Pelvic Floor And Back Pain
We all know by now how important it is to keep our pelvic floor in tip top condition to help prevent us from suffering the dreaded dribble, especially during and after pregnancy, but can keeping your pelvic floor muscles strong help to reduce the chances of suffering with back pain?
CAN A WEAK PELVIC FLOOR CAUSE BACK PAIN?
In short, yes, it definitely can! A weakness in the pelvic floor can significantly impact on the lower back as the muscles in that area are not getting the proper support that they need.
There are a number of well-known side effects to having a weak pelvic floor, the most common of which is urinary incontinence, which over 50% of women struggle with. Weak pelvic floor muscles, also known as pelvic floor dysfunction, can leave you unable to control the muscles in your pelvic floor, resulting in urinary issues and bowel strain, amongst other things. If you have found this to be a problem, chances are your research into a solution has led you here, so if you are struggling to live with leakage, check out How To Prevent Urinary Incontinence. You may well be wondering how all this relates to that nasty, niggling pain that is refusing to go away. Well, a less well known consequence of having a weak pelvic floor is lower back pain.
Lower back pain is a condition of localised pain to the lumbar spine¹ and, according to physio-pedia.com, the link between lower back pain and pelvic floor dysfunction is, particularly in women, becoming more evident.
Obviously lower back pain can be caused by a range of factors, including arthritis, injury, muscle strain and poor posture, although it’s possible to argue that strengthening your pelvic floor can go some way to helping to reduce the severity of all these things. One in three women will experience pelvic floor dysfunction in their lifetime, although it is thought that this number should actually be much higher as so many women are reluctant to discuss the problem with anyone, leading to an under reporting of symptoms.
So, how does a weak pelvic floor cause back pain?
Well, according to spineuniverse.com² the set of muscles situated in the pelvic floor create the base of the muscles known as our ‘core’. These core muscles work together with the pelvic floor to support the abdomen, diaphragm and back muscles, where they in turn support the spine. The core muscles support our torso and help to stabilise it. When the core is not working properly, the torso and the pelvis become unstable, which can lead to lower back pain, and pelvic pain in the sacroiliac joints, which link the pelvis with the lower spine. So you see? Those pelvic floor muscles have so much more to do that just stopping us from weeing when we least expect it!
PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES FOR LOWER BACK PAIN
If all this sounds like you, then don’t worry, it is never too late to try and change things! There is every chance that fixing the weakness in your pelvic floor muscles will alleviate the pain in your lower back too. Working on a series of simple exercises in a committed and consistent way will enable you to strengthen the muscles and get them back doing what they are meant to do, supporting your core!
Your lower back, along with the rest of your body, needs a good routine of stretching exercises to help to keep it supple, strong and mobile for a day of activity. These exercises should be performed to the limit of your ability and shouldn’t give you any discomfort. Stretches such as the back flexion stretch, side bends, sitting flexion stretch, hip stretch and the supine twist are a great way to start your day. For more details on these five clinically devised stretches to relieve back pain and keep it at bay, visit Nuffield Health³.
We also incorporate lots of great stretching exercises in our 28 Day Pelvic Floor Challenge. Sign up now and be notified when we run the next one
Whilst these stretches are amazing for keeping your back ready for action, the most important exercises for your pelvic floor are Kegels. I’m sure you will have heard of Kegels by now, but if you haven’t, Kegels are exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor muscles which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum, and which, as we now know, help your core do its job too. A regular regime of slow and fast Kegels will have you running, laughing, sneezing and even bouncing on a trampoline without fear of a dribble in no time, but in addition, you will be making important steps to helping your back recover and to protect it from future pain.
It is better to do these exercises with an empty bladder and bowel, so one, two, skip to the loo first!
Now, pull up and hold your pelvic floor muscles, as if you are trying to hold in a wee and wind at the same time, and try to hold this contraction for up to ten seconds. You may not be able to make it to ten to start with, so just do your best and keep practicing. You will get there! Then relax your pelvic floor slowly for five seconds, and start again. Aim for ten repetitions of the slow Kegel, but don’t worry if you can’t manage ten initially. Try to aim for three sets of Kegels every day.
Lift your pelvic floor muscles as hard as you can (not tummy or buttocks)
- Hold the muscles tight for 10 seconds
- Relax your muscles and rest for 5 seconds
- Repeat this 10 times
Helps your pelvic floor to cope with pressure, for example when you cough, sneeze, or laugh (Not to mention the trampoline!). These fast contractions work the muscles that quickly shut off the flow of urine.
- Lift your pelvic floor muscles quickly
- Hold the muscles tight for 1 second
- Relax your muscles and rest for 1 second
- Repeat this 10 times
Do these after the slow ones.
In addition, using a Kegel trainer, such as Secret Whispers Kegel Weights⁴ can be really helpful. Kegel weights work by helping you to visualise and engage the correct pelvic floor muscles to make sure that you are doing your Kegels in the most effective way possible. Most women cannot do a Kegel exercise correctly as it is so difficult to visualise where these muscles are. Our weights takes away the guesswork and teaches you exactly where your pelvic floor muscles are. By using our weights and doing your Slow and Fast Kegels your pelvic floor gets a great workout.
CAN SCIATICA CAUSE INCONTINENCE?
In a word, yes. Sciatica symptoms include a pain that gets worse with movement, a numbness, burning or weakness in your legs, pins and needles and, more rarely, a reduced bladder or bowel function. People with severe cases of sciatica can develop herniated discs, bone spurs or other types of protruding tissue, which presses on the nerves that control your bladder and bowel function. This condition is specifically called Cauda Equina Syndrome, and requires emergency medical assistance.
Now you know how those little power muscles in your pelvic floor can help rid you of the blight of back pain, what are you waiting for? Kegels, Kegels, Kegels!
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