Keep Your Pelvic Floor Jolly This Year!

We are in the thick of the Holiday Season!

We are in the thick of the holiday season, with the end of the year quickly approaching! There have been many changes and obstacles throughout the year and the last thing anyone needs is their holiday spirit dampened by a dysfunctional pelvic floor.

Have you noticed the onset of urinary incontinence, pelvic pain, constipation, stomach bloating, or overall heaviness throughout the past couple of months?
Or maybe you have experienced these in the past and have worked hard to overcome these symptoms, only to see them start to return once again.

Could the holidays have anything to do with this?

Here are some factors that may contribute to the onset or worsening of your pelvic floor symptoms (urinary urge and/or incontinence, pelvic pain, prolapse, constipation…) over the holidays.

Stress

We have all experienced holiday stress, and I’m sure this year won’t be any different! Whether it’s family, meal prep, present selection, or navigating another holiday with COVID, stress seems to be a staple of the holidays.

Have you ever noticed that when you are stressed your shoulders start to creep up towards your ears, causing increased neck and shoulder pain?

Another common location that we tend to hold stress (other than our upper trap muscles) is within our pelvic floor muscles.  The holding of tension in our pelvic floor muscles, especially over extended periods of time, can contribute to the same kind of muscle tension, guarding, and pain as seen at our shoulders. This tension doesn’t only cause increased pelvic pain, but can also contribute to urinary incontinence, constipation, and weakness!! Ask your physical therapist how!

Diet

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I like to pretend that “holiday calories” don’t count.  I like to indulge in some sugary sweets and occasionally have a festive beverage or two! Try some Healthy Holiday Recipes.

Sugar, caffeine, and alcohol (amongst others) are known bladder irritants. You may experience the urge to urinate more frequently as your body works to flush these irritants out of your system and create a more balanced environment within your bladder.  These irritants, along with foods like gluten, dairy, and other processed foods can also contribute to digestive symptoms such as bloating, constipation, and even reflux.

Activity

Maybe you have been using exercise as a stress reliever or have gotten a head start on your New Year’s exercise goals. OR maybe you are like me and between the cold weather, gym closures, and change in schedule, you have started to slack on your exercise routine. Either way, your pelvic floor could be affected!

Advancing your exercise routine or trialing a new mode of exercise (while encouraged) can place increased stress on your body.  If your pelvic floor is not coordinated or strong enough for the new jumping, heavy lifting, or extended running activities you are engaging in, your body will likely tell you about it. This could be experienced through symptoms such as exercise-induced urinary incontinence, hip and/or low back pain, or even exacerbation of pelvic organ prolapse. **If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, reach out to your physical therapist for assistance in properly advancing your exercise routine!**

Decreasing your exercise levels (or forgetting to keep up your physical therapy homework) could lead to setbacks in strength gains.  Besides the associated urinary symptoms (incontinence, prolapse, hip/pelvic/back) that may be experienced, our digestive system is also affected.  Movement stimulates our gastro-intestinal tract.  Without proper stimulation, we may experience increased constipation and stress on our pelvic floor.

HOWEVER….even with all the stress and changes to our diet and exercise routine…the holidays don’t have to be a drag on your pelvic floor!

Here are some tips to keep your pelvic floor JOLLY this holiday season:

  • Stress – Use meditation, yoga, imagery, relaxation, and deep breathing (or another preferred method) to help manage stress levels.  The cause for stress will be there, it’s all about how we respond to it!
  • Diet – Drink plenty of water! (We recommend at least half of your body weight in ounces of water each day!) This will help balance the effects of irritants within your bladder as well as assist your digestive system in the elimination of those fatty foods!
  • Activity – Try to fit 30 minutes of activity into each day (Set a goal of 5 days a week).  Pick a mode of exercise that you enjoy.  **Exercise can also help combat the negative effects of stress and diet!  
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