Today I want to talk about belly binding and abdominal splints.
An abdominal splint is a piece of elastic that you wrap around your belly to support your core. This is a contentious topic in the world of core healing. There are some practitioners who say absolutely everyone should wear one. And there are some who say no one should everwear one.
It’s my belief that things are almost never that black and white.
What I have found is that there are certain people for whom belly binding is extremely helpful and there are some people for whom belly binding is unnecessary.
That’s what we’ll cover today.
We’ll discuss two different contexts for belly binding:
Binding in the first few weeks postpartum
Binding while healing an abdominal separation (diastasis recti)
Binding While Healing An Abdominal Separation
Diastasis Recti is a separation of the abdominal muscles that happens during pregnancy. For some women it heals naturally postpartum, but up to 30% of women still have it one year after having a baby.
It leads to core weakness that can cause back pain, hip pain, incontinence, and other issues.So it’s very important to bring the core muscles back together so the body can function properly.
Most women can bring their core muscles back together without the help of an abdominal splint.
For most women, simply doing the right exercises, breathing properly, and correcting alignment is all it takes to bring those muscles back together and allow the connective tissue that connects the muscles to heal.
But what about the women for whom proper exercise and alignment isn’t quite enough?
There are three types of women for whom I typically recommend an abdominal splint.
Women with a 4+ Finger Gap
The first is women who have a abdominal gap bigger than four fingers.
Not sure the size of your gap? Here’s a self-test video.
With a larger gap, it can be harder to connect to your deep core muscles. Additionally, the connective tissue is often thinner and weaker in a larger gap.
So, for these women, splinting brings the two sides of the abdominal muscles together and
helps you connect more to your muscles, and
gives the connective tissue a better chance to heal.
Women Carrying Extra Weight At Their Midsection
The second type of person I typically recommend a splint to is someone carrying extra weight on their belly.
The abdominal muscles are impacted by gravity. When you have extra weight at the front, it can pull on the abdominals and make it harder to engage the deep core muscles.
So for these women, splinting can help them connect more to their muscles and minimize ongoing strain to the already weak area of the core.
Women Struggling To Engage Their Deep Core Muscles
The third type of woman who can benefit from splinting is someone who is struggling to find the connection to their abdominal muscles (even if she doesn’t fall into the two categories above).
If you’ve been taught how to engage your deep core muscles, but feel like you just can’t make it happen, a splint might help!
By bringing those muscles together it can enhance the brain-body connection and give some biofeedback to the system. This can make muscle engagement more successful.
As a reminder, for all of these groups, the splint should only be used short term while you are doing all the other good work to heal your core.(More on what a short-term splinting schedule looks like coming soon in another post).
Splinting In The First 2-3 Weeks Postpartum
I also want to speak to abdominal splinting immediately postpartum because I believe most women can benefit from this type of splinting.
In the first few weeks after having a baby, your core is at its weakest. And you have the added demand of extremely awkward movements and tasks. You’re getting up every two hours, moving awkwardly to put a baby in a bassinet, and you’re sleep-deprived.
Most likely you are doing lots of movements that can strain your already weak core.
Wearing a binder in the first few weeks postpartum can give moms added support and prevent them from creating damage in an already weak core.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts on how to use a splint short-term and my recommendations for which splints are best.
I get a lot of questions about how to sit properly without putting pressure on your core or diastasis, or making your hips feel worse.
So today I want to share how to sit for optimum core & hip health.
Optimal sitting comes down to maintaining proper alignment in your pelvis. When you come out of neutral alignment, either by tucking or untucking your pelvis too much, you put extra pressure on your core and hips. This can exacerbate core weakness and hip pain.
So, how do you maintain proper pelvis position while sitting?
We’ll cover three things today:
Sitting in a chair
Sitting on the floor while playing with your kids
Relaxing on the couch
SITTING IN A CHAIR
When sitting in a chair, you want to:
Sit directly on your sit bones,
Use back support, and,
Place feet flat on the floor, hip width apart.
Find your sit bones.
When bending over slightly from standing, the sit bones ( Ischial tuberosities) are the bones that you feel protruding slightly from your bottom. You want to make sure that when you sit in a chair, the sit bones are directly on the chair. That will help you know you have a neutral pelvis position.
If you untuck your pelvis, the sit bones will be lifting up off the chair in the back. If you tuck our pelvis, the sit bones will still be on the chair, but we’ll also be sitting more on our tailbone.
You want to avoid those two extremes and find a neutral pelvis by sitting directly on the sit bones. I find this is easiest to find at the front of the chair.
Once you’ve found it, slide your body back on the chair so that your back is fully supported.
Back support is important because it allows you to maintain proper alignment for longer periods of time.
Not all chairs have great back support though (e.g. couches, seats in the car). For those situations, grab a small hand towel or small pillow. Roll it up and slide it behind your low back. It will help keep you in a relatively neutral spine and pelvis position.
Feet on Floor
If possible, try to place your feet flat on the floor, hip width apart.
If you are short, this can be challenging! Placing some yoga blocks under your feet can help you maintain alignment by bringing the floor closer to you.
SITTING ON THE FLOOR TO PLAY
Many of us moms spend a lot of time sitting on the floor playing with our kids. Many of us default to a criss-cross applesauce position but, unless you have extremely open hips, it is hard to sit in this position without significantly tucking our pelvis under. As I’ve mentioned, this throws our body out of alignment and puts pressure on our weak core.
So, what other positions can we find?
I find the best tool for sitting on the floor is a yoga block. A yoga block opens up your position options.
(Watch the video for examples of these positions)
You can sit on the block with your feet on the floor (like the block is a low chair).
Or, bend your knees so that the lower legs are near the block and your feet are pointing backward.
Or sit cross-legged on the block.
You can slide yourself up against a wall for more back support in any of these positions.
When it comes to sitting on the floor, change position often!
You don’t want to sit in the same way all the time. The body is made to do lots of different types of movement.
Often when I talk about this topic I get the question… “Can I never chill out on the couch and watch a movie?”
You can! Relaxation is very important for the body. So when you want to chill out, do it!
But let’s set you up so that you relax in a way that is best for your body.
Don’t Get Sucked Into The Couch!
Couches often suck our lower body in resulting in a tucked pelvis and squashed abdominal area. So, just like in a chair, get a towel or small pillow and put it behind your low back. This will help keep your pelvis neutral and prevent you from collapsing into the couch.
Support Your Head
One thing that can help with relaxation is to place a pillow behind your head. This can allow more of the upper body muscles to relax.
Another option, lie down! Laying (on the couch or floor) is a great way to allow all the muscles to relax without putting any extra pressure on the core muscles or hips.
There you have it!
Ways to sit and relax that will keep your body happy.
Please know: It’s never going to be perfect! Don’t freak out if you end up somewhere and your feet are dangling or you have no back support. The body can handle that every once in a while. We are simply trying to replace some of our “bad” patterns with more “good” patterns.
Free Trainings For Your Post-Baby Body
Looking for support in rebuilding your post-baby core or hips? Check out our free masterclasses.
BUT…if you are doing all of that, and you diastasis is still sticking around, read below for a technique that can help.
Pregnancy Changes Muscles, Connective Tissue, and Fascia
During pregnancy, the core changes significantly! The top layer of abdominal muscles, the rectus abdominis (a.k.a. the 6-pack abs!) separate.
But the changes aren’t isolated to just our muscles. The connective tissue that runs down the center of the abdomen (the linea alba) gets thinner and weaker. The fascia, a layer of connective tissue that encases our muscles, can also shift and change.
And sometimes, all this movement causes areas of the fascia to become tight and restricted. That tightness can prevent our abdominal muscles from coming back together.
