Welcome to this webinar, Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor!
Thank you all for joining us today! I am Dr. Trish Murray – physician, best-selling author, and the Health Catalyst Speaker. I am so excited to have Jim Chaput, an Applied Movement Neurology Master joining me for this webinar on how to improve the function of the pelvic floor.
I am going to initiate this presentation the same way I usually present on the webinars with the slides like you see this first welcoming slide. I’m going to use slides in the beginning while I’m speaking to introduce the anatomy of the pelvic floor and what things can cause the pelvic floor to develop dysfunction. Then, I’m going to turn the webinar over to Jim who is going to discuss his introductory or initial concepts with a slide. Then, we’re going to stop sharing the slides, and Jim is going to present his information and exercises that he’s going to demonstrate to you and that you can do along with him if you choose in order to strengthen your pelvic floor in the same way that we present during our Discover Health Movement Membership classes so that you get a sense of how the information is presented and how to participate in the classes. Let’s get started!
Before we dive too deep, let’s review some basic anatomy. The pelvic floor is made up of supportive muscles, tendons, and ligaments at the base of the pelvis. Your pelvis is a bowl and all of these items I’ve just listed the muscles, the tendons, the ligaments at the base of the bowl of your pelvis are also completely involved or surrounded and engulfed in fascia, the connective tissue, the “fabric of life.” These muscles and this entire connective tissue collection of tissues stretch like a trampoline from the tailbone (the coccyx, the very pointy end) to the pubic bone. These tissues attach at the coccyx, the pelvic bone at the base of your pelvic bowl and they travel forward and also attach to your pubic bone. Your pubic bone is in the front of your pelvis, kind of just above your genitals. You may be able to feel that. If you feel your belly and you go down to your lower belly down into your pelvis, you’re going to engage with a bone that you’ll hit, and that is the pubic bone.
The pelvic floor supports the functionality of the bladder, the uterus, the vagina, the male genitalia, and the rectum, providing support and stability to the organs of the lower abdominal cavity and, of course, the pelvis.Click To Tweet Additionally, pelvic floor muscles are also important for sexual function for both men and women. Open your ears and make sure you get your pelvic floor functioning as optimally as possible!
Now, there are a number of factors that can lead to weak or loosened pelvic floor muscles. This is most commonly a result of childbirth in women. For men, common causes of weak pelvic floor muscles include surgery for prostate cancer, bladder or bowel problems such as constipation, heavy lifting, chronic coughing, and more. The following are the most common contributors:
- Pregnancy and childbirth for women
- Straining on the toilet
- Chronic coughing
- Heavy lifting
- High impact intense exercise
In most cases, it is possible to improve the function of the pelvic floor and tighten the pelvic floor muscles and connective tissue and regain control of your pelvic floor.Click To TweetLet’s take a closer look.
During pregnancy and childbirth, the pelvic floor muscles get completely stretched out. From the weight of the baby, also the hormones that are changed and designed to loosen your tissues, and of course all the efforts of pushing that baby out during labor, these connective tissues don’t stand a chance at the base of the pelvic floor.
Severely weakened pelvic floor muscles usually following several pregnancies can cause pelvic organs to slip down further into the pelvic bowl than they below. This is called pelvic organ prolapse. Prolapse gives you a dragging feeling in your pelvis and the vagina because the womb, bowel, and bladder push against the walls of the vagina and against the walls of the pelvic bowl. This condition is more likely to occur later in life as you age, rather than right after birth. It’s usually as the tissues are aging and becoming looser and looser that these problems develop. Doing your pelvic floor exercises after childbirth will:
- Prevent and treat stress incontinence
- Improve the circulation of blood to your perineum or the genital area, which will help to reduce any swelling and any bruising from childbirth
- Rebuild strength in your pelvic floor
Remember, everyone is different. You’ll want to check with your healthcare professional that you’ve been working with to decide how soon after labor it is safe to begin pelvic strengthening exercises.
