Pelvic Floor Mythbusters: Is kegeling the one true way to a healthy pelvic floor?

Pelvis Drawing

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT.

Is kegeling the one true way to a healthy pelvic floor? Not always. We can end the blog here. Just kidding, of course there is nuance to be considered here. But as pelvic floor physical therapists, nothing is more cringe inducing than hearing the phrase “just do your kegels” thrown around for myriads of ailments from low libido, to pain, incontinence, and erectile dysfunction. While it is true the pelvic floor muscles can be involved in all of these conditions and in some cases kegels may help, there are many cases where kegels are the EXACT opposite of how you should be treating these muscles.

Physiology

To understand kegels we must first understand the pelvic floor. To understand the pelvic floor we must also explain the muscles at a very basic level. Bare with me readers, this will help us as we bust through this myth. Muscles, all muscles do what they do, by contracting and getting shorter to produce force. This is easy to see on a bodybuilder doing a bicep curl. As she curls her hand up you can see these muscles shortening into a little ball. Not only is this a great way to show off your gains in the gym, the shortening of these muscles are providing the strength to perform this task. We call this shortening a concentric contraction. Kegels are concentric contractions too! A good kegel will cause the pelvic floor to shorten and provide strength. Let’s go back to our body builder for a second. She has done her lift now she needs to lower her dumbbell back to the floor. In order to lower that dumbbell back to the floor in a controlled way, she needs what’s called an eccentric contraction, which is the controlled lengthening of the muscle. If she did not have a good eccentric contraction she may not be able to lower that weight effectively after she curled it. What if she couldn’t lower her bicep at all or just very slowly after her bicep curl? Maybe her weightlifting wouldn’t be as effective, she’d tire more easily, or she could develop pain. Would you tell this woman that more bicep curls would help? Or might you suggest a program of stretching first? Telling someone to do kegels, when you don’t know the status of their pelvic floor and how well it can relax is similar to telling the bodybuilder with the non relaxing bicep to just do more bicep curls. At best it certainly won’t help the situation and at worst it could cause more pain and dysfunction.

“But Fiona, I have incontinence, so that definitely means I have weaknesses, so it’s good for me to do kegels, right?”. Maybe… but in my experience, probably not. Let’s agree on one thing, it’s completely intuitive that people would think that kegels would help incontinence. The muscles of the pelvic floor are responsible for continence… so they must be weak if one is experiencing incontinence. You are right! When we think weak with muscles, we often think weak and loose, which is one form of weakness, but we rarely think weak and tight. Let’s go back to our body builder lady. She deserves a name at this point. Let’s call her Kendra. If Kendra has a tough time moving her lifting her arm from fully straight to a full bicep curl, we could guess she is weak and loose. But if Kendra could not fully straighten her arm out she would be considered weak and tight. Both of these versions of Kendra would have trouble curling heavy weight. One Kendra due to frank weakness another Kendra because she simply does not have enough room or range of motion to generate enough force to curl that dumbell.

Tight and weak pelvic floors are a lot like second Kendra with the poor ability to lengthen her arm. Tight pelvic floors have less range of motion to generate force. You need a good amount of force from the pelvic floor to counteract the pressure of activities like lifting, coughing, laughing and sneezing and stay continent. Over loose and over tight pelvic floors can’t really do that.

If you have pain in your pelvis not from a medical condition, (although tight pelvic floors present with many medical conditions), your pelvic floor is probably tight. A tight pelvic floor may also have trigger points which can send pain to various locations in your genitals, back, legs, and abdomen. Continuing to tighten can cause this pain to get worse.

Treatments

So how do you know what to do? This is where a skilled pelvic floor physical therapist can come in handy. They can assess the muscles by touching them either externally or internally to determine what course of action is right for you. If you are loose and weak, HAPPY DAYS! Strengthening can help them get better. If you have tight and weak muscles, HAPPY DAYS again! Gentle lengthening, stretching and down training of the muscles can help them get better. Did you know, because a tight pelvic floor can cause weakness itself, returning the proper length to the muscles can restore strength, without actually needing to kegel?! Wild! Regardless of the situation happy days can be ahead.