Pregnancy also changes muscle patterns. When the deepest layer of abdominal muscles (the transverse abdominis) gets weak during pregnancy, other abdominal muscles overwork. When the rectus and oblique muscles are overactive, it can prevent the deeper core muscles from working properly…which prevents your abdominal muscles from coming back together!
So, releasing fascial restrictions and overactive muscles can help bring the core back together.
Myofascial Release and Abdominal Massage for Diastasis Recti
How to perform myofascial release and abdominal massage for diastasis recti:
(For a visual of this watch the video below)
Use massage oil or coconut oil and massage directly on the skin of your belly.
Begin at your ribs and gently move your hands toward your naval (belly button area). Do this action across the ribs and down both sides of the abdomen, and up from the public bone.
When you find an area of tenderness, gently massage that area and let it soften.
Give some extra time and attention to any area that has a scar from surgery.
Then come directly down the centerline of the body (near the connective tissue where the two sides of the abdomen come together). If you find knots or tenderness here, spend extra time massaging. Massage both vertically and horizontally along this line.
Imagine sending loving energy from your hands into this area. Personally, when I put the intention of love into my pelvis, it’s very powerful for me. It feels very necessary and important.
When you are done, allow your hands to rest on your belly and take a deep breath in, then open your mouth and exhale, letting any negative feelings leave your body with that breath.
If you’re not in the habit of paying attention to your belly or touching your belly, this can bring up a lot of feelings.
You may find fear, or shame, or disappointment when you begin attending to this area. Allow yourself to feel those feelings. They will shift with time.
Using your hands to release restricted fascia and overworking muscles can do wonders to help your abdominal muscles come back together.
These unexpected causes of hip issues may surprise you but, once identified, can help you correct and address ongoing hip issues.
9 Unexpected Causes of Hip Issues
1. A weak core.
The core stabilizes the pelvis from above. If the core isn’t doing its job, this can destabilize the pelvis resulting in hip pain and discomfort.
2. Tight back muscles.
When your core is weak, your back will overwork to try to “pick up the slack”, resulting in tight back muscles. Overworked back muscles can pull on the back of the pelvis and create hip issues.
3. Weak glutes.
The glutes are key to stabilize the pelvis from below. But many postpartum women have trouble activating their glutes. If this area isn’t working effectively, it can create pelvis instability and hip issues.
If your hamstrings are working harder than your glutes, your hips can be adversely affected.
5. Pelvic floor tightness.
The pelvic floor is another set of muscles that stabilize the hips from below (along with the glutes). If you have an overactive pelvic floor, or one side of your pelvic floor that is tighter than the other, it will impact the way your hips feel and function.
6. Improper Alignment.
The pelvis is the relay station between the upper and lower body. If parts of your body are out of alignment, simple acts like walking, standing, or sitting can have a negative effect on your overall hip health.
7. Glute clenching.
A lot of women have at least some level of ongoing glute squeezing. Squeezing the glutes is a way for the body to compensate for a weak core BUT it can create more glute and pelvic floor weakness leading to even worse hip issues.
8. Deep hip rotator issues.
The muscles deep inside your leg that rotate your leg outward (like the piriformis) can get overactive and tight, particularly in a postpartum body, and cause hip discomfort.
9. Tight adductor muscles.
The adductor muscles, in our inner thigh, can become overactive and tight. These muscles can lock down and become tight as a means of keeping things steady when other muscles aren’t working properly. If one side is working harder than the other, or if both sides are very tight, that can pull the pelvis out of alignment and hurt your hips!
But most of us haven’t been taught to Kegel properly.
Typically, you are taught to squeeze the muscles as if you are shutting off the flow of urine.
But, if you only shut off the flow of urine, you are doing an incomplete Kegel!
The pelvic floor is a set of big, broad muscles that go from the pubic bone all the way to the tailbone. If you’re only thinking of shutting off urine flow, you’re missing some big parts of that muscle.
So how do we do a proper Kegel?
Step 1: Engage Properly
Pelvic floor muscles are responsible for squeezing AND lifting the pelvic floor. We want to find both these actions when doing a kegel.
As you Kegel, think about squeezing to shut off the flow of urine.
Now also visualize a diamond underneath your vagina. As you squeeze, imagine pulling that diamond up within you to lift the pelvic floor. Done correctly, you might feel the engagement deep inside the lower abdomen.
Step 2: Engage the entirety of the pelvic floor
We can access the full set of muscles by changing our pelvis position.
To begin, find the muscles in the front of the pelvic floor.
Start by untucking the pelvis and coming to sit more in the front of the pelvic floor (more toward the vaginal opening). From this position, take a deep breath in, then as you exhale engage, squeeze (like you are shutting off the flow of urine) and imagine drawing the diamond up inside of your vagina.
You just engaged the front of the pelvic floor!
Next, find the muscles in the back of the pelvic floor.
To access the back of the pelvic floor, tuck your pelvis under you so you are sitting more toward your tailbone. Inhale, let the muscles relax. As you exhale, squeeze the muscles like you are shutting off the flow of gas from your anus. Also, imagine drawing a diamond up inside your anus to find the lift of those muscles.
That’s the back of the pelvic floor!
Now come to a neutral pelvis position, sitting directly on the sit bones.
Inhale, let the muscles relax. Exhale and squeeze like you are shutting off the flow of urine AND gas, while also imagine drawing diamonds up within you.
You’ve found your entire pelvic floor!
You may find that either the back or front is weaker. This is totally normal. The more work you do on this, the more you can create balance through your entire pelvic floor.
Strengthen Abdominal Muscles
Our pelvic floor and our core are designed to work together.
And sometimes it can be easier to get the pelvic floor muscles to turn on by also contracting the muscles of the abdominals.
The inhale naturally relaxes the core and the pelvic floor. The exhale naturally engages the core and the pelvic floor.
So to begin, we will use the breath and inhale to allow everything to relax. As you exhale, imagine that you are engaging the pelvic floor like I just described in the kegel section.
Next, think about bringing that engagement into your belly. Engaging your low belly, mid-belly, and upper belly. You can use your hands as a guide to move the engagement up the body.
Remember, engagement is a subtle action. You shouldn’t be clenching or crunching, simply allow the engagement to move up. If you’re having trouble, try taking the hands and wrapping them around from the back to the front to help your body find the action (see the video for an example).
As you do this, you should feel tall and long if the correct muscles are firing. Remember to use the exhale whenever you are exerting yourself to help this engagement when you pick up your kids, sneeze, or cough.
Strengthen With A Pelvic Floor Trainer
A pelvic floor trainer is a piece of smart technology. Inserted into your vagina, it gives feedback to your phone or computer on how your muscles are working as you practice engaging.
The trainer will give you cues to engage your pelvic floor and it will help you work on overall strength (e.g. how strong the muscles are) and the muscles’ ability to work quickly (e.g. to protect you as you are about to sneeze). We will be releasing a more detailed post about pelvic floor trainers very soon. Stay tuned!
These are three simple ways to help increase strength in an underactive pelvic floor. By doing so, you can improve pelvic floor function which will allow you to get back to your active lifestyle without limitation!
Want to learn more about strengthening your post-baby core/pelvic floor with yoga? Click below to join my free masterclass.
Many women struggle with hip pain and pelvis instability post-baby, including SI Joint dysfunction. One cause of this is weak outer hip muscles. Try the simple exercise in the video below called “the hip hike” to increase outer hip strength, make your pelvis more stable, and reduce pain and discomfort.
If you’re like most people struggling with hip pain and discomfort, you’ve probably found yourself deep in the internet researching causes and cures and watching YouTube videos to figure out what, if anything, you can do to address your hip issues.
If that’s the case, you’ve likely heard these 3 pieces of advice that are super common but, frankly, not helping anyone fix their hips.
