How Your Posture Affects Your Pelvic Floor
Written by: Dr. Amanda Fisher
How You Posture Affects Your Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor is something I have spoken about, thought about or dreamt about probably every day for the last 7 years. Am I passionate about pelvic health? I tend to think so, yes. I mean, why shouldn’t I be?! We all, men and women both, have pelvic floors and should know what they are and how to use them for our best life yet! External anatomy is different between men and women, but the internal muscles of the pelvic floor muscles are the same.
I want to simplify it for you. The pelvic floor is made up of many layers of muscles that act like a hammock in the pelvis and are key in supporting the pelvic organs. The muscles sit in the pelvis like a muscular bowl, assisting in sexual, bladder and bowel function as well. In men, the pelvic floor works to support the bladder, colon and prostate. In women, the pelvic floor supports the bladder, uterus, and the colon.
Now, our pelvic floor works closely with our diaphragm, our breathing muscle. When you inhale (breathe in), our diaphragm comes down and our pelvic floor lengthens, as you exhale (breathe out), the pelvic floor comes back up. How we sit, stand and do functional activities can affect how our pelvic floor provides core support. Now a lot of us “millennials” were raised thinking standing up tall and sucking in our guts was proper posture. I did this for years. Especially during the many summers I lifeguarded. Poor habits which resulted in pelvic floor dysfunction for me later down the road because my diaphragm wasn’t working with my pelvic floor muscles. So, first things first, if you are “belly gripper” or a “suck it in” gal, avoid doing it to improve your pelvic health.
Each day I am assessing the many different postures of my patients and explaining how they are standing is affecting their pelvic health. Okay, stand up. You want to stand with your ribs stacked over your pelvis and your pelvis stacked over your base of support (your feet). You should be able to wiggle your knees and you should not be clinching your butt. Similar to the picture of person on the left. Her diaphragm (the top red arc), is lined up over her pelvic floor (the bottom red arc). For the middle person and the person on the right, the arcs are not stacked over one another which can change muscle length. When the muscle length and shape change with poor posture, the pelvic floor and diaphragm cannot function well with the “core”. When this happens, we move in dysfunctional movements creating pain in other parts of our bodies.
Look at your babies (grandbabies or any babies you have seen). They squat, run, walk, sit properly, and with no pain. You did not teach them how to do that, their bodies automatically learned from trial and error.
Ok, so posture is great, Amanda, but what does this mean for me? Let’s pretend the middle person in the picture is a postpartum mom who came to me for leaking of urine while exercising, specifically, jumping jacks. I have found, how we sit with posture, is how we stand, is how we run/ exercise. Typically, women will tend to exercise in the same weakened posture they are standing in during the day. This patient is weaker than before her pregnancy, but after pregnancy, birth and carrying/ chasing a one year old, her posture is still the same as when she pregnant. She may be stressed which leads to poor excursion of her diaphragm (part of her core). This can cause decreased movement of the pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to tight pelvic floor muscles and poor postural patterns. This patient’s alignment and tight pelvic floor can cause her leaking. Improving posture alignment, deep belly breathing, and seeing her pelvic floor physical therapist for proper guidance, are a few things she can do to improve the relationship between her diaphragm and pelvic floor and decrease her leaking.
Wow. Lots of information today. If you have any questions, please shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or give me a call (816) 607-1406.
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