How many niggly body issues do you put up with every day, either because you haven't got time to deal with them, or because you think 'that's just the way it is' after you have kids or as you get older? Here are some of the common complaints lots of mums suffer from, but tend to do nothing about...
Neck and shoulder tension
A tugging or drawing down sensation in your pelvis
Recognise any of these little gems? Ignore these cues at your peril, as they are signs that your body has a weakness or mis-alignment that needs to be addressed.
Backache and urine leakage, for example, suggest a weak core. Without strengthening your mid-section and pelvic floor, pelvic organ prolapse is a real risk. Your core includes your pelvic floor, and the entire system needs to function optimally for a strong midsection, a flatter tummy and a pelvic floor that does its job.
The good news is that these problems aren't something we have to just put up with, and they can be reversed, through careful lifestyle adjustments. Committing to good nutrition and the right exercise will make huge improvements.
Re-connect with, and strengthen your core
We hear all the time about the need to strengthen our core. But you need to re-connect physiologically with these muscles to get them to work - so don't jump straight to planks or hard workouts! A tailored core programme that starts by re-connecting and restoring muscle function is essential to build the foundations of a stronger core.
Improve posture and ease neck and shoulder tension with regular yoga stretches and, vitally, pay attention to pelvic alignment with 'barefoot' footwear, less sitting and more walking.
Leaking when you cough, sneeze, or exercise is a sign that your pelvic floor and core are weak. You may also experience pelvic 'heaviness' as you exercise. Both symptoms are red flags that shouldn't be ignored. If you don't take heed, the problems are likely to get worse and you may be at risk of pelvic organ prolapse.
To improve pelvic floor function, the muscles need to be able to both contract and relax more effectively. A tight, shortened muscle is just as weak as a slack, ineffective one. First off, you need to focus and 'connect' with all three areas of your pelvic floor: the front (where you squeeze to stop yourself urinating), the back (where you stop yourself from passing gas), and the middle (the bit that your baby came out of!).
Try to think of pelvic floor exercises, less as a lateral squeeze, and more in terms of a 'lift' deep up inside, both in the middle and at the back. Don't hold your breath, take care not to clench your buttocks, inner thighs or indeed to tense or hunch your shudders - this is all going on inside!
The way you carry yourself and align your body for standing, walking and twisting, also affects whether you use the pelvic floor muscles, or bear down on them. If you hold your body correctly as you move around, your pelvic floor muscles will be able to naturally do their job.
2 common habits detrimental to pelvic floor health and function, and what to do instead:
1.Tucking your tailbone underneath you and clenching or gripping your buttocks.
Instead let go and let your backside curve out and proud! Your pelvic floor needs to function at its full length to be strong.
2. Sucking in your stomach. Forcefully holding or pulling in your tummy is not 'engaging your core' - it simply displaces pressure inside your abdomen and exerts even more pressure down onto your pelvic floor.
Instead, engaging your core is a gentle, slight movement of the deep Transverse Abdominis muscle. Try as you exhale to gently draw your lower abdomen inwards (you are likely to also feel a contraction in the pelvic floor - this is fine - they're connected). Then relax and inhale, before you exhale and engage the muscles again. Your shoulders shouldn't rise, your backside shouldn't tuck and your ribs should stay down. Try to feel and see the movement only in your lower abdomen. Try this side-on to a full length mirror to check everything else stays relaxed.
Eat for healthy muscles
Start caring for the woman inside the mother, and really nourish your body so it can heal and get strong. You need abundant green vegetables, essential fats, good protein and plenty of hydration, whilst strictly limiting sugar and processed foods.
Don't wait for the small stuff to become a BIG problem, start finding your pelvic Mojo again now!
*Note: If you are persistently suffering pain or discomfort from any of the conditions mentioned please also see your doctor and request a referral to a Women's Health Physiotherapist (more information on the MuTu System website)