3 Myths About Fixing Your Postpartum Hip Problems
Myth 1: Hip Problems Are Just Part Of Life After Pregnancy
We’ve all probably heard this, in some form or another, from some well-meaning, but uninformed individual. They say the pain and discomfort you’re experiencing is just par for the course in your post-pregnancy life. Which basically means…You are just supposed to shut up and deal with it.
This line of thought does NOT help postpartum women.
Yes, of course, your body changes during and after pregnancy.
But it is NOT true that you have to deal with pain, discomfort, tightness or looseness in your hips forever.
All of these symptoms are simply signs that your body is out of balance. When you rebalance your body, you will feel better!
Please, do not just accept physical issues as a necessary part of your post-baby life.
Myth 2: If you have hip problems, you just need to stretch.
The second myth you’ve run across says that your hip issues would be solved by stretching alone. Hip stretches and hip openers are incredibly common suggestions given to anyone experience hip issues.
But if you are struggling with post-baby hip tightness, odds are that tightness is serving a purpose in your body.
Those hip muscles are tight because they are trying to stabilize the pelvis because other muscles aren’t doing their jobs. (i.e. you have muscular imbalances!)
Most often, your hips tighten up because the core, glutes, and pelvic floor are weak and aren’t properly stabilizing the body.
If the hips are desperately holding tight to stabilize the body, you create even more issues by stretching. When you stretch you destabilize an already unstable system. Because of this, you will likely feel tight again very soon after you stretched (and you might even feel tighter than you did before you stretched!!).
For this reason, hip stretches, alone, are ineffective. You need to make sure you are also strengthening the muscles that provide stability for the pelvis (core, glutes, possibly pelvic floor) so that the hip muscles can safely relax.
Myth 3: To fix hip problems, you just need to strengthen your glutes.
Finally, the third piece of common hip advice is that you just need to strengthen your glutes.
Admittedly, the glutes are very important for overall hip health. When working with women to heal their hips, we spend a lot of time on glute strength.
But it isn’t just about the glutes.
The glutes are one part of a larger set of muscular imbalances.
We have multiple muscles that are underworking, and multiple muscles that are overworking.
And to make things even more complicated, some of those overactive muscles actually shut down glute activity and prevent the glutes from working properly (!!)
So you could work your glutes all day every day. You might see some improvement.
But until you balance out the entire system of muscles surrounding the pelvis, you’re not going to stabilize your pelvis and feel better.
If you’re ready to learn how to create healthy, happy hips, join me in my free Happy Hips Masterclass.
Pregnancy does not hurt everyone’s hips…but if pregnancy impacted your hips, you KNOW it.
Your hips may feel loosey-goosey and unstable.
You may feel chronic tightness and tension.
You may feel like your SI joint is unstable or constantly hurting.
Pregnancy can affect our hips in many ways….and it doesn’t matter if you had your baby three weeks ago or 30 years ago. If you haven’t done the work to rebalance your body, you’re still being impacted by the physical changes of pregnancy.
CHANGES CAUSED BY PREGNANCY
Pregnancy creates massive imbalances in the body.
Your core, a fundamental support system for your body, must get weak to create room for the baby. This key change creates imbalances all over the body and can particularly impact our pelvis.
Here’s a pic of your pelvis.
It’s the gateway between your upper and lower body and is involved in every step you take. It’s also connected to, and impacted by, MANY muscles including the core, pelvic floor, back muscles, psoas, inner and outer hip muscles, adductors, hamstrings, quadriceps, and glute muscles.
In a normal body, the muscles connecting to the pelvis are balanced. When properly balanced, they keep your pelvis from moving much when you go for a walk or run or do your favorite exercise. The body likes this because too MUCH movement in the pelvis can put the spine at risk.
So for the pelvis…less movement = GOOD!
But pregnancy takes us out of balance. Certain muscles (like the core and glutes) get weak, and other muscles become overactive to pick up the slack for the weak areas.
And many of these imbalances impact the pelvis.
We feel this as hip pain, tightness, and instability!
So what exactly are the changes during pregnancy that can affect your hips?
INSTABILITY ABOVE THE PELVIS
First, as I mentioned above, your belly expands to accommodate the growing baby. Your core muscles have to lose strength to allow for that expansion. This is a big deal.
Normally, your core plays a key role in keeping your spine stable.
When the core can’t play the role of a spine stabilizer, other muscles will start working overtime to protect the spine.
Back muscles tighten to compensate for the weak core. This includes the paraspinal muscles and the quadratus lumborum (QL).
And even the hip muscle, the psoas (which connects to the spine and the legs).
End result above the pelvis? Tightness in the psoas and back, and a lack of stability for the pelvis from above!
INSTABILITY BELOW THE PELVIS
As the muscles of the back and the psoas are working overtime, the impact is also felt below your pelvis. The psoas is usually a hip flexor, but while it’s doing the job of stabilizing your spine it can’t move your leg effectively, so other hip muscles begin to take over the job of the psoas.
One of those muscles, the Tensor Fascia Latae (or TFL) on the outside of your hip, ends up doing a lot of extra lifting to get your leg in front of you and it becomes overworked. For many of us with IT band issues, the TFL is likely overworking since they are directly connected.
As the TFL works overtime, it inhibits the glutes from working properly (a.k.a. it shuts the glutes off!). The glutes already lost some strength over the course of pregnancy, but the overactive TFL will reduce the glutes more, causing them to become even weaker.
Weakness in the glutes results in muscles deep inside the pelvis, like the deep hip rotators (e.g. piriformis) and pelvic floor muscles tightening up to try to create the stability that the glutes usually create!
End result below the pelvis? Overactive outer hips and deep hip muscles, and weak glutes mean the pelvis isn’t properly stabilized from below!
So, as you can see, pregnancy creates imbalances in the muscles that stabilize the pelvis from both above AND below.
This means that the pelvis is now more mobile.
But, remember, for the pelvis, less movement = Good!
More movement = Bad!
The body doesn’t like a pelvis that moves around a lot. A pelvis that moves a lot can damage the spine.
HOW YOU EXPERIENCE THIS
The body will do everything it can to create stability. This might mean your hip flexors, pelvic floor, inner thighs, or back muscles get even tighter to try and keep the pelvis from moving.
But those muscles aren’t as good as stabilizing the pelvis as the core and glutes, so even though they are really tight, your pelvis is still pretty unstable.
What this feels like is lots of tightness and discomfort, paired with instability.
Feeling like your hips are SO tight, but you still have one side “coming out,” or your SI joint getting locked up all the time.
So how did pregnancy hurt your hips? It created imbalances that decreased your pelvis stability.
It’s normal! It’s predictable!
And, good news for you, it’s fixable!
What’s the solution?
Very simply, we have to rebalance the muscles of the body. We have to get the weak muscles working harder and overworked muscles to relax. We need each piece of our body to be doing the job it was intended to do.
We can’t pinpoint one muscle or area of the body and say ‘I’ll just make this stronger.’
Each muscle we use is impacted by those around it. We have to rebalance the entire system.
Pregnancy changed your hips, but you’re not doomed to live with way forever.
The common advice for women struggling with pelvic floor issues is to “do Kegels”.
BUT…this assumes that all women with PF issues have underactive pelvic floor muscles (a.k.a muscles on permanent vacay).
This is simply untrue.
Many women who struggle with pelvic floor issues have the opposite issue – overactive muscles.
Traditionally, women with overactive muscles would have to seek the help of a physical therapist to release those muscles. But today, there are a number of Pelvic Floor Massagers available so you can release your pelvic floor muscles from the comfort of your own home.
We’ve rounded up the best pelvic floor massagers on the market and include our top pick.
Here are the pelvic floor massage tools we reviewed:
When trying to kegel, they don’t feel much engagement (because the muscle is already engaged!),
Difficulty taking a deep, full breath,
Peeing with exertion (a.k.a. pee-sneezes),
Pelvic pain or tailbone pain,
Pain with intercourse, or
Trouble emptying bladder fully.
