Saggy Jeans and Tailfeathers: How Your Pelvic Positioning Affects Your Body

animal bird blue bright
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Joanna Hess PT, DPT, PRC, WCS

Wait! Marie Kondo has you throwing out your favorite jeans because the joyless saggy bottoms that your tushy cannot manage to fill out? We are seeing an epidemic flat butt among mamas, plumbers, barre fanatics, and office workers—all with strangely similar symptoms—pelvic floor dysfunction, low back and sacroiliac pain, and a tucked under pelvis. In this blog we will explore why the position of the pelvis, the maker of flat butts and the maker of less flat booties, is important and how to more easily move out of this position for benefit beyond your behind.

Besides needing a new wardrobe, why should I care about my flat bum?

The flat bum or preference towards posterior pelvic tilting shrinks the distance between the front and back of pelvic outlet which changes pelvic floor muscle tension. The body needs access to the full range of the pelvis and pelvic floor muscles. Over time, this position could cause excessive pelvic floor activity to compensate for the loss of resting tension. Think of the pelvic floor muscles simplified as a rubber band between two points, the pubic bone and tailbone. When the distance between the two points decreases, the rubber band loses its stability from resting tension. Changes in pelvic position alters stability from the pelvic floor muscles. This posterior pelvic tilt position also decreases the accessibility for hip extension and therefore the upper glute muscles get sleepy. As the top of the pelvis moves back, the sacroiliac joint in the low back opens and decreases its bony stability. Translated into everyday life, the flat butt position increases the potential for incontinence, pelvic floor muscle tension, sacroiliac pain, and decreased efficiency in movement.

The Flat Bottom. Only in the eye of the beholder?

Pelvic floor and tilt

The disagreement of the “neutral pelvis” or zero-point causes confusion when describing pelvic tilt—anterior pelvic tilt, posterior pelvic tilt, and neutral pelvis. Some argue that the neutral pelvis is when the ASIS’s (front hip bones) are level to the PSIS (back butt dimples). Others say that the pelvis is neutral when ASIS’s are in the same plane as the pubic bone. Or for those with X-ray vision, pelvic tilt is the vector of the sacral angle at S2 in relation to the vertical axis. But often, neutral pelvic position is subjective to the observer and relative to other parts of the body—namely the spine/rib cage and thigh bone. Clinically, this “neutral pelvis” is hard to find because 1) pelvis’ are shaped very differently, 2) left and right pelvis on the same person can also be quite different, 3) feeling these bony landmarks have been shown to be remarkably unreliable, 4) the neutral pelvis should be on top of vertical thigh bones. See how the eyes can be tricked confusing spinal curve focusing on pelvic tilt without also including rib position.

Rib pelvic alignmentThe inability to move in and out of posterior pelvic tilt and anterior pelvic tilt decreases efficiency and possibly results in pain and instability. Anterior pelvic tilt is when the front part of the pelvis moves forward/down. Posterior pelvic tilt is when the front part of the pelvis moves back/up. A neutral pelvis on top of vertical femurs and happy rib cage should correlate with better muscle performance.

Do I have a flat butt?

Aside from the saggy jeans, the flat butts of the world have a few other correlations.

1. The Tailfeather Test: Stand comfortably and squeeze the gluts.

a. Neutral pelvis: Thigh bones rotate.

b. Posterior tilt-ing pelvis: The butt will further tuck under and mainly access the lower glutes.

c. Anterior tilt-ing pelvis: The pelvic floor muscles will do most of the work.

2. You bear weight more in the heels

3. Back of your rib cage is behind your pelvis

4. Your Thigh bones are angled so that your pelvis is front of your knees

5. Your lower belly pooch

6. You Sit with pressure more on the sacrum/tailbone vs. sit bone

7. You have Overactive and possibly overworking pelvic floor muscles—the front to back pelvic distance decreases with your posterior tilted pelvis and loses the resting tension from length. As described earlier, this is similar to tensile strength of a slightly stretched rubber band vs. rubber band without pull/tension. Therefore, your pelvic floor muscles have to work harder to keep some type of tension for purposes like continence, stability, etc. The inability for the pelvic floor muscles to work optimally can lead to incontinence, pain, and constipation.