Repeated straining of the pelvic floor muscles can occur from using the bathroom, chronic coughing, heavy lifting, and high impact exercises. The straining can create pressure on the pelvic floor, ultimately leading to prolapse.Click To Tweet Whether lifting weights at the gym or for a specific job task that requires heavy intense lifting repeatedly, it is important to perform heavy lifting with proper form to protect yourself and, of course, your pelvic floor.
An additional note; if chronic constipation is an issue, you should have the cause addressed by a healthcare professional to prevent pelvic floor damage later on. If you have chronic constipation year after year after year, it could be the root cause of your pelvic floor dysfunction. If you truly want to get to the root cause of your constipation, rather than simply be prescribed a pill, then I strongly suggest you seek out a functional medicine provider to work with to figure things out.
Additional causes of a weakened pelvic floor are attributed to aging and also obesity.Click To TweetWeakened muscles, in general, is common with age, folks. As we age and if we don’t take care of our bodies everything starts to fall! The pelvic floor doesn’t get out of that. It all starts to get loose and dry up, degenerate and weaken. I was listening to a talk the other day and the gentleman was talking about the aging processed and he said, “Eventually we need to retire because our body becomes a full-time job.” That is so true! The pelvic floor is part of that full-time job. The pelvic floor exercises can be done at any age to improve conditions associated with a weak pelvic floor.
My chapter in my new book, the chapter is titled “The Missing Link to Healthy Aging” and it’s in my new best-selling book, No More Band-Aids 2.0: Finding Answers in a Broken Medical System. It’s a collaborative book, my chapter explains the fascial system and how our connective tissues are gelatinous in nature and they dry up as we age. If we do not move and care for them properly, then they’re going to become dysfunctional and weak.
The pelvic floor is very important part of your connective tissue, fascial and muscular system. It also is affected by the hormonal changes that occur as we age. Reduced or reduction of estrogen, reduction in testosterone, progesterone is going to be also involved in pelvic floor dysfunction.
Being overweight for a prolonged time year after year can also place more considerable strain on the pelvic floor, increasing the risk of leaking urine in particular. Pelvic floor exercises, as well as weight loss, of course, can be beneficial.
Before we get into the actual exercises, let’s review the benefits of strengthening the pelvic floor. Benefits include:
- increased sexual sensation and orgasmic potential
- increased social confidence and quality of life with improved bladder and bowel control
- improved recovery from childbirth and gynecological surgery
- improved recovery after prostate surgery
- reduced risk of prolapse
In order to start pelvic floor muscle training, you must be able to identify your pelvic floor muscles correctly and feel them and be able to isolate them so that you know what you’re working on.
Have you heard of Kegel exercises? It’s a common term out there that people may have heard of. You may be familiar with it and be able to do it well. There are others maybe listening that aren’t familiar with it. We’re going to use this concept and I’m going to teach it to you. The purpose of it tonight is to be able to identify the pelvic floor. This move involves consciously drawing up and contracting, if you will, your pelvic floor. It will help you get familiar with the feeling of working your pelvic floor.
Here’s how to perform a Kegel:
- Start by getting comfortable. If you are in a position or area where you can comfortably lie down, then do it! You want to lie down with your back on the floor, bed, or couch and you can bend your knees and keep your feet flat on either the floor or the surface you’re lying on. Or you can also sit up comfortably in a chair. I would want you to put both feet comfortably on the floor. You want to sit in a comfortable position or lie down in a comfortable position with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Try and consciously squeeze and lift the rectal and genital areas as if you were trying to stop yourself from urinating. Try and do that with your mind’s eye and your thought process focus on your rectum and your genital area as if you were urinating, feel what it would be like to lift up and squeeze that area as if you were stopping either a bowel movement or urination. Hold it for about 5 or 10 seconds.
- You should feel a closing feeling when you squeeze, as if your rectum is coming up and your genital pelvic bowl is getting smaller and the tissues are coming up into the pelvic bowl and it’s squeezing.