These individuals may also be more of a “type A” personality.
WHAT IS INTERNAL PELVIC FLOOR MASSAGE?
Women struggling with hyperactive pelvic floors, often have trigger points in their pelvic floor. These trigger points are areas of muscular tension or fascia constriction that prevent the muscles from working properly. They often feel tender to the touch and result in muscles that don’t work effectively.
Internal pelvic floor massage relaxes and lengthens the muscles and fascia of the pelvic floor to change how they work and reduce pain. This is done internally through either the vagina or rectum.
It can be done manually with a finger (as is typically done at a pelvic floor physiotherapist) or with the use of a tool, like a pelvic floor massager.
Pelvic Floor Massage helps the muscles relax and the body feel better in two ways:
By lengthening the muscles through physical manipulation, and
By changing the way that the brain is interacting with the muscle (similar to when you have a headache and distract yourself from the pain by pinching your arm).
The end result: Better working muscles and less pain and discomfort.
We share additional ways to release overactive pelvic floor muscles in this blog post.
HOW DOES A PELVIC FLOOR MASSAGER WORK?
Most pelvic floor massage tools are small, curved wands. They come in a variety of materials.
Image Source: Intimate Rose
These wands are inserted into the vagina or anus, about an inch deep, with the help of lubricant.
Once inserted, you gently press the wand into the internal muscles of the pelvic floor.
HOW TO USE A PELVIC FLOOR MASSAGE TOOL
For vaginal insertion, you will want to be lying on your back, with your knees bent.
Visualize the pelvic floor like a clock, with the pubic bone at 12:00 and the tailbone at 6:00. Once inserted gently massage the areas from 6:00 to 1:00 (Starting from the anus, along the right side of the pelvic floor, ending to the right of the urethra). And then return to 6:00 and massage from 6:00 to 11:00 (along the left side of the pelvic floor).
Avoid the area from 11:00 to 1:00 (the area directly behind the urethra). Direct pressure on that area is uncomfortable and can cause injury.
This video gives a nice explanation of the pelvic floor and how to use a pelvic floor massage tool.
Once you are finished, wash the tool with soap and water and store it in a clean location.
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM PELVIC FLOOR MASSAGE
A wide range of women (and men…but that’s another post for another day) can benefit from pelvic floor massage.
You may benefit from pelvic floor massage If you:
Experience the signs of overactive pelvic floors, mentioned above.
Experience unexplained pelvic pain that is unrelated to infection or gynecologic conditions like endometriosis or fibroids, or
Hold chronic tension in your deep hip rotator muscles (e.g. piriformis and obturator internus).
If you suspect that you have overactive pelvic floor muscles, it’s always a good idea to get confirmation from a pelvic floor physiotherapist before beginning any treatment.
PRECAUTIONS TO TAKE WHEN USING A PELVIC FLOOR MASSAGE TOOL
When using a Pelvic Floor Massage Tool make sure you follow all usage instructions from the manufacturer.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN USING A PELVIC FLOOR MASSAGE TOOL
When using a PF massage tool, it is common for it to feel very intense at the beginning. These muscles can hold large amounts of tension. Releasing that tension can feel similar to foam rolling tight muscles.
You may also experience MORE incontinence issues at first. As the muscles release, they must re-learn how to engage properly. In the interim, you may find that you are leaking more often. This should resolve over time.
WHAT IS THE BEST PELVIC FLOOR MASSAGER?
We’ve reviewed the majority of the available pelvic floor massage tools on the market (there aren’t that many!). Take a look through the pros/cons of each to find your best Pelvic Floor Massage Tool.
The Intimate Rose Pelvic Wand is a beautiful product designed by a doctor of physical therapy and a certified pelvic floor rehabilitation specialist.
A strong feature of this product is its design. Its unique shape allows you to reach both superficial and deep pelvic floor muscles. Many users noted that they could tell the tool was designed by someone with a good knowledge of pelvic floor muscles. And many reported that the tool reduced their pelvic floor tightness symptoms quickly.
One user indicated that they could not reach the piriformis muscle with the tool, but others did not report that issue.
This product also has the lowest price of the tools we reviewed, making it a great value for the money.
Designed with BPA-free, medical-grade silicone, so that it feels soft and smooth
Designed with a unique shape that helps the tool reach both superficial and deep pelvic floor muscles. This helps to better relieve pelvic pain deep within the pelvis.
It has two different sized/shaped ends, to suit your particular anatomy.
Both ends can be used vaginally or rectally to reach many of the pelvic floor muscles.
Easily cleaned with soap and water.
Most affordable of the tools reviewed (at the time of this writing).
Silicone coating can be damaged if left in a heated environment
Must avoid using silicone-based lubricants. Water-based lubricant is recommended to ensure the silicone doesn’t get damaged.
Like the original wand, the vibrating pelvic wand is a beautiful product designed by a doctor of physical therapy and certified pelvic floor rehabilitation specialist. It has the same unique design so that you can reach both superficial and deep pelvic floor muscles.
The vibration feature is designed to improve circulation in the pelvic floor, vaginal, and vulvar area. This makes this tool particularly useful for women who can benefit from increased blood flow to the area. This includes women who:
Experience chronic long-standing pelvic pain,
Are recovering from vaginal surgery,
Are post-cancer treatment (both pelvic and breast cancer)
Experienced a significant tailbone injury
Designed with BPA-free, medical-grade silicone so that it is soft and smooth to the touch
10 speeds of vibration
Designed with a unique shape that helps the tool reach both superficial and deep pelvic floor muscles. This helps to better relieve pelvic pain deep within the pelvis.
Has two different shaped ends, to suit your particular anatomy
Both ends can be used vaginally or rectally to reach many of the pelvic floor muscles.
Easily cleaned with soap and water.
Rechargeable with a USB wall charger
Silicone can be damaged if left in a heated environment
Must avoid silicone-based lubricants. A water-based lubricant is recommended to ensure the silicone doesn’t get damaged.
The TheraWand V-Wand was created with direct input from leading pelvic floor therapists. Made from high-quality acrylic, the wand includes two different shaped ends so that you can massage both broad areas and more targeted trigger points.
Although this wand can be used both vaginally and rectally, the manufacturers recommend their LA Wand for rectal massage.
This product seems to work well for pelvic floor massage, with a few users indicating they no longer need to see a physical therapist for manual treatment. One user mentioned that the acrylic material is quite hard, so it is important to use gentle pressure while using it. A few users mentioned that they did not receive instructions with the tool.
Designed with input from pelvic floor therapists.
Two different sized ends so that you can massage a broad area or more targeted trigger points.
Easily cleaned with soap and water.
Designed to allow you to control the exact amount of pressure and location of the massage
Some may find it too large for rectal usage (the company recommends their LA Wand for this).
Can not clean with alcohol.
Harder material (acrylic) might provide too much pressure for some.
If your pelvic floor is overactive, your goal is to find ways to release and relax those muscles.
(If your asking…how do I know if my pelvic floor is overactive? Head over to this post for our guide. If your symptoms sound more like an underactive pelvic floor, stay tuned!)
In an overactive pelvic floor, the muscles are chronically active. Often, they are overworking to create stability in your pelvis. This can lead to dysfunction that includes pain, poorly functioning muscles, leaking urine and a variety of other issues.
These four simple exercises can relax and release those pelvic floor muscles to create balance and reduce discomfort.
Happy Baby Breathing.
This simple breathing exercise starts by laying on your back in happy baby yoga position. Take your feet up and grab the outside of your feet with your hands, if possible.
If this position is challenging for you, just bend your knees and grab behind your thighs. This position naturally stretches the pelvic floor muscles.
