July is National Blueberry Month! Why in the world is a pelvic specialist beginning a blog with this lead in? If you are a former or current client of mine, you are already giggling and totally know why I’m leading with blueberries as a topic of discussion. They are one of my favorite fruits to eat, super healthy and full of antioxidants, but that isn’t why I’m bringing them up. Don’t worry – we will bring it all together and explain. But first we are going to discuss the pelvic floor and how you should be exercising it correctly to see optimal improvement in symptoms like back or hip pain, incontinence and prolapse.
Your pelvic floor is a very important group of muscles. As research continues to include this set of muscles, we are finding more and more about just how important the pelvic floor is. It is the first core muscle to engage, leading the charge for stability in the pelvic girdle alongside the abdominal wall, spine and diaphragm. When it contracts, you get a pull across the pelvic bones, drawing your sit bones together, and bringing pubic bone and tailbone toward one another.
Often women come in to see us saying they have been doing their kegels for years with no improvement in symptoms. What we often find is that they aren’t doing them correctly. They aren’t able to coordinate the Pelvic floor with their abdominal wall or spinal muscles, or they don’t coordinate correctly with their diaphragm either. Since this system is so deep it is often hard for women to understand what needs to happen.
As a Pelvic Specialist, my job is always to find the right way to cue my clients to performing exercises correctly. Core stability is a symphony of muscle coordination. Everyone is different, and different cues work for different women…Different strokes for Different Folks, right? But what I have found over the years is that one cue in particular is very effective for MOST women. And here is where the blueberry comes in to play…
When you are performing your pelvic floor exercises or Kegels, imagine you are picking up a blueberry with your vagina. It is perfect! Not too big, not too heavy, delicate enough you don’t want to squash it. A pelvic floor contraction should be as gentle, and this silly cue just seems to work. And, it keeps the whole topic lighthearted and funny.
The ideal place to begin is lying on your back, gravity eliminated.
Begin with some deep belly breathing. This helps to get started coordinating
your diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles. Inhale, belly rises. As you exhale,
belly falls. (click
here for more specifics on diaphragm breathing)
Now, coordinate your pelvic floor. Inhale, expand belly, and your pelvic floor is relaxed, even lengthened. As you Exhale, pick up your blueberry. On Inhale, put the blueberry down again. Repeat 10 breaths.
For your second set, work more on endurance. Extend your breath to 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out. Work on holding the blueberry for the full 5 seconds of exhale for 10 breaths.
This is just the beginning! As you coordinate better, you can begin to progress toward holding 10 seconds, and learn to coordinate the contraction without needing to use the breath, but still being able to breathe. This takes more practice and sometimes the help of a pelvic specialist to ensure you are coordinating correctly.
If you continue to work toward getting 30-80 reps daily of this simple exercise you should see improvement in symptoms of incontinence in 4-6 weeks. Of course there is more to it than this, and coordinating a complete exercise progression is subject for another blog coming soon. In the meantime ladies – pick up those blueberries and enjoy!