- You can repeat squeezing and holding for 5 to 10 seconds and then release. Then you can, of course, repeat it multiple times until you get the sense of how to engage the pelvic floor. This should help you start to be able to consciously identify your pelvic floor tissues, so you have an idea of the area you want to focus on.
With that now, I’m going to turn the presentation over to Jim Chaput, who is an Applied Movement Neurology Master and who is excellent at looking at both the nervous system and the fascial system, your connective tissue, to understand how they both interact to keep us functioning optimally. Let me stop my sharing and spotlight Jim.
Thank you, Dr. Trish. Okay, so I’m going to talk a little bit about going beyond Kegels and some of the other things you have to consider to really get the best results. Then things that I would assess to try to help someone get back to optimal function. Then as you said, I’ll tell you, if you want to follow along, some equipment that you might want to get handy. I’ll show you a series of exercises that will go through the different areas that we assess and then you figure out which ones do you need and you do a daily routine to improve the function of your pelvic floor.
Okay, the first thing that I want to cover is that the Kegel exercise is one piece of pelvic floor control. That’s your volitional control. If you’ve done Kegels and they’ve worked really well for you, you probably should continue with that. But, if you’ve done the Kegels and found that they help a little bit but not as much as you would expect, I’ll give you the reasons why. Much of your pelvic floor control is actually reflexive and not volitional. It’s part of the emotional motor system which was discovered by Gert Holstege and other areas in the emotional motor system include smiles and breathing. Those areas, controlled at least partially by the emotional motor system, get triggered reflexively. If you imagine if I give you my really good fake smile, most of you would recognize that as not a very good smile, right? I’m using volitional muscles to create a smile. One of my nephews is the best at this because every time I see his picture on Facebook, I think, Oh my gosh. What is going on here? But, if instead you get a genuine smile, you can tell the difference. If I want to make a genuine smile, I think of my crazy dog Roli and it’s just like a smile comes, right? The reason why it’s different is because the emotion that I’m feeling triggers those muscles that activate the smile.
The pelvic floor is not exactly trigger by emotions, but much of it is reflexive similar to smile and breathing. There are other reasons why the Kegels themselves might not be enough and core exercises alone might not be enough. There are direct fascial connections between the pelvic floor down through the feet. Then also some of the spinal nerves coming out of the sacrum that control our body also innervate the pelvic floor and the feet. What does that really mean? It means how you move can have a significant impact on your pelvic floor health.
Late last year and into early this year I did a small study. I think I had half a dozen people that came in, people with pelvic floor dysfunction. What I did was, they got three treatments through my Applied Movement Neurology and then I gave them exercises to do. I didn’t really have enough people to draw great conclusions, but one thing I found was every single person that came in had inhibition in their emotional motor system around their pelvic floor. There were different ranges of inhibitions, so I did resets for all of these people and then I gave them exercises. What I found was for most of the people in the study, their symptoms resolved even before the third treatment. The combination of removing some excess noise in their nervous system and giving them some exercises alleviated their symptoms. You could do Kegels all day, but if you’ve got inhibition in the reflexes, you need something else. Since the study, I’ve continued looking for other solutions because I didn’t have 100% success in the study. Therefore, okay the answers are somewhere else. I’ve learned some additional things. I’m going to go over with you my current approach of what I think needs to be assessed to get you to optimal pelvic floor health.
The first thing is posture and gait, core strength and leg strength, the reflexive control that I mentioned, and then also breathing. To get to optimal function, all of those areas should be really good. What I’m going to do is I’m just going to show you a couple of things I’m going to use to show you some exercises so if you need to get them, you can. I’m going to use a half-dome, if you don’t have one you can use a rolled towel instead. That’s going to be for some stretching. I’m going to use a yoga block and we’re going to basically hold that between our knees. If you don’t have a yoga block handy, actually even a coaster would work. Then I’m also going to use some small weights for a couple of the movements.