From your desired position, allow your back and the back of the pelvis to settle down into the floor. Focus on the breath, particularly the inhale, which naturally expands the pelvic floor.
Begin deepening the breath and try to feel the inhale expand and stretch the pelvic floor. Let the exhale be passive (don’t worry about anything happening in your pelvic floor). Don’t worry if you can’t feel the breath in your pelvic floor at first. It can take some practice to get it to work!
Try to do 5-10 of these breaths per day to naturally relax those muscles.
Myofascial Release With A Ball.
Using a ball for myofascial release is another way you can begin to relax and release these muscles. Using a racquetball, tennis ball, or another small ball you have around the house (play with the size and firmness to find what’s comfortable for you), place the ball to the inside of one of your sitting bones.
(Not sure where your sitting bones are? bend over slightly and you will feel two bony protrusions in the center of your butt. That’s them!!)
In this position, the ball will be on one side of your pelvic floor.
If this feels too intense, place a towel or pillow underneath you to reduce the sensation.
With the ball under you, begin to take deep breaths, imagining you are breathing your pelvic floor into the ball. This will massage the muscles, breaking up some of the tension in the pelvic floor.
Stay there for a few breaths, then move the ball slightly forward, still on one side of the pelvic floor, to just behind your vagina.
Repeat the deep breaths.
Repeat on the second side to get into all the deep muscles in this area.
Internal Massage with a Pelvic Floor Massager
An internal pelvic floor massage toolis a device that you insert into your vagina to release both the superficial and deep muscles of the pelvic floor and deep hip.
It simulates the manual release that occurs when a pelvic floor physiotherapist manually releases your PF.
This is a very direct, and effective way to release tension that is chronically held, and difficult to access, in your pelvic floor.
We have a complete guide for Pelvic Floor Massage, including a review of the top pelvic floor massage tools.Click here to read!
Meditationis also an effective way to address pelvic floor overactivity. Typically, women with overactive pelvic floors tend to be more type-A, in general.
Implementing a regular, 10-15 minute daily meditation practice in your day can help reduce the level of tension in your body in general, including the tension in your pelvic floor.
These are four simple ways to help reduce activity in an overactive pelvic floor. By doing so, you can improve pelvic floor function which will allow you to get back to your active lifestyle without fear of pain or incontinence!
So many painful and uncomfortable postpartum body issues are considered normal.
They are chronic issues. And society tells women they are a normal part of “becoming a mom.”
Well I call BS.
There is a difference between issues that are common, meaning many women experience them, and issues that are normal, meaning they are a necessary byproduct of the birth and delivery process.
Many of the COMMON issues women are experiencing CAN and SHOULD be corrected by proper rebalancing of the postpartum body.
Check out our list of postpartum issues that are COMMON..but not normal.
Pelvic floor dysfunction… in other words, you are leaking pee:
We hear this all. the. time. This has become a joke in our culture. Many moms will say it’s just a ‘normal’ part of postpartum life. “Oh, you had a baby? Well…have fun on the trampoline!” Leaking urine during the course of daily life isn’t a joke. In fact, it is a sign that your body isn’t working properly. It’s a sign that your body is not handling the load you are putting on it and is in fact a warning that your pelvic floor is not working properly. So while this is a common issue, it should not be a normal way of living once you are out of the immediate postpartum, healing, phase. Learn more about this issue (and ways to minimize leaking) right here.
Weak Vaginal Wall Muscles…aka your tampons are falling out:
If you have the sensation that your vagina can’t hold tampons or your menstrual cup in, or if they feel unstable or just ‘not right’, this is a sign that the musculature in this part of your body is weak and needs to be strengthened. Pelvic floor physiotherapy is commonplace in some counties (bonjour, France!) as a way of retraining these muscles to work properly so these annoying issues go away.
Unstable core making you feel like Raggedy Ann or a limp noodle:
When I first went back to work after having a baby, my boss, and friend, noticed that I was always collapsed in my chair, leaning over the office table. I looked and FELT like Raggedy Ann because I was incredibly weak in my core. If you just had a baby, this is normal. Those muscles will take some time to recover. But if you are a few months or even years out from baby being born and still feel like a limp noodle when sitting upright or have a hard time staying upright for any length of time, this is a sign that that you haven’t recovered your deep core strength. The Heal Your Core With Yoga program can help you with this!
Tight back muscles…feeling old before your time:
Nothing like a chronically achy back to make you feel old and creaky. The paraspinals, back muscles that line the spine, become overworked and tight when the core is weak. The back muscles start doing the work for the core when it slacks off. Retraining and strengthening the core lets those back muscles relax a bit and release their iron grip. Back tightness and the sense that you always need to stretch those tense muscles will ease as we bring the core back into balance. P.S. If you wake up every morning with back pain, check out this quick video tip.
Neck and shoulder discomfort:
The tightness and discomfort you feel in your neck and shoulders may not seem related to the changes of pregnancy, but there are chain reactions occuring your body that creep all the way up to the top. Think about nursing, rocking and holding a baby in the post-partum period. Now, add to this the fact that most women are not breathing properly after having a baby, and have muscles compensating for the weakness in their noodly core. Together, these lead to tension and tightness. For three simple ways to reduce neck and shoulder tension, head here.
If you are struggling with any of these issues, know that you are NOT alone. We work with women everyday to help them strengthen and rebalance their postpartum body.
An extremely common issue for postpartum women is pelvic floor weakness. This is a main contributor to the common postpartum complaint of leaking pee.
Jumping on the trampoline, sneezing, or even laughing can all cause urine leakage with a weak pelvic floor.
So how do we correct this?
Unfortunately, the solution that gets the most press is…kegels.
However, kegels are NOT always the solution. And, for some women, kegels can actually make the situation worse.
So let’s dive a little deeper and uncover the root cause of your pelvic floor weakness.
WEAKNESS DOES NOT ALWAYS MEAN UNDERACTIVE MUSCLES!
This first point can be a little hard to understand, but it’s important!
Pelvic floor weakness does not necessarily mean that your muscles are underactive (a.k.a. On permanent vacation).
For many women, pelvic floor weakness is caused by OVERactive pelvic floor muscles (a.k.a. Muscles that are working really hard all day long).
What you need to remember: Whether the muscles are not engaging enough, or are holding on for dear life, both of these scenarios cause weakness in the pelvic floor.
What happens in an underactive pelvic floor?
Underactive pelvic floor muscles are weak in the same way a muscle that never gets exercised is weak. If you never strengthen your bicep, that muscle will be weak. If I place a 10 lb weight in your bent arm, that arm is going to immediately drop to your side. Your muscle doesn’t have the strength to contract against the load of that 10 lb weight.
The same thing can happen with your pelvic floor. If your pelvic floor muscles are underactive, they have trouble contracting fully and/or holding that contraction. So when you sneeze, and put a large amount of pressure on the pelvic floor, the muscles can’t hold the contraction and you likely end up pee-ing yourself.
Underactive pelvic floor muscles do not have the strength to contract fully. This means that when you sneeze, they don’t have the strength to protect you from leaking.
What happens in an overactive pelvic floor?
Overactive pelvic floor muscles are weak because they are trying to contract all the time.
Imagine your bicep again. If I ask you to bend your arm and squeeze your bicep for the entire day, that muscle is going to get TIRED because it is working so hard.
Then when I place a 10 lb weight in your hand, the arm will, again, drop to your side. In this case, it will happen because the muscle is so worn out from the work it has been doing that it has become weak. Weak from overactivity.
This is similar to what happens in an overactive pelvic floor. Overactive pelvic floor muscles are weak because they are being held in a constantly contracted position. So, when you sneeze, those pelvic floor muscles can’t contract fully because they are worn out from being in a constant state of contraction. The end result…you pee yourself!
Do You Have An Underactive or Overactive Pelvic Floor?
