The holiday season can lead us into some traps that can have a direct or indirect effect on our pelvic floor function. Let’s take a closer look at three things we want to avoid in the next month.
The first and the most important is to avoid over-eating. It begins with the Thanksgiving meal and continues through New Years. There are snacks out on every table and we are baking more. By the time lunch or dinner roll around, we are already “full” but we pack more in. Over-eating results in an expanded stomach, leaving us with less space within our intra-abdominal cavity. We have all been there…it becomes harder for our diaphragm to expand down and draw in a normal breath. All of this results in more pressure being placed on our pelvic floor and increasing our symptoms of incontinence or prolapse.
The easiest way to avoid over-eating at any time is to eat as if you are going to work out in one hour. If you eat with the thought of an upcoming run, walk, or hike in mind, you will eat to simply fuel your body instead of eating to “fill” your belly.
The second thing to avoid this holiday season is “lazy posture.” ‘Tis the season for lots of shopping, which translates into a lot of slow walking and lots of standing. The tendency for all of us, as we fatigue throughout a day of shopping, is to slip into poor postural habits such as locking our knees back and tucking our buns under. This poor posture places more pressure on our pelvic floor and effectively turns our pelvic floor muscles off, leaving us at risk for increased symptoms.
The best way to avoid poor posture any time we find ourselves in an activity requiring lots of time on our feet is to stand tall and to walk with a purpose. Remembering to stand tall and proud will lift your chest and help to extend your lower spine, putting you in a position closer to neutral spine with your tail bone lifted. Walking with a purpose will also result in better posture as this leads to less of a heel strike and more emphasis on the push-off phase of your gait, leading to more extension of your spine.
The third thing to avoid during the holiday season is getting sick. Of course no one wants to get sick, but for those of us with weak pelvic floors, the force of a cough or a sneeze, or just simply the body aches and muscle weakness associated with the flu, can lead to increased symptoms. The sudden increase in intra-abdominal pressure with coughing and sneezing is a challenge for an affected pelvic floor at any time, but when this coughing and sneezing continues repetitively throughout the day, it can prove to be too much even for a strong pelvic floor. Also, the muscle aches and weakness we experience with the flu will have the most dramatic effect on those muscles that are already challenged by previous injury or general weakness, which again is bad news for our pelvic floor.
So do your best to get plenty of rest, wash your hands, exercise regularly, and eat well to maximize your body’s defense system against any cold or flu bug that comes your way.
That’s it from me. Enjoy the holidays, but avoid the traps that may affect your pelvic floor!