Skilled PT

Really knowing the pelvic floor is a skill and requires advanced expertise.  Kegels should not be initiated, unless the physical therapist has carefully examined your pelvic floor. Not all therapists are trained to do that technique so it is important to inquire about their background before starting pelvic floor PT. There are a lot of different ways to treat the pelvic floor, to read more What is Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy . If you are interested in learning more give us a call at 212- 354-2622 for a free consult if you live in the greater NY/NJ/CT area.

How to Travel with Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT (She, her, hers)

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It’s that magical time of year in New York City, that I call “Goldie Locks Time”. It is that brief stretch of one to two weeks right after the cold of winter has left us and right before the sweltering hot gritty city summer descends upon us. It is the time of year that the weather is so supremely pleasant, that the hustle and bustle of the city slows and usually frenetic New Yorkers actually take time to stop and smell the roses, literally. My pediatric patients begin to grow giddy as school is wrapping up in a couple weeks. It is a time when many New Yorkers start looking forward to their summer escapes back to their home towns across the country or vacations to new and familiar locales alike. Having the time and resources to travel is a luxury, but for those with chronic pelvic pain, it can seem like a really daunting task. People often wonder, “how can I fly across the country if sitting for more than 20 minutes causes my pain?”, “how will I keep from flaring?”, “How do I negotiate the demands of travel so I can actually enjoy my time away?”. Although travel can be really daunting, there are steps that you can take to ease your journey and help you enjoy your time at your destination. Below are some considerations for travel I hope that you will find helpful.

Hydrate- Even if You Have Bladder Problems

Recirculated air is the worst and is inevitable when flying, but is also something you should consider with bus, car, and train trips. Long and even short haul flights can leave you feeling parched and dry which can cause issues with many pelvic floor symptoms. It is really important to not get on the plane dehydrated. In the week or so preceding your trip, be extra mindful of trying to get enough water. A popular guideline we use at BBPT with to try and consume at least one half your body weight in water in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water. Being properly hydrated will decrease irritation within the bladder and can even reduce frequency, reduce your chances of constipation, and ensure the tissues of your body have good mobility. Also be sure to hydrate on the plane and in the airport. Water sold at airports is usually overpriced and has the downside of being packaged in environmentally unfriendly plastic. To save money and the planet, I suggest bringing an empty reusable water bottle through security. Once you are through security you can fill it up and keep on your hydration game. One thing to remember is to take your water bottle out of your bag and place it in the screening bin, so you won’t lose time having security check inside your bag to verify that your bottle is indeed empty.

Prioritize Pooping

In my world, it’s all about poop. Traveling can lead to some gnarly cases of constipation, which makes virtually every pelvic floor complaint worse. We talked about keeping up with your hydration, which is a really good first step. Making sure that you have a enough time to eat, chill, and have a solid BM before rushing off to the airport is really important. So when possible, Try and carve out at least an hour of pre-travel chill time before heading out the door.

Food

Eating well is so important. Many of our patients have diets that make them feel better. When travelling, food can be a wild card. With the change in routine associated with travel, it can be all too easy to throw a diet that is working to the wind. A huge change in dietary routines is one of the top reasons I see people flare. Although indulging in margaritas and other treats can be so much fun, be aware of how it will affect your symptoms and overall enjoyment of your trip. It is good to come prepared if possible. Packing snacks that you know don’t make you feel like garbage if you are going to place where you are unsure of what the food situation will be like, will help.

Choose your Seat

The idea of sitting on a long haul flight is daunting especially for those who have pelvic and or sitting pain or bladder issues. There are travel cushions you can bring with you to ease your symptoms. If you don’t typically use a travel cushion, check out my cushion hack bellow using a jacket.

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The cushion hack: If you find you have sitting pain but no cushion, use your coat or sweatshirt to fashion a cushion

Choosing seats next to the bathroom when possible can go a long way towards reducing stress for folks with bladder issues. Additionally ,opting for an aisle seat can also be helpful. To the extent possible, try to get up and move to reduce the pressure on your pelvic area.

Manage Travel Stress

Travel is a stressful thing for most of us. There is so much out of our control and there’s no amount meditation or mindfulness that can change that. That being said, meditation and mindfulness practice can help how you deal with how you react to  cancelled flights, lost baggage, the works. Allowing yourself a quiet moment to breathe before and during your travels can help you re center and get back to enjoying the journey. Both Calm and Headspace make really awesome guided meditation apps that you can use while waiting for your flights.