How do you know what is happening in your pelvic floor?
First, it’s helpful to see a physiotherapist who specializes in pelvic floors. They will be able to assess you internally and tell you exactly what is happening in your muscles.
However, that isn’t always accessible or possible. Luckily, there are some other ways you can get a sense of what is happening in your muscles.
Signs of an underactive pelvic floor
If you have an underactive pelvic floor, you likely feel that, when you kegel, it is hard to hold that engagement. You likely feel quivering in the muscles and that the muscles stop engaging relatively quickly.
You may also feel like tampons don’t stay in as well as they once did. Or you may feel that you have less sensation during sexual intercourse.
Also, the muscles often reflect the personality of a person. So, if you are more of a relaxed, Type B, person in general, it’s likely your pelvic floor muscles are underactive.
If you’ve suffered from pelvic floor issues or a lack of core strength, you may have already ditched your 3-mile run. But you shouldn’t give up on lacing up your shoes and getting out the door.
Instead of running, try walking. Walking your former running route is a great full body, cardio activity. It also helps create conditions for a healthier core. You read that right.
Walking in proper alignment can help you create a stronger, healthier core. How? Let’s dive in!
Why Walk Consistently?
How does walking impact core strength and healing?
Stronger Glutes and Happy Hips
Walking strengthens the glutes and stretches the hip muscles. (And stronger glutes contribute to a health pelvic floor.) Both of these actions help bring your body into proper alignment. Proper alignment is the key for a healthy core.
Increased Circulation and Healing
Walking regularly increases circulation. Increased circulation can speed the healing of connective tissue and muscles. This is good for both pelvic floor issues and diastasis recti (abdominal separation).
If you aren’t sure if your walk is aligned correctly, pay attention to the next part of this post.
How to Walk With Good Alignment
I can already hear you protesting. “But, Catherine, I already know how to walk. I learned that ages ago.”
Yes, you know how to walk. What you probably don’t know is how to walk properly. All the time we spend sitting has weakened our walking muscles. Those weakened muscles don’t perform as well as they should, leading to walking with suboptimal alignment.
The good news is that you can fix your walk by becoming more aware of it. After that, you set about adjusting your stride to encourage proper body alignment. Here are four things to look for when you’re walking:
Roll the Foot Heel to Toe
The heel of your foot should hit the ground before any other part of your foot. When you walk, you want there to be a smooth rolling motion from the heel to the ball of the foot and then on to the toes. When you walk, try to notice which part of your foot hits the ground first. If it’s not your heel, make a conscious effort to change your stride and focus on having your heel hit the ground first. The rest of the stride should follow after that.
Use the Foot to Push Off the Ground
In an ideal walk, your foot should push off the ground, not slide along it or shuffle. To achieve this walk, first hit the ground with your heel. From your heel, roll the all the way to the toes. As the ball of the foot and the toes are rolling onto the ground, you should start to push the ground away from you.
Does that sound like what happens when you walk? You may need spend some time noticing how you walk to identify areas that need improvement.
Keep Legs Hip-Width Apart
For proper alignment to happen, your legs need to remain hip-width apart when you walk. But how can you tell how wide apart your legs are? Try this test: Place your feet on each side of a sidewalk crack. Take a few steps forward and notice where your feet go.
If they move towards the crack when you walk, you need to work on keeping your legs at hip-width. If your feet stay an even distance from the crack (or other line), you’re fine.
When you’re testing your stride, be mindful of your foot alignment. Are you turning your toes outward, away from the crack? Your feet should be pointed straight forward and should be parallel to the crack.
Once you’ve determined how you normally walk, find what hip-width looks like for you. Start becoming mindful of what your legs feel like when you walk with them hip-width apart. It may feel strange at first, but keep practicing it.
Move From the Hip (Straight)
In a proper walk, you shouldn’t use your knee to move your leg. Instead, your movement should come from your hip. This is going to sound counterintuitive, but trust me.
Don’t bend your knee and lift your leg when you walk. You should push off the foot and send the leg back behind you from the hip. When you start walking from the hip, you’ll notice a difference. Your knee will feel kind of spongy. There will be a soft bend to it, but there shouldn’t be much force behind the bend.
Pelvis Stays Straight
Once you start walking from the hip, be sure to keep your pelvis from moving. When you move from the hip, you might find that your pelvis rotates with your steps. You end up moving your right hip forward for your right step. And the left hip moves forward for the left step.
The movement in your pelvis isn’t ideal. It doesn’t help open your hip muscles. You want your pelvis to stay straight and allow the legs to extend within the hip.
Eyes on the Horizon
When you walk, look ahead of you. Too often, we get wrapped up in what we’re doing. We tend to look down at our phones, our kids, etc. What we really need to do is look to the horizon. That helps ensure that your body is upright and not leaning forward.
The next time you find yourself looking down when you walk, look at the horizon. You may see something you’ve never noticed on your normal walking route.
Get a Core-Strong Walk
Developing a core-strong walk is all about technique and consistency. It will likely take you some time to identify how to improve your walk. Once you have the problem areas noted, you’ll need regular practice to make your new walk feel natural.
Even with pelvic floor issues, cardio isn’t out of your reach, especially if you develop a core-strong walk.
If you’ve done any research on postpartum core strength or diastasis recti, you’ve likely seen conflicting information on crunches.
“Never do them again!”
“They are the only/best way to heal your core!”
Well, like most things in life, the answer to “Can/Should I do crunches?” is…complicated.
So, let’s talk about crunches.
When to avoid them, how to know when you are ready to get back to them, and how to do crunches in a way that won’t damage or re-injure your postpartum core.
WHEN TO AVOID CRUNCHES
A common recommendation for postpartum women is to avoid crunches altogether.
Where does this advice come from?
Newly postpartum women often have a separation of their abdominal muscles (diastasis recti) and a lack of coordination and muscle tone in their core/pelvic floor muscles.
Not sure if you have a diastasis? Here’s a self-test video.
This lack of muscle coordination makes doing a crunch with proper technique almost impossible!
Proper crunch technique requires that you engage your deepest layer of core muscles (the transverse abdominis) and your pelvic floor as you crunch.
When those muscles are engaged, your core will have a very flat appearance as you crunch (there won’t be any doming or raised area in the middle).
If those deep core muscles aren’t working, when you do a crunch it puts extra pressure on the weak connective tissue of the abdominals (making a diastasis worse) or pushes pressure downward into the pelvic floor muscles (which can contribute to prolapse or pelvic floor dysfunction).
That increased pressure out on the belly is also the reason that, for some postpartum women, crunches can make a pooched belly appearance worse.
So, If you can’t engage your deepest core muscles effectively (the transverse abdominis and the muscles of the pelvic floor), then you want to stay away from crunches until you have better control over those muscles. That will allow you to protect your pelvic floor and connective tissue from the pressure inside your abdomen.
If you know you have abdominal separation or need help getting your muscles firing in a coordinated fashion, Heal Your Core With Yoga is a great place to start with rebuilding those core muscles from the inside out.
Once you’ve got your deep core muscles and pelvic floor coordinated and strong do you still need to avoid crunches?
No, You’re ready for crunches!
PROPER CRUNCH TECHNIQUE
Once you have those muscles working, let’s make sure you are doing a crunch the RIGHT way. Poor crunch technique can cause problems!!
The core and pelvic floor naturally engage when you breathe out. So we will use that natural engagement to your advantage!
– Lying on your back, breathe in deeply.
– Then, on the exhale, engage the pelvic floor and transverse abdominis and imagine a corset wrapping around your belly as you lift your head and shoulders off the ground.
– When done properly, your abdomen should look flat from side to side. This is a sign that the transverse is firing!