9. You have Breathing and abdominal pressure problems

10. You have Sacroiliac joint pain. As the pelvis tips back, the sacrum moves away from the ilium decreasing the bony stability. The hip muscles have to work harder, but as felt in the Tailfeather Test, the glut muscles aren’t in a good place to work.

Is there a better fix than butt implants?

Bodies have and love variability for posterior, anterior and “neutral” pelvic positioning. The brain likes positions where muscles and nerves work with ease and stability—life shouldn’t be so difficult—but it needs the chance to choose and learn it. Folks working with bodies have traditionally “corrected” spinal curves by changing pelvic position. From what has already been discussed, spinal and pelvic position can be altered many different ways—from the changing weight-bearing area in the feet, to position of ribs and range of breath, and even head angles with visual and vestibular input. Consider these hacks into pelvic stability until the brain learns how to access this stability in many situations and positions.

1. Standing. Bring your chin down to your neck and keep looking down until you see the front of your ankles. You’ve just untucked your pelvis and brought your ribs over your pelvis. This one is courtesy of my colleague, Stephanie Stamas. Or check in to feel where the weight is going through your feet. The front to middle of the foot is a good place to start and then do the Tailfeather Test. You might have to toggle other parts of the body because of how the body will compensate in the chain.

2. Sitting. Get your hips as far back as possible. Or put a pillow in the back of the chair so that your hips can find the pillow and you are sitting on top of your sit bones. Then, relax the trunk into the seat back/pillow. Again, you’ve untucked your pelvis and brought your ribs over the pelvis.

3. Better squats/lunges/burpees/stairs/ab work. You can do 5 sets of 20 squats, but still no junk? Take care to see if your pelvis is tucking under in the movement. If so, use an inhale to keep the pelvic floor lengthening as your hips bend in movement. Later, the movement should be dissociated with breath pattern (as long as you are breathing.)

4. See a physical therapist. Often times, the habits of pelvic tucking are a little more complicated because it is a protective and compensatory mechanism for stability. A physical therapist can help with seeing the bigger picture and how different parts of the body relate to each other. They can also help facilitate better movement through manual therapy and specialized movement.

Good luck with the joy sparking!

PH 101 Something’s Wrong with my What?

 

You’ve waited and waited, now finally Pelvic Health 101 is BACK!

On March 19, 2019 at 7pm we will be kicking off our fall semester of pelvic health education classes. We have a lot planned this year, so get pumped. 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 as well as the function of your bowel, bladder, and sexual muscles and organs. 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.

Please join us at our office at:

110 East 42nd Street, Suite 1504

New York, NY 10017
Register at: pelvichealth101.eventbrite.com

Here is our line up of this and future classes:

Pelvic Health 101 Spring 2019

 

Do You Speak Pelvic Floor? Guide to Anatomy Part 1: Female Genital Anatomy

woman wearing white high top shoes
Photo by Dương Nhân on Pexels.com

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT Pronouns (She, Her, Hers)

Do you speak pelvic floor? I do. There is so much going on in the pelvic floor, that unless you are thinking about it every day, it can be difficult to find the right words to describe exactly what you are feeling where. Today we are going to focus on individuals with female anatomy.

Your Genitals: Your 3 V’s

vulva.jpg

When we refer to female reproductive organs many times we say vagina to describe the whole kit and caboodle down there. The truth is the vagina is just part of it. There’s much more going on.

Vagina: The vagina is the passageway from the uterus to the external world. It can expand to accommodate a penis, toy, or allow for the passage of a baby. It can do this shape-shifting because it has folds called rugae, which can stretch out like an accordion to allow the vagina to stretch as needed. Neat, huh? We call the opening the introitus, but we may also interchange it with simply, “vaginal opening”. Either is fine. The introitus can be an area of pain with penetration, so in Pelvic Floorland, we use that term a lot.