 

Get out There!

This world is so big and beautiful. It can be really hard if pelvic pain is holding you back. Try these tips out on smaller trips to see if they help you! If you find that you are still having pain that holds you back, see a pelvic floor physical therapist who can help you get out there!

Beyond Basics Physical Therapy offers intensive week or weeks long treatment to those who live out of town and do not have regular access to pelvic floor physical therapy. If you are feeling like taking a trip to the Big Apple, NYC, check out more about our out of town services here.

 

A Holiday Gift for You! BBPT is Offering Free Consults for People Living in the Greater NYC Area!

Group Serious 2

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!

All the best,

Beyond Basics Physical Therapy

212-354-2622 (42nd Street Location)

212-267-0240 (William Street Location)

How a Birth Doula Can Help Make Labor a More Intimate Experience

affection-baby-birth-208189

Chantal Traub, CD, CCCE, LCCE,

Pregnant mothers may be unsure if they want to work with a doula because they would like their labor and birth to be an intimate experience between them and their partners and wonder whether having a doula would encroach on their intimacy.

The role of the doula is to help ensure a healthier, safe and positive birth experience for the whole family. She will provide emotional support, physical comfort and the information needed to make informed decisions as they arise in labor at home or at the hospital. She will present reassurance and perspective to the birthing woman and her partner, offering various positional ideas for relaxation and labor progression and hands-on comfort measures like touch, massage, counter pressure and breathing techniques.

One may wonder how an intimate experience can be enhanced with the presence of a doula and the medical staff. Intimacy refers to the feeling of being in a close personal association and belonging together. It is the familiar and very close affective connection with a bond that is formed through knowledge and experience of the other. This intimate experience can be created by having the partner taking a role in the birthing process. The experienced doula will include the partner.

The doula’s presence offers a great sense of relief for both of you, especially for your partner who may begin to feel concerned with the responsibility of supporting you and may not know what normal is in this situation. If you’re having an intimate moment with your partner, an experienced doula will know when to step in and when to step back. She will encourage and allow you both to have that moment. In fact, she will look out for and suggest opportunities for you to be together. She will gently pull your partner back if your partner is feeling overwhelmed or feels worried seeing you in pain and give your partner the tools to help support you. If your partner needs a break or a breath of fresh air, the doula will be there, so that the partner can take care of themselves knowing the doula will take care of you.

The role your partner takes depends on the two of you. If your partner would like to roll up their sleeves and offer physical support or prefers to remain emotionally present from a distance, your doula will guide you. The doula may suggest ways for your partner to hold you or breathe with you. She can show your partner ways to massage and apply pressure while you are laboring. If a partner cannot participate physically for various reasons, they may choose to assist in other ways like getting ice and water while the doula manages the physical part, or merely remain emotionally present in the room. The intimacy is in the experience, allowing your partner to remain confident and emotionally present with you.

Whether your birth is unmedicated or medically complex, every family can benefit from the guidance and support of a doula at this often vulnerable and overwhelming time in their lives.

Chantal is originally from Cape Town and after years of working in film she began teaching yoga in 1996 and in 2003 she became a Certified Doula and has been assisting women in labor ever since. She is also a Certified International Childbirth Educator and a Certified Pre/Postnatal Yoga teacher. Her Prenatal classes are informative and educational and are designed for Labor and Delivery. Chantal has been teaching and assisting families in the New York Metro area for over 15 years and she combines her wisdom and knowledge to help families prepare for a positive birth experience

Chantal Traub, CD, LCCE, CCCE

 www.chantaldoula.com

Certified Doula (CD)

Lamaze International Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE)

Certified Cooperative Childbirth Educator (CCCE)

Chantal Traub is a certified doula with over 15 years of experience and is a board member for the Childbirth Education Association of Metro New York. Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Chantal received her BA of Fine Arts and after working for many years in film as an art director, she began teaching Yoga in 1996. Chantal is a White Lotus Foundation Certified Yoga Teacher, Pre/Postnatal certified Yoga teacher and Certified Traditional Ayurvedic Bodyworker. Chantal started her Birth Doula practice in 2003 after receiving her certification from A.L.A.C.E. In 2007 She became a Certified Childbirth Educator by Lamaze International and by the Childbirth Education Association of Metropolitan NY. Chantal is trained with Kate Jordan Pregnancy and Postpartum Massage Therapy and with The Julie Tupler Maternal Fitness Technique. She’s also Certified Kangaroula by Dr Nils and Jill Bergman. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, Naomi and Noah.