Issues to watch for:
DOMING: If your belly looks like it is doming (highest in the middle and lower on the sides) this is a sign that you aren’t maintaining transverse engagement (and an indication that you are putting pressure on your linea alba, the connective tissue at the center of the core).
Stop doing crunches until you have gotten the muscles strong enough to prevent doming.
PRESSURE IN PELVIC FLOOR: If you feel pressure or heaviness on your pelvic floor as you crunch (or immediately after), this is a sign that your pelvic floor engagement isn’t sufficient for the amount of pressure being placed on it during the crunch.
This could be because your pelvic floor is weak OR it could be that you have an overactive pelvic floor.
Either way, you’ll want to make sure you address this issue before continuing with crunches.
So, do you have to give up crunches forever? No!
You just need to make sure that your body is ready for crunches and that you are doing them in a way that protects your postpartum body.
In the second exercise, we will focus on transverse engagement while seated.
Seated on a chair, find a neutral pelvis position where your sit bones connect to the chair.
Slide yourself back against the back of the chair so that your core doesn’t have to hold you upright.
Again, we are going to use our breath. As you inhale, let the belly relax.
As you exhale, think about those transverse muscles that make up the ‘corset’ of your body engaging which will pull your belly gently inward.. They wrap from the back of your spine all the way to the front. And reach from your ribs down to your public bone.
As they engage, you should feel like you get taller and longer not like you are crouching or crunching.
Finding this feeling can take practice so, give it some time!
Post-Baby Core Strength Exercise 3: 90/90 Breathing and Transverse Engagement
For the third exercise, I want you to return to your back. If you have a yoga block at home, grab that and bring it to the floor with you. This Technique is called 90/90 breathing because your legs create 90 degree angles at your hips and knees.
Take your legs slightly wider than your knees and internally rotate your legs just a bit. If you have one, take the block between your knees.
Now, find your breath.
As you inhale, everything relaxes. Try to inhale very deeply to prepare for a nice, long, exhale.
As you exhale, draw the pelvic floor up first. Continue exhaling and draw those hip bones together to engage your low belly. Keep exhaling and move the engagement even higher into the middle/upper transverse. Eventually, you may even feel like your upper transverse abdominals pull your ribs down so they come in line with the hips.
Then take a deep inhale and relax everything, and begin engaging again on the exhale from the bottom up again. Pelvic floor, low belly, mid belly, upper belly, ending with a big inhale.
If this simple version is very available to you, you can try giving the block a bit of a squeeze on the exhale to increase engagement.
A quick safety note: if you feel any pressure down on your pelvic floor while doing the 90/90, ease up and work on balancing or strengthening your pelvic floor first.
There they are! 3 simple core-strengthening exercises.
Keep in mind…with postpartum core-strengthening there are two factors to consider.
The first is general strength, which we focused on in these exercises today. This creates an excellent foundation for your core-health. However, it isn’t the only piece. If you ONLY focus on core strengthening exercises, your core will only be strong when you do those types of movements. You will be missing a key part of core health.
The second, often overlooked, factor is core function. You want to make sure that your core strength translates to functional movements like twisting, reaching, and bending. Functional strength allows you to move through your day with strength and ensures you don’t damage your core through every day movements.
Yoga is an amazing tool for both general and functional core strength because it takes your body through a full range of movement under controlled conditions.
When we combine these two factors – general and functional core strength – your core will be strong in ANY situation or position you throw at it.
One key to healing your core after pregnancy is your alignment. I often discuss how three key alignment changes (hips over heels, neutral pelvis, and neutral ribs) minimize intra-abdominal pressure and turn on the deep core muscles.
But for many new moms, a common question arises: how can I maintain alignment and healing while baby-carrying or baby-wearing?
Holding a squirming bundle in our arms, or in a carrier, throws off our posture and strains our core.
So let’s discuss how to do this in the most core-safe way.
How to Baby Carry In a Core-Safe Way
The Newborn days
In those first few weeks, when your newborn has no head control, you’re likely using your hips to support the weight, and rounding over to keep them secure. It’s very hard to maintain good alignment in this newborn stage!
The good news…This only lasts a couple months. Don’t put extra pressure on yourself in those early days.
Once Your Baby Has Head Control
However, once baby has a little more head control and is getting heavier, it’s time to become more mindful of your body position.
Holding in Arms
Our tendency is to throw one hip out to one side (usually the same hip every time) and let the baby rest on the shelf of our hip bone. This position is less than ideal.
It makes it hard to engage our deep core muscles and increases outward pressure on the abdominal connective tissue. This increase in pressure is particularly harmful if you have diastasis- recti or a prolapsed pelvic floor.
We can ease that pressure by keeping the hips square. When you pick the baby up, use your arm to hold the baby (as much as possible) rather than the hips. When one arm gets tired, switch to the other side. You can also take them in front with both arms as support. At first, this feels hard and strange. With time, you will build arm strength and it will become easier.
As your baby becomes a toddler, try to use the piggy-back method when they need to be carried. This allows you to keep alignment and squared hips while giving tired toddler legs a break.
For those of you using a baby carrier, here are a few tips that will help you maintain alignment and minimize intra-abdominal pressure.
As soon as baby is big enough, move them to the back instead of carrying on the front. This allows you to use the natural protection of the bones in the back, the ribcage and spine, to avoid straining the core.
If your baby isn’t big enough or isn’t ready to be on the back, make sure that while you front carry you don’t shift your hips forward as you get tired. Instead, lean forward slightly and take breaks often.
Regardless of whether you wear your baby in front or back, makes sure that the straps are fitted properly. You want the baby nice and snug against your body and the waistband snug around the hips. When the straps are too loose, we tend to move into poor alignment to compensate.
In general, make sure you take breaks as often as possible to avoid fatigue in your muscles.
Even though it feels like you will be carrying that heavy child around forever, I promise you, those days will be behind you soon enough! Your core (and entire body) will appreciate the time and attention you put into proper baby carrying during this season of your life.
As moms, it has become normal to joke about peeing our pants. I get it. We use humor when talking about difficult topics.
While incontinence may be common in postpartum women, it is not normal. In fact, leaking is a sign of dysfunction in the core/pelvic floor system.
Today I’ve got two tips to share for those of you struggling with leaking. These are actions you can take right now to work on improving this.
Tip #1: Find Pelvic Floor Balance
First, a little anatomy. Your pelvic floor is a huge set of muscles that connect from the pubic bone at the front of your pelvis, to the tailbone at the back of your pelvis. We should be able to engage the entire set of muscles. But, often, women who leak are instructed to “do more kegels” by just squeezing the muscles that shut off the flow of urine. That cue engages only a small portion of the pelvic floor muscles.
You want to make sure you are engaging the entirety of your pelvic floor – both the front and back. We do this by playing with our pelvis positioning.
To test out your balance, try this. Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground.
1. First, engage the muscles at the front of the pelvic floor.
a) Tilt your hip bones forward to move your pelvis into an anterior pelvic tilt position.
b) Then engage your pelvic floor by squeezing the muscles that shut off the flow of urine.
c) Try to hold that engagement for 10 seconds and observe what happens.
2. Then engage the muscles at the back of the pelvic floor.
a) Tilt your hip bones back and tuck your pelvis under you (Posterior Pelvic Tilt Position).
b) Now engage the back of your pelvic floor by squeezing the muscles that shut off the flow of gas.
c) Again try and hold that engagement for 10 seconds.
3. Now engage the entire pelvic floor.
a) Bring your pelvis back to a neutral position (sitting on your sit bones)
b)Now engage the entire pelvic floor by engaging the muscles that shut off the flow of urine AND the muscles that shut off the flow of gas.
c) Now you have all your pelvic floor muscles firing. What happens when you try to hold for 10 seconds?
While doing this, ask yourself: how is your balance? Does one part feel stronger or weaker? If so, you would benefit from creating balance in those muscles.
