Pilates and the Pelvic Floor

 

Gym CadillacKierstin Elliott, Pilates Instructor at BBPT

Breath. Breath is the common denominator for understanding how pilates can enhance the pelvic floor’s function. Reciprocally, using your pelvic floor correctly can deepen your connection to your pilates practice.

Let’s take a look at how to optimize your breath in the first place. A deep, three dimensional breath utilizes your diaphragm to its fullest extent. When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts forming a dome shape under the rib cage while simultaneously lengthening the pelvic floor creating a cylindrical shape within your torso.

There are two options for the rib cage while you take this inhale. Option one involves flaring the ribs outward during the breath. Option two involves narrowing the ribs slightly down towards your ASIS (hip bones). When we breathe with a more neutral, tapered rib cage, we utilize the second option for rib placement, thus finding our Zone of Apposition (ZOA). Breathing within the ZOA provides us with the most efficient breath we can take. Once the ribs are placed properly over the pelvis, we’re able to create the cylindrical shape within the torso and the relationship between the diaphragm and the pelvic floor is optimized!

Pilates is rooted in core strengthening principles that directly correlate to breath and the ZOA. In order to keep your ribs from flaring, ultimately keeping you from finding the ZOA, you need to have a sense of abdominal control. There are a handful of ways to find the ZOA, but one of my favorite cues to use with clients is to “narrow your ribs toward your naval.” Try this on your own either lying down, sitting, or standing, and notice what happens to your abs as soon as you taper, or narrow, your ribs toward your naval. You should feel some muscle tone over your stomach. AKA your abs kicking in!

Once you’ve achieved proper rib placement, ab engagement, and optimal breath, layering various exercises into your program will be much more attainable. It requires a good amount of body awareness to be able to coordinate these three major concepts before advancing through your pilates practice. It’s also important to concentrate on how your pelvic floor is reacting to your breath and movement. In footwork, for example, you start in neutral spine and exhale as you press the carriage out feeling a slight contraction in the pelvic floor. On the inhale, knees bend pulling the carriage back to it’s starting position while the tailbone drops slightly and the sits bones widen allowing you to lengthen the pelvic floor. (Prime example of moving within your ZOA).

As you can see, the pelvic floor plays a huge role in breath and core activation which is the root foundation of all your pilates and basic core exercises! If this interests you, or utterly confuses you, schedule a pilates session with me at Beyond Basics!

Call us today at 212-354-2622

Beyond Basics is Visting Brooklyn!!!!

Brooklyn

 

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

Have you got pelvic floor questions? Have you desperately wanted to go to one of our PH101 classes, but can’t swing 7pm in midtown in the middle of the week? Well, I have great news and GREATER news. I know, right… how much great news can you handle? The first bit of awesome, is that Beyond Basics’ Physical Therapists’, Dr. Fiona McMahon and Dr. Sarah Paplanus are hosting a forum and open discussion on pelvic floor health and treatment on Saturday, April 28th at The Floor on Atlantic (310 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn) at 12 noon. We will be there to explain the ins and outs of the pelvic floor, what can go wrong with it, and best yet, how you can heal it. It is a must go to event. RSVP here. Also, it’s FREE!

So what’s the other news, Fiona? Well, it’s that although we are not in Brooklyn, we have opened another office just across the river from Brooklyn, Beyond Basics Physical Therapy Downtown. In enlarging our footprint we hope to expand access and convenience to patients living downtown and in Brooklyn. We will be hosting a Grand Opening and 15 year anniversary celebration at our new location: 156 William St, Suite 800 New York, NY 10038 on Thursday, April, 26th from 4pm – 7pm. Come and enjoy food, drinks and meet our Physical Therapists. RSVP here.

 

 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Physical Therapy

IBSFiona McMahon, DPT

Hello everyone! April was Irritable Bowel Syndrome(IBS) Awareness Month. Although, we are a bit late, we wanted to take some time to talk about IBS and what can be done to help with its symptoms. IBS can present in different ways. People with IBS may experience diarrhea or constipation, or both. At Beyond Basics, we work with issues associated with IBS, from ensuring that your digestive organs move well in order to function properly, to toilet posture, to training the pelvic floor to have the coordination to help you toilet comfortably.

