leakage of urine) (3), while two others looked at individuals experiencing chronic low back pain independently in men and women (4, 5). In all three studies, investigators compared “routine” physical therapy to routine physical therapy plus the addition of pelvic floor strengthening. Results revealed that incorporating pelvic floor strengthening decreased low back pain, decreased the incidence of urine leakage in the case of urinary incontinence, improved function based on specific questionnaires, and increased pelvic floor strength and endurance (3-5). This strengthening was completed by either performing isolated pelvic floor contractions (4, 5), or performing abdominal and pelvic floor muscle contractions while performing specific stabilizing exercises (3).
The Relationship Between the Pelvic Floor and the Low Back
Why did strengthening the pelvic floor make a difference in the above studies? This is likely because the pelvic floor is one of the muscle groups that contributes to overall spine stability; the others include the diaphragm, the transverse abdominis (a lower abdominal muscle), and deep muscles in the low back (3). Several studies out of Norway and Sweden have revealed that in women without pain, the pelvic floor activates just prior to arm or leg movement (6-8). This is important because it reveals that when the pelvic floor is working efficiently, it provides stability to the trunk and pelvis, allowing for functional postures and movements to occur.
The pelvic floor is an important stabilizer of the spine and pelvis, and activates just prior to movement to allow for efficient function. When an individual is experiencing low back pain, not only do the abdominals and low back muscles require strengthening, focusing on the pelvic floor can help to eliminate pain and resume daily function.
If you or someone you know is struggling with unresolved low back pain, make an appointment with a pelvic floor physical therapist today for further assessment. Feel free to contact our midtown office at 212-354-2622 or our downtown office at 212-267-0240, or visit our website (www.beyondbasicsphysicaltherapy.com) for more information!
If you have questions about orthopedic, pelvic, or sports physical therapy, including back pain, BBPT is offering free phone consults to those living in the greater NYC area for a limited amount of time!
Beyond Basics Physical Therapy
212-354-2622 (42nd Street Location)
212-267-0240 (William Street Location)
1. Beattie PF. 2016. Current concepts of orthopedic physical therapy – the lumbar spine: physical therapy patient management using current evidence, 4th edition. (p. 3) Orthopedic Section – APTA.
2. Hoy D, Bain C, Williams G, et al. A systematic review of the global prevalence of low back pain. Arthritis Rheum. 2012; 64 (6): 2028-2037. doi:10.1002/art.34347.
3. Ghaderi F, Mohammadi K, Sasan RA, et al. Effects of stabilization exercises focusing on pelvic floor muscles on low back pain and on urinary incontinence in women. Urology. 2016; 93: 50-54.
4. Mohseni-Bandpei MA, Rahmani N, Behtash H, et al. The effect of pelvic floor muscle exercise on women with chronic non-specific low back pain. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies. 2011; 15: 75-81.
5. Bi X, Zhao J, Liu Z, et al Pelvic floor muscle exercise for chronic low back pain. Journal of International Medical Research. 2012; 41 (1): 146-152.
6. Sjodahl J, Gutke A, Ghaffari G, et al. Response of the muscles in the pelvic floor and the lower lateral abdominal wall during the active straight leg raise in women with and without pelvic girdle pain: an experimental study. Clinical Biomechanics. 2016; 35: 49-55.
7. Stuge B, Saetre K, Hoff BI. The automatic pelvic floor muscle response to the active straight leg raise in cases with pelvic girdle pain and matched controls. Manual Therapy. 2013; 18: 327-332.
8. Sjodahl J, Kvist J, Gutke A, et al. The postural response of the pelvic floor muscles during limb movements: a methodological electromyography study in parous women without lumbopelvic pain. Clinical Biomechanics. 2009; 24: 183-189.
Set up: Lie facedown on the box with naval pulled up towards the spine, chin tucked in with neck lengthened (as if you are holding a tangerine under your chin), glutes engaged, and legs extended. Pull yourself to back bars of the reformer and hold onto the poles with both hands. Use one blue spring for resistance.
Execution: Inhale to lengthen elbows, exhale to bend elbows.
Focus: The main muscle group targeted here are the lats. Think about pulling down from the armpits while the elbows bend and extend. This action will help stabilize the shoulders, keeping them out of the ears. Also, focus on releasing the upper traps and lengthening the back of the neck. The more work we can get from underneath the shoulder blades, rather than above, the better!
Importance: Improves posture! Strong back extensors lead to better posture, especially in this day in age where phones and computers are constantly pulling our shoulders forward and weakening our backs. Incorporate a few lat pulls into your routine and feel taller almost instantly!
Modifications: To make it easier, drop tension to one yellow spring. To make it harder, place a squishy ball between ankles and add hamstring curls or pulses between lat pull sets!