Ph101 Why is Pooping so Difficult?

toilet 2

Fiona McMahon, DPT

The number of Americans who deal with constipation issues is massive (4 million!)! It seems like every time I mention that I’m a pelvic floor physical therapist, another friend of a friend pulls me aside with bowel movement concerns. Why is it that so many people have issues? And more importantly – what can we do about it? This is the topic of our next Pelvic Health 101 seminar  on  October 11th at 7pm.

Not only will constipation be discussed but other bowel conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, fecal incontinence, bloating, and hemorrhoids will be addressed. The lecture will also go in depth on the role of fiber, water intake, toilet posture and pelvic floor muscles in having a successful bowel movement. You will even go home with easy techniques that you can implement immediately to help you get that smooth move! Don’t miss out on this FREE event – it’s a MUST for anyone who struggles on the porcelain throne. Seats are going fast!  Light snacks and refreshments will be served.

Register at pelvichealth101.eventbrite.com  today.

Location

110 East 42nd Street, Suite 1504

New York, NY

10017

Check out or upcoming courses!

Pelvic Health 101 Fall 2017

 

Pilates Blog – Concentration

DeniseDenise Small, DPT

Every Wednesday the PTs at Beyond Basics are fortunate enough to listen to lectures from medical professionals who specialize in pelvic pain.  One of my favorite lectures was given by Melissa Farmer, PhD,  a clinical psychologist who specializes in how the brain changes overtime in response to chronic pain.  Melissa spoke about a lot of wonderful things that are being found through research; however the thing that was most interesting to me, was not only that the brain can change in response to persistent pain, but, that the brain can change back to its pre-pain functional self! One of the ways that this can be done is through focused movement.  That is, thoughtful, pain- free movement focused around the area that normally causes pain.  This revelation was very meaningful to me, as one of the basic Pilates movement principles is Concentration.  Pilates believed that if your mind was fully focused on performing the given exercise, you would only need to perform a few repetitions to feel the benefit.  This is very important for patients suffering from chronic pain, as they do not need to exercise to the point of pain to see the benefits. One of the exercises that exemplifies this belief is the Pelvic Clock. The pelvic clock both mobilizes and lengthens the pelvic floor muscles while simultaneously bringing tone to the abdomen. In addition, the movement is very small and specific and requires one’s full concentration. So, it is a great way to directly address the potential causes of pelvic pain, without causing pain in the process!

To begin, lie on your back with your knees bent. See, in your mind’s eye, the pelvis as the face of a clock with the top of your sacrum being 12 o’clock and your tailbone being 6 o’clock. Slowly move from each number as smoothly as possible, while seeing your sitz bones widen as your tailbone drops to 6 o’clock and your sitz bones narrow as you move to 12 o’clock. You can also combine the movement and breath as we have in our other Pilates blogs by inhaling as you move to 6 o’clock and exhaling as you move to 12 o’clock.  If you have any questions, have your PT take you through this exercise on your next visit, or come see me for a private Pilates session. Your Body and Brain will thank you.

Yoga with Anne Taylor on July 20th

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Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

Join us on Thursday, July 20th at 7pm for a really special treat: Yoga with Anne Taylor. Anne Taylor’s approach to yoga, which integrates movement, breath awareness, opening, and grounding to recalibrate the neuromuscular system, to help decrease pain and increase function has been a mainstay of Beyond Basics’ multi-disciplinary approach to improving the health and well being of our patients for nearly a decade.

Join us for a chance to explore the practice of yoga, without the pressure of trying to learn in an overcrowded class in a trendy yoga studio. Learn poses and breathing techniques you can take with you anywhere to help improve your quality of life. Sign up here today.

Summer Movement Class