Perfect Posture = good pelvic floor muscle activation.
Did your mother ever tell you to ‘stand tall’ and ‘sit properly’… I bet she never realised how important this constant reminder was on activating and maintaining automatic pelvic floor muscle (PFM) activity. In the picture at the top you can see down into the pelvis from above. You can see the PFM’s sit at the bottom of the trunk. When the pelvis and spine are in ‘normal’ alignment then the PFM’s are automatically giving a low level of contraction to keep you continent, support the pelvic contents (bladder ,bowel and uterus) and together with the deep abdominal muscle (Transverse Abdominius TVA) stabilize the lumbar spine. I have linked to an article on posture in my ‘articles’ – number 5 C’ Cutting +Edge+Core+Control+P2. These pictures from katy Bowman on the right shows the correct alignment (middle picture) and two variations either side. You can also see from the mirror picture the alignment of the body against a mirror or wall.
The sitting image gives a beautiful position in which to practise PFM exercises during your day!
Let’s remember also that muscles attach primarily to bones to move them and create movement. The position of the bony pelvis in relation to the spine and whole posture will affect how the PFM contract to try and move the base of that pelvis (coccyx). So can you begin to see the complexity of this muscle group and why it is SO important to get professional help if you start to get any problems or if you are concerned about pain or discomfort around this area. The Pelvic_Floor_Screening_Tool_for_Women_2014 is an excellent and quick (only 17 short questions) questionnaire to help identify any problems you may be having and answering ‘yes’ to any of the questions may place you in the ‘at risk’ category and your exercise / fitness programme – and you’ should be checked by a Women’s health Physiotherapist.
So what and where are the pelvic floor muscles ? An anatomy review / reminder…You can never get enough repetition of information. Michelle has a great overview of where they are and how to find them. This complex dome of muscles has to:
- gently maintain a low level of contraction all the time – type I slow twitch postural muscle fibres
- contract strongly around the front and back openings when coughing, sneezing ,lifting and strong exercise – type II strength muscle fibres
- contract fast during sudden changes in posture and intra- abdominal pressure IAP – type IIb fast muscle fibres
Let’s look at increases in Intra- abdominal pressure (IAP) and the pelvic floor . Any heavy lifting, exercising, straining, chronic coughing, obesity…(the list goes on).. can over time have a negative effect on your “Core”. All the inner core and outer core muscles are designed to work together to move your body, give you strength and adapt automatically to changes in IAP .
Now we know what and where the core is …and understanding that your all important Pelvic floor sits at the bottom of this cylinder (see top of the page diagram) ; any constant or uncontrolled IAP changes can cause part of that core to crash. From the front..umbilical or inguinal hernias, diastasis or stretching of the muscles at the front of the belly during pregnancy or childbirth.. From the back...disc bulges, back pain. From the top where the breathing Diaphragm muscle forms the top of the core….as breathing problems, anxiety, asthma. From the bottom of the core the pelvic floor …weak and /or stretched muscles from childbirth Anna – Louise Bouvier explains this really well in her article ‘Cutting edge core control part 2 the core crash’.