Tips for living with irritable bowel and other digestive symptoms

Posture

Over the years we have used our blog to discuss many different tips, tricks, and techniques you can use at home to make the process of having a bowel movement just a bit easier. The first thing you can do is super simple: sit on the toilet with good posture. There are heaps of ways to sit on the toilet and believe it or not, there is an optimal way to sit and poop. The reason why the way we sit is so important is the anal rectal angle. The anal rectal angle refers to the angle of your rectum. When we stand and sit our angle is more bent or acute, which makes it harder for poop to drop out of out of our rectums (yay!), which increases our chances of continence. But when we are trying to poop, we want our anal rectal angle to straighten out so it is easier to poop and we don’t have to strain. The position that best allows us to do that is squatting, the way one would over an eastern style toilet. Most of us have western style commodes that don’t allow for a nice anal rectal angle opening squat. So we have to get creative. By placing a stool or the now ubiquitous squatty potty under your feet you can simulate a squat and allow for easier passage of stool. For more on posture, check out Sara Paplanus’s blog on posture and bowel movements.

Diet

veggies

Diet is a very important thing to consider when trying to optimize your bowel movements. The first thing we usually consider is fiber. There are two types of fiber. Soluable and insoluable. Soluble dissolve in water and allows the stool to absorb water and adds mass and heft ( in a good way) to your feces. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and can help push the poo out. The fact is we need to balance both types and most of us aren’t getting enough. In addition, some people need more of one type and some need more of the other or else you can end up with increased gas and bloating. Read how you can increase your fiber intake here. If you are having difficulty balancing the two or are not sure which to add, it is best to seek advice from an expert nutritionist in abdomino-pelvic pain and IBS.

Water Intake

The colon, the last stop for poop before it enters your rectum is the place where water is absorbed from the stool. In cases where you are too dehydrated, your body will recycle water anywhere it can, including your stool. If too much water is taken from your stool, it can be dry and hard to push out. We suggest drinking about one half your body weight in ounces of water daily and even slightly more if you are constipated, sweat a lot or suffer from IBS. For example, if you weigh 200 lbs, drink 100 ounces of water to make sure to ease your bowel movements.water-life-crop

Physical Therapy

Pelvic floor physical therapy can help a lot with issues with IBS. In last year’s IBS awareness blog, we discussed the benefits of pelvic floor PT

“Dysfunction in organs can also cause dysfunction in the skeletal muscles that are close by. This is called the visceral-somatic reflex. One of the most common examples is when someone feels left arm pain when they are having a heart attack. The dysfunction in the heart causes pain and spasm in nearby muscles. The same thing can happen when the gut is irritated in conditions like IBS. Typically, people with IBS will feel pain and spasm in the muscles of their abdomen and pelvic floor as a result of repeated irritation in their gut. To add insult to injury, spasm in the pelvic floor, (specifically the levator ani and sphincter muscles) can adversely affect the passage of stool out of the body and make symptoms even worse.

Pelvic floor physical therapy can help symptoms caused by the visceral somatic reflex greatly. At Beyond Basics we have an excellent crew of pelvic floor physical therapists with expertise in visceral mobilization and pelvic floor dysfunction. Our physical therapists can work to eliminate painful spasms, mobilize restrictions, retrain the muscles and teach self-management techniques to keep symptoms at bay, or to eliminate some of the symptoms in the future.”

 

IBS is an important condition that affects many different people. Although there currently is no cure for IBS, there is a lot you can do to make living with this condition more manageable. If part, or all, of the symptoms are from musculoskeletal dysfunctions of the pelvic floor and abdomen, than there IS a cure and we are here to help! If you are suffering, please make an appointment with us today.

Sources

R Saeed. Impact of Ethnic habits on defecographic measurements. Arch Iranian Med 2002; 5(2) 115-16

BBPT Health Tip: How to Adjust your Posture to Avoid Shoulder and Neck Pain

shoulder 6

Tina Cardenia PT, DPT

In today’s society, most of us spend time in front of the computer or other electronics for work, school, or pleasure, which contributes to poor postural habits including rounded shoulders and forward head postures. Being in these positions will cause your muscles around your shoulder and neck to accommodate into that rounded position, resulting in inefficient lengthening of some muscles and shortening of other muscles, which results in an imbalance of strength and stability and high potential for injury. Having rounded and inefficient shoulder stability can cause neck and shoulder pain, and can affect your breathing.

The experienced physical therapists have extensive training on evaluating and correcting postural alignment. They can help with posture by identifying where your limitations are and evaluating your flexibility and specific muscle weaknesses that could be contributing to poor postural alignment. They also investigate what may be causing postural malalignments by evaluating your postural strategies in sitting, standing, walking, sports, and functional activities. Focusing on ways to be in a more balanced position will help put less stress and tension through your musculature and joints allowing for increased ease in maintaining proper posture with various movements.