You might be asking…but what does this have to do with leaking?
The muscles that are responsible for holding urine are in the front of your pelvis.
By positioning your upper body in a slightly forward position, you encourage the muscles at the front of the pelvic floor to engage more readily…which helps prevent leaking! (Watch the video above for a clear visual of how this works!)
Tip #2: Work the Fast and Slow Twitch Muscles
So now that we’ve got the body positioned to help these muscles fire more efficiently, the second step is to work both muscle types. Your pelvic floor has two types of muscles, fast-twitch and slow-twitch.
The slow-twitch muscles help hold your internal organs in. They are designed for holding a low level of engagement over a long period of time. When you hold a kegel for 10 seconds, you are engaging your slow-twitch muscles. If they are weak, you may find them getting shaky as you hold them. However, these are NOT the muscles that stop the flow of urine.
Fast twitch muscles turn on with sudden demand (like when you sneeze or hit the ground in a jumping jack). These are the primary muscles that help you prevent leaking. These muscles engage quickly, for just a moment, and then they relax.
For this reason, it’s important that your pelvic floor training works both types of muscles. You want to engage your pelvic floor with long holds (e.g. 10 seconds) and multiple reps of quick pulses (squeeze, release, squeeze, release). This will train your pelvic floor to respond to the demands of daily life and those sudden moments of intense pressure (like a sneeze).
The unpleasant leaking that many moms experience does not have to be a fact of life. Body positioning AND training both fast- and slow-twitch muscles can help reduce leaking once and for all.
Upper back and neck discomfort are some of the most common issues we hear about from moms.
Why is that?
Well, for one, moms spend a lot of time ‘rounding.’ As a mother to a little one you may be breastfeeding and carrying babies. On top of that, we live in a culture with excessive sitting and we spend all day looking at a phone. These all contribute to a more rounded posture. This rounding causes muscle imbalances that lead to pain.
There are also specific postpartum changes that can worsen this issue. These include extreme tightness of back muscles and changes in our breathing patterns from pregnancy. I have three simple tips that can help reduce this common discomfort.
Here are my top 3 very simple tips for addressing and reducing this discomfort:
Tip 1: Correct your head position.
When your head is aligned over the spine, it puts very little weight on your spine. But if you move your head forward, you increase the pressure/weight pulling on your spine substantially. When our spine and head are stacked properly, things are working as they should be. But once that stack has shifted, we create a lot more work for our muscles.
The best way to remedy this is what I call ‘the eavesdrop.’ Instead of leaning in, imagine you are listening to a super juicy conversation…behind you. When you do this, your head pops back in line with the rest of your spine and creates some immediate relief for your upper back and neck.
Tip 2: Breathe properly.
During pregnancy, many of us learn to breathe in a less than ideal way. Instead of using our diaphragm and extending our rib cage (as is ideal), we start using secondary muscles in our necks and shoulders to breathe. Breathe in, shoulders lift. They lift to try to create more space in the rib cage, but the result is fatigued and tight muscles.
Instead, keep your shoulders down, keep the neck soft, and inhale and feel your rib cage expand left to right and forward and back. When you do this, your belly is going to move and your rib cage will expand. The shoulders and neck won’t need to work to help you breathe, and can get a much needed break.
Tip 3: Open your back body.
In the previous tip, we talked about expanding the rib cage to breathe…however, a lot of postpartum women are extremely tight in their back muscles and find that when they try to expand their rib cage, it doesn’t move! Those tight muscles prevent the movement of your ribs.
To open the back body, I recommend a simple exercise. Find something low to the ground, like a stable chair, and come into a squatting position in front of it. Grab hold of the bottom (chair legs, couch, etc) with your arms around your legs. Have a rounded spine, and drop your chin to your chest.
As the legs are pressing against the front of our body and we breathe in, this opens the back muscles from the inside. Let your head relax down, and breathe really deeply and feel the expansion in the back body.
Do 5-10 breathes like that every day to help open up these muscles and rib breathing will become much easier.
A quick note: if this doesn’t feel good on your pelvic floor…maybe it feels like you will pee if you do that, you can modify this by sitting in a chair and place your feet on blocks in front of you. Wrap your arms around yourself, and tuck your chin into your chest and do these same deep breaths.
Becoming a mom does NOT mean you must struggle with tight, achy necks and shoulders. If you are looking for a comprehensive system to help strengthen your post-baby core and bring some balance back to the body, you might be interested in my FREE training: How to Safely Practice Yoga With A Diastasis. Click here to sign up.
Some of the most common (and beloved!) poses in yoga include traditional hip openers…but these poses may not be serving your post-baby body. Read below (or watch the video) to understand why!
As a new yoga teacher I LOVED putting people into some long hip openers. Think half-pigeon and Baddha Konasana, poses where legs are externally rotating to open the hips.
Well, you know what they say… when you know better, you do better. Now, when I see extended hip openers in yoga, I cringe. For most postpartum bodies, these poses aren’t helping…and are possibly making hip issues worse.
Pregnancy As An Injury
In many ways, pregnancy acts like an injury to the body.
Pregnancy creates certain muscular imbalances and these imbalances destabilize parts of the body.
Most notably, the core and pelvic floor weaken, and the back and hip flexors tighten to compensate.
The Role of The Core
In a normal body, the core creates stability for the spine and pelvis (among other jobs).
The muscle tone in your core keeps your spine from being too loosy-goosy. This prevents herniated discs and other back issues that we don’t want.
The abdominals also stabilize the pelvis from above and keep the pelvis from shifting around with every step we take.
Muscular Changes During Pregnancy
However, as your baby grows during pregnancy, your core muscles weaken and can’t provide the stability the body needs.
Other parts of the body pick up the slack. The muscles of the back and the hip flexors, especially the psoas, lock down to stabilize the spine.
This creates a lovely, messy cascade in the body.
With the psoas doing the job of the core, the pelvis loses stability.
As a result, another muscle, the tensor fasciae latae (TFL), starts locking down.
The TFL is on your outer hip, around where your pant pockets would be. It’s primarily responsible for turning the leg out.
But when it needs to, it can tighten to create stability in the pelvis. (Sidenote: the TFL connects to the IT band. If your ITB has been bothering you since pregnancy, the TFL might be the culprit!)
So, as your core is weakening, the back, psoas and TFL are working overtime on jobs they aren’t designed to do. This impacts other body parts.
The TFL is a bully to the glutes, and shuts them off.
When that happens it causes more instability for the pelvis, so other areas kick in.
Sometimes this includes the pelvic floor. (If you’ve got a tight pelvic floor…this might be why!)
What do you get from this big mess?
Things like extremely tight hips, an unstable pelvis, SI joint instability, IT band flare ups, and that post-pregnancy mom-butt!
STRETCHING IS NOT THE ANSWER!
When we feel tight and achy…what do we do?
Most of us immediately think ‘STRETCH!’
We get into half-pigeon and other hip openers to get some relief.
Unfortunately, when we stretch, we force muscles to lengthen that are working REALLY hard to create stability.
Think about that for a moment…what are you doing to your body?
By stretching muscles that are holding things in place, you destabilize the entire system.
This is the reason that any relief that comes from the stretching doesn’t last for long…and why you may feel EVEN tighter afterward.
Your muscles are trying to protect you from the length you’ve created.
A Different Approach
So what do we do? If you’re feeling chronically tight or unstable, I know you want relief.
And while stretching can be helpful, our top priority must be to rebalance the imbalances pregnancy created.
We need to strengthen muscles that are weak so that the overworked muscles can chill out!
Hi there! I’m Catherine Middlebrooks, a yoga instructor and postpartum corrective exercise specialist.
I’m on a mission to help moms reclaim their core and pelvic floor strength so they can get back to the activities they love.