Hello and Happy New Year!
Welcome to my short piece about impact activities and their effect on the deep core. Since this is the start of a new year and many of us are resolving to be more active, why not ensure that all activity reaches its most beneficial state? Let’s talk about why impact exercises can be tough on the pelvic floor and why we should focus on preparing the core for impact…
Before I continue, take a moment to consider how often you like to participate in physical activities that involve some sort of mechanical impact on the body. I’m sure that many of you are nodding in agreement. Truth is, a lot of us like to participate in some sort of high impact activity such as power-walking, running, jumping, frolicking, dancing, break-dancing, aerobics, CrossFit, Boot Camps, etc.
But how do you know if your core is ready and able to participate in these high impact activities? Well, as Shakespeare would say: “there’s the rub…”
To help determine if your core is ready, take a moment to consider the following points before jumping into an impact activity (pun intended):
1. Do you experience any kind of urinary leakage during the activity?
It does not matter how old you are or how many children you have had, you should never have to live with urinary or fecal incontinence. Even if your doctor tells you “It’s normal”, it is not. In fact, urinary incontinence is one of the most annoying symptoms of a weak core that anyone can experience during high impact activities.
Even if you are a long-time athlete who can bench press a million pounds, it does not mean that your deep core inherently functions in perfect synergy. In fact, even elite athletes can experience incontinence as a result of their impact activities, which can often come with some confusion as to what body part is at fault.
To put it simply, incontinence is the result of your deep core (particularly the pelvic floor) not working efficiently with the rest of the body. The deep core is responsible for anticipating our movements and activities so that it can create a solid base upon which those movements and activities can take place. If leakage occurs with a high impact activity it could mean that your deep core is neither able to withstand the demands of that activity, nor able to anticipate accordingly to create a solid enough base to prevent dysfunction (i.e., incontinence).
So, if you find that you are leaking every time you run, jump, use the trampoline, participate in CrossFit, etc., please remember that it does not have to be that way and that there are options. A trained pelvic health physiotherapist can help you re-establish your core synergy so that your body can function and move as it was designed to, without anything leaking out!
2. Do you experience any kind of heaviness, bulging, or protrusion in the pelvic region before, during, or after the activity?
Sometimes, when participating in a high impact activity, we can experience strange symptoms like excessive heaviness, bulging, or a “golf ball” sensation in the pelvic region. These symptoms can be indicative of pelvic organ prolapse caused by dysfunction of the deep core. Prolapse occurs when an organ, such as the bladder, uterus, rectum, etc., migrates downward into an area of the pelvis where it does not belong. In some cases, this downward migration can cause the organ to actually bulge or protrude out of the vaginal and/or rectal openings.
Prolapse can occur in anyone, and is often caused by a combination of factors including laxity in the ligamentous structures supporting our pelvic organs, pelvic floor muscle weakness or dysfunction, and regular exposure to high ground reaction forces in the presence of a poor core synergy. Symptoms of prolapse often worsen with prolonged exposure to a high impact activity (i.e., long walks, jogging, repetitive heavy lifting, etc.) and improve with sitting and/or lying down. Essentially, when gravity has less of an influence the prolapse is less of a nuisance.
An effective strategy to manage and correct prolapse is to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, so they may act as a kind of hammock to support the prolapsed organs. Additionally, re-building the pelvic floor muscles in synergy with the rest of the deep core ensures that our body cavities are better able to regulate and maintain internal pressures, thus preventing excessive force build-up which only serve to push down on prolapsed organs.
3. Do you experience any kind of repetitive, chronic injury that flares up all the time with the activity?
Once again, I repeat that having proper core synergy provides a solid foundation upon which the rest of the body can work. The four muscle groups of the deep core are designed to be the dynamic base for the superficial muscles of our periphery (i.e., arms, legs, neck, shoulders, etc.), so that the latter may properly do their jobs.
If you find that you are experiencing a lot of recurrent soreness in certain joints or muscles of the periphery, it could be a sign that your deep core is not providing a solid enough base for your periphery to work. Consequently, these peripheral muscle groups are left having to overcompensate for core weakness, when they are not designed to do so. This means that the risk of injury to the periphery increases and soreness can ensue.
So instead of living your active life on such a risky edge, try focusing on ways to integrate deep core synergy into your activities. Building the body’s foundation can have some incredibly positive effects. In my practice, for example, I have had people tell me that their ever-annoying repetitive knee injuries and shoulder twinges have vanished as soon as they practiced the proper techniques of core strengthening.
So, now what?
If you asked yourself these three questions and felt as though your deep core could use a little TLC, do not hesitate to seek the advice of your friendly, neighbourhood pelvic floor physiotherapist. And of course, when in doubt, check it out! There is a lot to be said for the prophylactic role of pelvic floor physiotherapy – you don’t always have to wait for dysfunction to occur. If you have any questions about your specific needs, please feel free to reach out anytime… I’m always happy to hear from you!
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