To learn the pelvic floor exercises and diaphragmatic breathing technique with Jim Chaput, please watch and follow along with the video of this webinar uploaded to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/1fQDy7dPDY0. These demonstrations being 22 minutes into the video.
So, just to wrap up, if some or all of these exercises seem like good ones for you, you could do a daily routine. The whole thing could take you ten minutes or less. Do it every day. The more often you do it, the faster it will stick. If your calves are super tight, you could do the calf stretches three times a day. You’ll get faster results than if you just do it once a day. The other exercises if you do the whole routine and it takes you about ten minutes and you do it every day, what I would expect is that as soon as two to three weeks you could notice a significant difference. If you’re doing it less frequently, it might take longer.
Then, one thing to consider is if you do the exercises just about every day, things are going really well but you’re still struggling with the pelvic floor control and health, you might need something else. As Dr. Trish mentioned, you might need to speak to a healthcare provider. I’m not a healthcare provider so much as a movement therapist, but the treatments I offer potentially could be the answer as well. I would say if you want to see what you can do on your own and see how much you can do to improve your pelvic floor health try the exercises for at least two to three weeks. Do them every day. Hopefully you’ll get some significant improvement. If not, at that point I’d suggest consulting with your preferred provider or send me a message for a free consultation, and I’d be happy to help you out! Alright, Dr. Trish, I can turn it back to you.
Jim, that was awesome!
Thank you so much! Folks, you’re realizing with seeing that and engaging with that, whether you went along and did the exercises with Jim or not, remember you can get the recording off YouTube to do it later. As you were watching, the idea is that you’re understanding. The traditional medical model so many times their focus is going to be only on the muscles and the connective tissue of the bottom of the bowl that I described at the beginning of the anatomy of your pelvic bowl. Folks, your fascial system, your nervous system, your connective tissue system is three-dimensional and connective from your head to your toes. You’ve got to move everything and engage it all in order to optimize the function of let’s say an isolated area like the pelvic bowl. Jim, that was awesome! I’m going to try to share back a couple last slides.
Now, I know Jim discussed some great information today, let’s do a quick review! Strengthening the pelvic floor and improving its function involves more than just your pelvic muscles.
- First, make sure you have good posture.
- Stretch your calves and hamstrings as needed.
- Strengthen your hips and your core.
- Stimulate reflexive control with bounces and lunges.
- Practice diaphragmatic breathing.
So, who’s ready to commit to strengthening your pelvic muscles and function for better health?
Again, remember that we always list on our Discover Health Facebook Group the list of resources from these webinars. If you are interested in being able to follow some links to some more information to do your own reading and your own studying on some of the resources we use, and you are already a member of our Discover Health Facebook Group, then just go there where you’ll get a link about it. If you are not already a member of our Discover Health Facebook Group, then all you need to do is go to Facebook and go to our Discover Health Functional Medicine Center Facebook page and then request to join the group! You’ll get access to that information.
Remember we also transcribe the script from every webinar I do and we put it on my website www.discoverhealthfmc.com as a blog. We also edit and play the audio on my podcast entitled Discover Health Podcast. This episode, as I said in the beginning, will also be posted on YouTube so that you can see Jim’s demonstrations and follow along and do the exercises with him as many times as you wish so that you can become proficient at them. We are always trying to find ways to help you optimize your health.
That’s a wrap, folks! I hope everyone learned valuable information regarding the importance of a strong pelvic floor, how to locate your pelvic muscles and connective tissue, and the benefits of participating in strengthening exercises and three-dimensional movement regularly. You also should feel well-equipped to get started today! If anyone has any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at any time. You can reach us at our email. The best email to reach is our Health Coach Trish’s email at [email protected].