Vulva: The vulva is usually what people are referring to when they say vagina. The vulva encompasses all the external genitalia. Including the labia majora and minora (the lips), clitoris, vagina, and urethra.

Vestibule: The vestibule is the area in between the labia minora (small lips) and vagina. This is another special area, that can become painful with certain conditions

Other Vulvar Components

Urethra: This is the exit of the urinary system and is where pee comes out. Between the anus, vagina, and urethra there are three holes “down” there.

 

clitorisClitoris: This part is pretty cool. The clitoris provides sexual sensation. Did you know it averages four inches in length! Externally we can only see a small bit of it. We call that part the glans. Covering the glans, is the clitoral hood, which helps to protect it. Most of the structure of the clitoris is not viewable from the outside. Branching off the glans and traveling underneath the labia are the bulbs of the clitoris and the cura. These elements are erectile and fill with blood during arousal.

Labia Majora: The labia majora are the outer pair of lips when looking at the female vulva. They protect the delicate tissue of the vulva.

Labia Minora: The labia minora are the smaller set of lips and are contained within the labia majora. The labia minora can come in all different shapes and sizes and still be completely normal. Some women have long labia minora which extend past the labia majora, while others may have shorter labia minora which stay tucked within the labia majora. Variation is normal between women.

Having the words to describe where the pain it can be useful to both your pelvic floor physical therapist as well as your doctor. Stay tuned for future additions of “Do you speak pelvic floor?” where we will discuss male genital anatomy as well as the muscles of the pelvic floor itself.

Pelvic floor physical therapists are specialists in this area and have been added in the last decade, to urological and gynecological guidelines as the first line of treatment for various pelvic and sexual pain and weakness disorders.

ACOG Guidelines on Pelvic Pain:

https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Chronic-Pelvic-Pain?IsMobileSet=false

AUA Guidelines for Pelvic Pain

https://www.auanet.org/guidelines/interstitial-cystitis/bladder-pain-syndrome-(2011-amended-2014)

All About Testicles

tennis ball isolated

By Fiona McMahon, PT, DPT

Testicles have long held a special place in our society.  In fact, the word testis means “witness of virility” in Latin. They help produce the hormones that spark puberty. They are responsible for body hair, the growth of the penis, and sex drive.

Testicles are gonads. Gonads are sex organs that produce sex cells.  People with male anatomy produce sperm and  people with female anatomy produce ova (eggs). Testicles also produce the hormone testosterone, which as stated earlier is responsible for people with male anatomy’s secondary sex characteristics, like body hair, muscle bulk, and sex drive.

Testicles are housed in the scrotum, a sack of skin just behind the penis. Within the scrotum, the testicles are covered by a fibrous sheath called the tunica vaginalis and tunica albuginea. The testicles are composed of many tightly bound tubules called the seminiferous tubules. These tubules give the testicles their uneven feel. Each testicle is held in the scrotum by the spermatic cord, which is composed of the vas deferens, blood vessels, and lymph vessels.

Anyone who has watched an Adam Sandler movie knows that testicles are delicate and sensitive creatures. Even just a jostle can be enough to double one over in pain. But sometimes your testicles may hurt for no apparent reason.  Acute scrotum is the technical name given to sudden onset testicular pain without swelling. There are many medical reasons your testicles may hurt.  Testicular pain can be a serious condition and should not be ignored.

Testicular torsion is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment in order to save the testicle.  Testicular torsion is most common in people with male anatomy under the age of 25. It occurs when the spermatic cord twists cutting off blood supply to the testes. Usually testicular torsion is spontaneous and cause pain great enough to wake a one out of sleep and induce vomiting.

In some people testicular torsion is contributed to by what is known as a bell clapper deformity. A bell clapper deformity occurs when there is a lack of fixation in the tunica vaginalis. Because of this lack of fixation, the testis is free to rotate around on itself and obstruct blood flow. Bell clapper deformities are present in 12% of males and in males with bell clapper deformity 40% have bilateral derformity. In neonates, extravaginal torsion can occur when the tunica vaginalis and the testes both twist in the inguinal canal. Any case of sudden and severe testicular pain should be considered testicular torsion until proven otherwise and treated as a medical emergency.