A good way to facilitate a more neutral shoulder blade and shoulder position is with the exercise “Pivot Prone” (Institute of Physical Art, Johnson and Johnson). To start, first turn your head to the right and then to the left. Notice the excursion of movement and if you find it to be difficult or limited. Now, shrug your shoulders up a few inches, rotate your arms back enough where your pinkies are pointing forward and your shoulder blades coming together. Once you feel that your shoulder blades are back relax your shoulder blades straight down. Now rotate your head again to the right and left and notice if there was a change. You should feel an increase in ease of movement and more range of motion. At this point you should be able to appreciate that when you are in a more neutral alignment there is less stress and tension around your shoulders and neck. A common mistake with this exercise is to want to lift your rib cage up when you bring your shoulder blades back, so make sure that the shoulder blades are the only things moving during this exercise in order to maintain a good vertical alignment.

This photo shows the pivot prone maneuver being done step by step 

This exercise is perfect and simple enough to do throughout the day. For example, when you are standing waiting for the train, waiting on line, and sitting at your desk at work or school. By continuously repeating this motion your body will eventually remember it, and down the line you should notice that you automatically will maintain that position!

 

Check out photos from BBPT’s recent inservice on functional mobilization of the shoulder!

 

Mythbusting at Your Core

Did you know that…

The core is not only made of abdominal muscles?

You don’t have to activate your core?

A straight spine is not a good spinal posture?

In his recent “17 Core Stability and Posture Myths That Annoy Me Greatly” post on his blog The Physio Detective, Australian physical therapist Anthony Lo debunks a number of myths about posture and your core muscles. As physical therapists, these are of course things that we know to be true, but when it comes to these important parts of your body, many people outside of the field are not only sharing but perpetuating incorrect facts about them. Lo does an excellent job of bringing the myths to the forefront so non-physical-therapists can educate themselves, too! Take a look at his list and read closely to ensure your continued health and alignment!

Posture Ponders

By Riva Preil

“Sit up straight and be mindful of your posture!”  These may not have ever been anyone’s famous last words, but they are definitely ones that most of us have heard at some point or other in our lives, probably from parents or teachers.  (Would it be terrible if I were to confess that I was chided on the matter during physical therapy graduate school by one of my professors?  #practicewhatyoupreach!)

Many people admit it is difficult to be mindful of their posture at all times, and they are accustomed to their old poor habits.  While old habits die hard, nevertheless practice makes perfect.  That being said, I challenge you to rise to the occasion (literally and figuratively) and to commit yourself to improved biomechanical alignment.

Julie Wiebe, a physical therapist with over seventeen years of clinical experience in sports medicine and women’s health, has created a fantastic video demonstrating how to achieve proper posture. Julie also discusses the delicate balance between posture, the diaphragm, and the pelvic floor.  I encourage you to watch the video (approximately three minutes only) in order to better learn how to maneuver your body and achieve optimal biomechanical alignment.  Thank you, Julie, for your contribution to the health and wellness of so many individuals!

Posture Protection

By Riva Preil

The holiday seasons are wonderful times spent with family, friends, and prayers. It also provides physical therapists a perfect opportunity to review some basic postural advice in order to prevent back pain during the prolonged hours of sitting and standing in the same position.

While sitting, avoid slouching or slumped positions as well as overarching (extending) your back. If possible, try to sit with lumbar support (for example, a rolled up towel or small pillow resting behind the small of your back- refer to picture). In addition, the best position for your legs is hips and knees at 90 degree angles (“L” shaped) and with your feet resting comfortably upon the floor.

During prolonged standing, try to maintain equal weight over both feet.  Furthermore, if you have “flat feet” and are lacking adequate arch support in the soles of your feet, it would be wise to purchase over the counter arch support inserts to promote improved foot and lower extremity alignment.  Prolonged standing will feel much more tolerable with proper arch support.  (Ladies, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but high heeled shoes do not constitute proper arch support- please avoid prolonged usage of these despite their aesthetic beauty.)

In addition, try to maintain neutral spine and pelvic alignment by connecting the following dots: back edge of ears over shoulder tips over greater trochanters (outer hip bone) over middle of knees over midfoot (refer to picture). If you are having trouble finding neutral spine, try the following trick: stand tall, roll your hips forwards and backwards throughout the entire range of motion available to you. Then, try to find the midway point between both extremes- this should feel comfortable and pain free. It might feel “awkward” at first if it is not your natural standing posture, but it is a new habit worth creating which will feel more comfortable with time. Finally, please see the attached stretches below to help your back feel great: Hold each position for 20 seconds, repeat 4x each. Good luck with your posture and enjoy the holidays in the best of health!