Easing the Strain On Your Pelvic Floor: A Couple of Tips

I want to share a couple of tips that many of my patients have found helpful in their journey through pelvic floor rehabilitation and return to activity: triathalon shorts and a high fiber diet. The high fiber diet seems logical to reduce any added strain on our pelvic floor, but the triathalon shorts…pretty random right? I agree, but so many women have shared these tips with me that I must pass them on.

Let’s start with the tri short. The benefit of the tri short is two-fold. Number one, they hug tight to your hips and buns as any spandex short would, but the light pad included in the triathalon short provides a comfortable compression to your pelvic floor. Why is this helpful? There is something called proprioception that we work on a lot in the physical therapy clinic. It’s your body’s awareness of where it is in space. It has been shown that providing compression to a joint or muscle can improve the proprioception of stabilizing ligaments or tendons and the muscles, helping them to fire more efficiently and effectively. You see many athletes using the compression sleeves on knees or elbows to provide this effect to a joint that is weaker than its counterparts. The triathalon short provides this same proprioception to our pelvic floor muscles.

The second benefit of the triathalon short comes from the same light padding that improves our muscle firing with compression. The pad can also provide some absorption for minor leaking without having to wear a pad as you work to get your pelvic floor muscles strong enough to allow walking, running, or hiking symptom-free. And even if your leaking is a bit more than the pad can absorb, these shorts will hold any absorption product in place because of the tighter fit.

Although, the use of these compression shorts hasn’t been medically researched, enough of my patients swear by them that I don’t hesitate to recommend them. I personally like the low rise DeSoto triathalon short as I wore these first while I was pregnant and the low rise waist band was a perfect fit under my pregnant belly. To be honest, they continue to be my favorite to this day!

The second tip that I want to share that will ease the strain on your pelvic floor is a high fiber diet. This suggestion comes from the desire to alleviate all downward pressure on our pelvic floor muscles. A high fiber diet along with plenty of water will alleviate the tendency to breath-hold and push when voiding. The benefits of a high fiber diet include better motility through our bowel and may translate into lower LDL cholesterol levels. These benefits make a high fiber diet an easy recommendation.

When looking for high fiber food choices, keep in mind that fruits and vegetables are some of your best choices. Foods with oats, beans, and whole wheat will also increase your fiber intake. If you don’t see the benefit of easing your bowel movements with food choices alone, you may choose to add a daily spoonful of Metamucil or Benefiber to a glass of water for that extra burst of fiber in your diet. Remember, the potential benefits of a high fiber diet include lower risk of colon cancer, lower LDL cholesterol levels, typically more heart healthy food choices, and of course, easing the strain on your pelvic floor.

Good luck everyone. Hope these two tips help you on your path to better pelvic floor health. Any other tips out there are welcome. We will all benefit from the stories of what works for you!

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6 Responses

04.15.10

I’ll second the suggestion to focus on fiber from vegetables. I found my rectocele condition improved considerably when I dropped all grains from my diet (esp “whole” grains and processed fiber supplements). The bulking from grain fiber created stool that was simply too wide to pass without creating painful fissure tears.

I discovered this accidentally when I began a low carb way of eating to normalize my blood sugar levels. I replaced high carb foods with more non-starchy veggies. I also raised my natural fat intake (and lowered processed veg oil intake). Real butter from grass-fed herds (Kerrygold brand, as well as artisanal butters, coconut oil, and ) also seems to work synergistically with non-starchy veg fiber.

Later I gave up wheat entirely when I discovered I was intolerant to gluten. The situation has improved even further. No tears or fissures for nearly two years.

04.15.10

Anna, thank you for sharing. This is a great example of finding what works for your body. General guidelines can be given, but it will be through trial and error and an increased awareness of your OWN body, that you discover what works for you. This goes for exercise, nutrition, sleep, etc.

04.15.10

I just stumbled across your website and I’m interested to know if the exercises on the DVD are safe and effective for uterine prolapse. I am 7 weeks postpartum with baby #2 and have a prolapsed uterus (at vaginal opening) and rectocele. I’m looking for safe, effective ways to strengthen the pelvic area to hopefully alleviate some of the symptoms (pressure, bulging, pulling) until I can make a more informed decision about potential surgery. This question doesn’t really go with this thread, but I didn’t know where else I could ask a “general” question. Thanks!

04.15.10

No problem Jennifer, this is a great place to ask a question. I am confident that you will experience relief of symptoms with the exercises on the dvd. They are all safe and effective. Take the time to read through some of my other blog entries, especially the entries on posture and on the connection of the transversus abdominus and the pelvic floor, as both of these components will be key to your rehabiitation.

With prolapse symptoms, it takes committment and follow through. I would also refer you to http://www.prolapsehealth.com where you can read some other great blog entries about what has worked for a great group of ladies.

Tasha

04.15.10

I thought I would post because I found one particular food (drink actually) beneficial for reducing straining and thought others may find it useful. Juicing carrots and beets and green leafy veggies (kale, chard, chollards) works wonders for me. The strange thing is that the juicer (I use a greenstar twin gear juicer) removes the pulp and thus the fibre, yet it still has me moving well in the bathroom.

I am new to this site, with a grade II cystocele. I wasn’t quite sure where to post my question… I have been doing physio since week 10 post partum and I am now in week 19 pp. My pelvic floor is firing really well in different positions but my golf ball is definately not lifting and while I have seen some improvement it seems very slow (I am unable to go for a run but I can go for a bike ride now). I am still breastfeeding. Is this normal? Will I see more improvement and over what time period? Is it likely my golf ball will go back up or will it always be a reminder to me of my birth experience?

Thanks so much for your site and for your hab-it program. It is uplifting and gives me hope I can make a recovery back to “life”.

04.15.10

Amber – thank you for your added comment on the juicer – there is absolutely no down dide to juicing. Thank you for the reminder for everyone.

As for your question regarding your prolapse at 19 weeks post partum. It will continue to improve for months to come. The “golf ball” that you feel is a reminder that your body has changed through the birthing process. A structural weakness has allowed your bladder to fall back into the anterior wall of your vaginal canal. Now, you have to work to strengthen your pelvic basket muscles and watch your posture every day, all day in order to make up for the structural weakness you now have within your pelvis. This is no different than a patient of mine that may have chronic back pain. When they do their exercises and watch their posture, they are pain free, but when life gets in the way and they aren’t able to be as diligent or find themselves in situations that require heavy lifting, etc., then their symtpms will temporarily come back.

Your prolapse symptoms AND the “golf ball” will do the same. You can see some lift of the golf ball up within your vaginal canal vs. being right at the opening, but it will never totally go away. Stay diligent with your posture and exercises and you know you are doing the right thing for your body. When you are ready, ease your way back into exercise as it sounds like you are with biking. Do not give up on running. Your body will strengthen to adapt to the stress you place upon it, so if it is running that you love, you can work your way back into it with a gradual build up of run/walk activities. I promote more of the higher intensity, lower mileage runs and rest days to allow your body to strengthen and adapt. Also, if this is your goal, take a look at my abdominal exercise blog when you are ready for more advanced plank exercises (after completing workout 4) that are important to strengthen the very important transversus abdominus muscle for higher intensity activities.

I think that is it for now. Stay focused but patient as your body is still healing. You have the ability to control your symptoms as long as your body awareness continues to improve with your strength. Keep us updated on your progress and of course, any other questions you have are welcome.

-Tashe

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