Testicular cancer is usually painless but in 20% of cases pain can be a symptom. The pain caused by testicular cancer is typically due to hemorrhage. In the overall population testicular cancer is relatively rare, however it is the most common form of cancer in young males between the ages of 15 and 35. Signs of testicular cancer include a dull ache in the abdomen and groin, heaviness in the scrotum, lump in the testicle, enlargement of the breast tissue, or back pain. Any of these symptoms warrant a visit to your general practitioner.

So what about testicular pain that is not cancer or testicular torsion? Testicular pain can also be caused by other medical conditions like epididymitis, orchitis, urinary reflux, urinary tract infection, or sexually transmitted infection. Again as stated before, any acute testicular pain that occurs out of the blue warrants immediate medical attention.

There are some people however who suffer from acute and recurrent testicular pain for which a medical cause has not been established. For these people, not having concrete answers for what is going on can be especially distressing. In a paper by Anderson and colleagues, trigger points elsewhere in the body have been found to cause pain in the testicles, shaft of the penis, and other areas in the genital region.

Trigger points are defined as areas of hypersensitive and painful spots within the muscle that can be felt as a tough or tight band. In their study, Anderson and colleagues found that testicular pain could be elicited in 80% of men with testicular pain with no other medical cause, when trigger points in the external obliques were palpated. The study also found other trigger points referring to the shaft of the penis, and the perineum (the bicycle seat area of the body). Myofascial restrictions can refer pain to testicles as well as reduce blood flow to the genitals, making erections difficult or painful.

Irritated nerves can also be the cause of testicular and penile pain. The pudendal nerve is most commonly associated with male pelvic pain. The pudendal nerve supplies sensation to many of the pelvic structures including the penis, scrotum, and anorecatal region. This nerve can become inflamed or strained for a variety of different reasons. Straining with constipation, boney alignment that stresses the nerve, as well as tight ligaments and muscles that surround the area can all stress the pudendal nerve and cause scrotal, anal, or penile pain.

Other nerves such as the Iliohypogastric can cause suprapubic and gluteal pain. The inguinal nerve can cause pain in the inner thigh, and lateral scrotal skin. The genital femoral is also associated with the skin of the scrotum and thigh.

If you find yourself with testicular or penile pain that has not been resolved with medical intervention, it may be time to find your way to a licensed pelvic floor physical therapist. Physical therapists can work with you to break up your trigger points, provide postural education to correct alignment, reduce constipation with bowel training, and incorporate relaxation and postural changes to prevent your pain from coming back. At Beyond Basics, we have a great team of therapists who treat pelvic floor disorders who can help treat your testicular pain.

Sources:
Anatomy and physiology of the testicle. Canadian Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/testicular/anatomy-and-physiology/?region=on. Accessed June 10, 2015
Anderson R, Sawyer T, Wise D, Morey A. Painful myofascial trigger points and pain sites in men with chronic prostatitis/ chronic pelvis pain syndrome. The Journal of Urology, 182;6 2753-58
Jefferies M, Cox A, Gupta A et al. The management of acute testicular pain in children and adolescents. BMJ. 2015
Mayo Clinic Staff. Testicle Pain. Accessed June 8, 2015. http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/testicle-pain/basics/causes/sym-20050942
Mayo Clinic Staff. Testicular Cancer. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/testicular-cancer/basics/definition/con-20043068. Accessed June 10, 2015