Thank you all so much for joining us today. I know with a little work, each of you is going to be on your way to accomplishing your goals to improve pelvic floor strength and function! Also, I know it’s tough to remember all that was presented and be able to apply it properly. This is why we have created Discover Health Movement Membership, which is a completely online program that gives you three different movement classes per week. Movement for Longevity which is taught by Jim Chaput in the same way you interacted with him during this program. Another class is Self-Myofascial Release which is taught by Lisa Buerk. The third class is a Yoga Flow class which is taught by Meghan Vestal. I have also done podcasts with each of the instructors recently. You can go to my Discover Health Podcast to listen to those podcasts.
With our Discover Health Movement Membership, you get three classes per week that are live and new every week. You get twelve new classes per month. You can opt to do the membership as a live member which means that allows you to take the classes in real time with the instructors presenting in real time like Jim did tonight so that you can interact with them and even ask questions through the chat or at the end of class. Or, if the times of the classes don’t work for your schedule then you can opt to do the membership as only a recorded level of the membership which means you get access to all of the recordings and you can do them at any time or day you choose. Either way, this collaborative and supportive types of movement will provide you with what you need to optimize not only your pelvic floor but your overall health. We’ve had people taking these classes over the last five months that have told us their cognition is improving along with their ability to move, decreasing their pain, and things like constipation and urinary incontinence for example have improved because of the fact that you are moving your body three-dimensionally and improving the function of your entire body.
Either way this is going to optimize your health, decrease your pain, gain confidence in self-treatment of injuries is another thing we’ve heard as benefits from people, and of course be able to keep up with your kids and your grandkids! To learn more about this program and sign up, go to www.discoverhealthfmc.com/#Movement.
As I said that’s a wrap for tonight. If anyone has any particular questions of what was demonstrated tonight or questions about the pelvic floor in any way, feel free to either type them in the chat if you wish or just ask us the questions. This is the way we interact with our Discover Health Movement Membership. You can ask questions to Jim (or other instructors) after or even during the class.
Webinar attendee: I didn’t realize that there was so much connected to keeping it performing correctly, etc. I know someone who had to have surgery twice because of a prolapse. I’m really happy with the movement! More beneficial than not.
Jim Chaput: Yeah, and I think getting in the habit of doing it on a regular basis, it really adds up. I know you’re a regular in class and you’ve been getting great results and other people as well. People come to class and they don’t feel great at the start of class but by the end of class they’re really feeling so much better. In my class, and I think in the other classes probably the yoga flow as well, the movement is complex enough that you kind of have to pay attention and that’s one of the reasons why you get those cognitive benefits. You really exercising your brain at the same time you’re exercising your body!
Webinar attendee: Yeah, I did a 1000-piece puzzle during the beginning of COVID and I realized that when I was doing all the movement classes, when I tried it after it would come so quickly on the pieces! Yeah!
Jim Chaput: That’s an unexpected benefit of being able to be able to do puzzles faster, but it sounds great!
We have someone who’s written in the chat: “What would I plug in to see this again on YouTube?” They are on the west coast, which is awesome, but they couldn’t get off of work in time to see the whole thing. Many people register for our webinars, but they can’t quite come to the live presentation, so they wait for the recording. We will be sending out links to how you’ll be able to link to the podcast as well as the YouTube version. Don’t worry, folks. You’ll be able to watch it again and we’ll make sure you get that link and connection.
Alright, well thank you so much for participating folks. Next month, in October on the third Thursday is usually when we present our webinars, will be on posture and yoga particularly. We’ll be focusing on the yoga aspect of our Discover Health Movement Membership and posture. Don’t miss that as well! We’ll see everybody on the next presentation!
Watch this full webinar on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/1fQDy7dPDY0
Contact Jim Chaput
For more information on the Discover Health Movement Membership
- Website: https://www.discoverhealthfmc.com/#Movement
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- To register: https://members.discoverhealthfmc.com/product/discover-movement-membership
- Trish Murray’s newest collaborative book, No More Band-Aids 2.0: Finding Answers in a Broken Medical System
Sign up for our next webinar: Why Your Posture is So Important on Thursday, October 15 at 6:00 PM EDT.
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