I love the TV show Mythbusters, I have for the last 15 years, (yes ladies, gents it has been on for that long). If you aren’t familiar with this show, the hosts Adam and Jamie try to prove or disprove popular myths like, is shooting fish in a barrel easy? Spoiler alert: yes, but maybe not in the way you think it is. I’ll let you look that one up on your own. I loved how this show took everyday assumptions and applied real science to see if they were indeed true. In the same spirit of my beloved show, we are going to try and bust some pelvic floor myths. Since I don’t have the funding or ethical review board to conduct large-scale experiments on pelvic floor questions, I am going to the next best (albeit, slightly less glamorous thing) and see what I can find on PubMed, while applying known pelvic floor science to the question. Most of us have probably been told that holding in your pee for a long time can cause urinary tract infections (UTIs), but is it actually true? Can peeing at every single urge cause other problems? Through gathering the available evidence we will look at this time old axiom to determine whether it is true or false.
What is a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)
A UTI occurs when bacteria colonize or grow in your urinary system, which is composed of your bladder, urethra, ureters, and kidneys. Usually, we see these infections in the bladder. Women tend to get UTIs more often at an 8:1 ratio to their male counterparts. This is because the male urinary system has a substantially longer urethra, as well as the fact that the female’s urethral position makes it vulnerable to bacterial colonization in women who have penetrative vaginal sex. Although it is more common for adults to contract UTI’s, children can too. UTI’s in children can be an indicator of possible bladder conditions, such as vesicoureteral reflux (when urine seeps back into the upper part of the urinary system and can cause infections in the kidneys). Any bladder infection in children should be followed up by imaging to rule this condition out. Untreated reflux can be harmful to the kidneys. Much of the literature I reviewed pertains to women with UTIs but it is possible to apply some of this information to males. That being said, at least half of women will report a UTI at some point in their lifetime.
We can further classify UTI’s by how often one contracts them. Recurrent UTI is defined as 3 positive cultures in 12 months or 2 positive cultures within 6 months. Uncomplicated infection occurs in people who have a normal urinary tract, whereas a complicated infection occurs in individuals with complications in the urinary tract, such as vesicouretral reflux.
Known Risk Factors for UTI
Our main question is, “does holding pee cause UTI’s?”, but what things do we absolutely know are risk factors for UTIs? First thing is having a female urinary tract. The female urethra (where the pee comes out) is shorter than the male’s, making it easier for UTI causing bacteria to get a foothold and cause infections. Along those lines, having receptive vaginal intercourse can make you more prone to get a UTI because objects inserted into the vagina can introduce bacteria to the urethra, which live nearby each other. Pregnancy, diabetes, and immunosuppression have also been shown in the literature to increase the chances of getting a UTI. Being post-menopausal can also increase your risk of developing a UTI as it may thin the tissue of the vulva and make it easier for bacteria to get to the bladder. Other factors include the use of spermicides, catheterization (both indwelling and intermittent), wiping back to front (ladies), diaphragm use, or incomplete bladder emptying (guys and gals, we will discuss this in detail below).
But Does Holding Your Pee Cause UTIs???!!!!!
Yes… and no. The data out there is pretty darn sparse, and what I’ve read has not provided any clear-cut studies examining the issue. Keep in mind it’s a pretty hard experiment to design to prove that holding your pee can cause UTIs. Peeing as a preventative to reduce UTIs works by flushing out the urethra, but you need a good amount of liquid (however don’t force or push out your pee) to clean it out. This is why I advise and will continue to advise patients to pee after intercourse. It flushes everything out.
Now, that being said, if you are peeing too frequently, and only a little bit comes out at a time, you may not be effective in cleaning out your urethra fully. Normal bladder frequency should be about once every 2-3 hours and that is if you drink 7-8 glasses of fluid a day (if you drink less than that then frequency will be less). And, obviously, things will pick up a bit if you’ve had a bunch to drink, (water or otherwise), but that’s the average. Another way to tell if you are on track is if you are peeing for 8-10 seconds (real “one-Mississippi” seconds) and it is a strong, consistent stream. If you train yourself to pee when you don’t have a large amount of pee in the bladder, you could actually be training your bladder to be more frequent, which can be a problem.
What if when you are peeing, you have to strain and only have a dribbly stream and not a lot comes out? This is a problem that could lead you to get UTIs. It is called incomplete emptying. Incomplete emptying happens when the bladder does not empty properly. Because of this, urine is not expelled out of the urethra at a rate that is sufficient to clean out the urethra and that means bacteria may have an easier time getting to your bladder. Symptoms of incomplete emptying can include post-void dribble, having to strain to pee, and or feeling like you have to pee again shortly after your first attempt to pee.
Does Pelvic Floor Health Have Anything to Do with UTIs
It can. Also, problems in the pelvic floor can commonly mimic symptoms of UTIs (burning with urination, frequency, urgency, etc.,.). The pelvic floor is a group of muscles between the tail-bone and the pubic bone, and they surround the urethra, bladder, anorectal opening, and genital region. For people with incomplete bladder emptying, a tight pelvic floor may be playing a role. The pelvic floor has many functions, but one of its functions is to open and close the doors (sphincters) that hold pee in and let it out. If the pelvic floor is tight, it’s hard for the muscles to relax and for the pee to exit. More importantly, when the pelvic floor is held in tension it prevents the detrusor (bladder squeezer muscle) from emptying the bladder well.