The Postnatal Pelvis

By Riva Preil

Young mothers face a myriad of new challenges they did not encounter prior to mother-hood.  They often experience hormone related changes, sleep deprivation, and possible nursing complications, should they decide to breast feed.  This is all on top of trying to lose the baby weight and return to their pre-pregnancy size.  In addition, new mothers face the challenge of adjusting to the new reality of having a child and being responsible for their child’s wellbeing.  Therefore, it is no surprise that many mothers inadvertently neglect the musculoskeletal related aftermath of pregnancy and delivery.  Some of these changes are very significant, and may manifest later on in life if left untreated.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article by Sarah Nassauer addressing post-partum pelvic floor dysfunction (October 14, 2013).  According to Dr. Linda Brubaker, an urogynecologist and dean of the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago, the pelvic floor “is the center of the universe” because it provides much structural support.  In fact, she recommends that ALL WOMEN REQUEST PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLE STRENGTH TESTING from their doctor 4-6 weeks postpartum to make sure the muscles are functioning properly. The article also discusses that nowadays, a popular trend is to have multiple babies in close proximity and at a more advanced age.  This gives the body less time to recuperate compared to spaced out pregnancies.  Furthermore, more women are using in vitro fertilization treatment which increases the likelihood of twin and triplet pregnancies.  Pregnancies of this nature put more stress on the pelvic floor muscles than single pregnancies.  Some of the physical changes women encounter include exaggeration of the spinal curves, overstretching of the abdominal muscles (which may even lead to separation of the two halves of rectus abdominus muscle, a condition referred to as diastasis recti), internal scar tissue (after caesarean section deliveries), and overstretched pelvic floor muscles and weakness (resulting in incontinence and/or prolapse, organ descent).  Fortunately, pelvic floor physical therapy can help address all of the aforementioned changes.  Kudos to The Wall Street Journal for acknowledging and publicizing the benefits of pelvic floor physical therapy!

Prone Hip Extension

By Denise Vidal

A few blogs ago we talked about the pelvic clock and the importance of pelvic stabilization. In this blog we are going to continue our work in the prone (lying on your abdomen) position while reviewing the pelvic stability exercise. By challenging our pelvic stability in the prone position, we can better access our posterior muscles, that is our spinal muscles, our gluteal muscles, and our hamstrings.

For this exercise, you can use the same pillow as you used for the prone breathing exercise, except this time lay with the pillow under your pelvis horizontally.

To start, observe your pelvic positioning. In previous blogs, we have discussed finding a “neutral pelvis”, that is the place where your “hip bones” are on the same plane as your pubic bone. As I have said before, depending on your individual structure this may not happen. If you feel like your forcing a position that is tense or uncomfortable, just focus on keeping the spine long and the pelvis stable.

Take a deep breath. When you exhale engage your abdominals by feeling your navel, your spine and the sides of your waist hugging the imaginary sphere in your pelvis. Keep this tone around your abdomen as you float your right leg off the floor. Think more about maintaining a neutral pelvis than about the height of the leg. The goal is not to lift the leg high, but to use the muscles in the back of the leg to lift the leg without destabilizing the pelvis. Try lifting each leg ten times while keeping your pelvis in neutral. You should feel the work in your core as well as the back of your leg.

Leave me a comment to let me know how it goes.

If you are experiencing any pelvic or back pain, you should consult with your physical therapist before attempting this exercise. In the meantime, work on the breathing exercises discussed in the previous blogs until your pain lessens.

Pelvic Stability and Mobility, Part II

By Denise Vidal

Now that you have mobilized your pelvis, let’s try a stability exercise.

Using the breath that we discussed in blog #4, ‘The Infamous Core’, we are going to stabilize the pelvis and isolate our legs from the hip joint. This movement is not only the fundamental movement for most Pilates exercises, it also the basis of sitting, walking, running, and climbing stairs.

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Inhale and visualize the sphere in your abdomen expanding. As you exhale, see the navel, spine and hip bones narrow around the sphere. Inhale again, and as you exhale engage the sphere while slowly lifting your right heel off the floor. Continue to lift the rest of your foot and thigh, while maintaining the pelvis in neutral. Our goal is to keep equal weight on all of the points of the pelvic clock, while finding smooth movement in the hip socket.

Keep your pelvis stable as you lower your leg. Try the same thing with the left leg. Next, begin to alternate legs as if you were marching, being careful to put one foot down before picking up the other. Continue to coordinate the movement with your breath, inhaling before the movement then exhaling and engaging your abdomen to lift your leg.

Do this 5-10 times and let me know how it goes.