Additionally, tight pelvic floor muscles, specifically in the urogenital diaphragm layer (the superficial pelvic floor muscle layer), can feel a lot like a UTI when they are tight. Some women will experience irritation in this area after intercourse, which can feel a lot like a bladder infection. Women who repeatedly test negative for UTI’s but have symptoms could have pelvic floor dysfunction! It’s wild, I know.
Bladder Tips for us All
Wash yourself and your partner before sex
If you have a vagina, wash it with water before getting it on. The fact of the world, is we are covered in bacteria, if you wash your vagina and vulva before anything goes in it, you lessen the chance of bacteria getting pushed into your urinary tract. Your partner should also wash his or her fingers, toys, or penis as well to avoid infection. Using a USDA organic mild soap with no extra ingredients or additives is best.
Pee After Sex!
Pee after sex. It is so important. It’s better to have a bladder that’s more full than not, so you can clear out that urethra, but regardless try and pee relatively soon after having sex.
Wipe Front to Back
Please excuse me for being indelicate, but if you wipe back to front (anus to vagina), you are helping to drag poo bacteria up towards the urethra, which is something we definitely don’t want to do while we are trying to prevent UTI’s.
Test your Urine
If you have symptoms of a UTI, get yourself to the doctor, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, etc. He or she can see if you really do have an infection. The importance of this is two-fold. To nab an infection before it gets worse or goes to your kidneys, and to make sure you actually have an infection, not pelvic floor dysfunction. Making sure you get your urine tested also ensures you won’t have to take unnecessary antibiotics which can negatively affect yeast and gastrointestinal symptoms.
If you have symptoms and no infection or trouble emptying your bladder, come to physical therapy!
UTI symptoms that aren’t a UTI are often caused by pelvic floor dysfunction. A skilled pelvic floor physical therapist will be able to assess whether or not your pelvic floor is playing a role in what you are feeling. A skilled pelvic floor physical therapist will assess whether or not you can open and close your pelvic floor well in order to pee effectively as well as checking the pelvic floor for tightness and for any nerve irritation. If there is something not working well with your pelvic floor, your therapist will partner with you to help treat it and get you feeling better. You will be equipped with a home program and behavioral modifications to ease the bladder symptoms so you can go back to a pain and symptom-free life!
Wanna bust more myths?! Good, we’re working on that!
Wanna learn more about the bladder?! Be patient! We’re cooking up a brand new blog with everyday tips to help you better manage your pelvic symptoms! Stay tuned!
Fiona McMahon is currently seeing patients at our Midtown Location
If you have questions about orthopedic, pelvic, or sports physical therapy, BBPT is offering free phone consults to those living in the greater NYC area for a limited amount of time!
Beyond Basics Physical Therapy
212-354-2622 (42nd Street Location)
212-267-0240 (William Street Location)
Al-Badr A, Al-Shaik G. Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections Management in Women. A Review. Sultan Quaboos University Med J. 2013(13) 359-67
Scholes D, Hootman T, Roberts P, et al. Risk factors for recurrent urinary tract infection in young women. J Infect Dis. 2000;182:1177-82
Any persistent pain or chronic back or pelvic pain can be tough. It is tough to have and often times it can be extremely isolating. Many of our patients have to go through a number of clinicians before they even get a diagnosis of pelvic floor dysfunction. If you are reading this blog, you probably have some questions about pelvic floor dysfunction and if physical therapy is right for you.
We are here to help. If you are living in the Greater New York Area and have some questions about orthopedic, sports or pelvic floor dysfunction and if physical therapy is right for you, I encourage you to call our office. For a limited period of time, we are offering free 15-minute phone consults with our licensed physical therapists to patients in the greater New York Area. For those of you living outside this area, a fee may apply to the consult but can be applied towards payment for a PT visit if you chose to visit us. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about your pelvic floor and what PT can do for you.
The Physical Therapists at Beyond Basics also treat orthopedic (sport and joint injuries), pediatric pelvic floor dysfunction and orthopedic injury, and much more. Give us a call to discuss how PT can help with any one of these issues!
Gluten free, soy free, low FODMAP… It’s amazing how many diets there are out there that really can provide people with symptom relief. If you are suffering with chronic pain you may be confused on where to start, or what is right for you. You also may have tried out a bunch of different ways of eating, not seen results, and got really frustrated. If this sounds like you, I highly encourage you to come to our next pelvic health seminar on October 4th at 7pm “Does my diet really matter”.
This seminar will be hosted by a special guest speaker, nutritionist Jessica Drummond, MPT,CCN,CHC. Jessica Drummond is a former pelvic floor physical therapist who now specializes in nutrition for those suffering with pelvic floor dysfunction. This seminar has been a huge hit and is a great starting point for those considering adding nutrition as part of their healing journey.
On September 20th, at 7pm we will be kicking off our fall semester of pelvic health education class, we call Pelvic Health 101 (PH101). In our first class we will be introducing you to the pelvic floor muscles, where they are, what they do, and how they relate to the health and function of your bowel, bladder, and sexual functioning. We will also be covering how things such as alignment, posture, muscle tone and nerves can affect your symptoms. This course is a great starting point to help you understand your pelvic floor and pelvic floor symptoms.