Your Feet and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction: The Surprising Connection
[Written by Website Blog Content Writer - Anna Mae]
No, we haven't gone completely mad! There is actually a connection between pelvic floor dysfunction and your feet. This might seem very strange, but good foot health can actually have a knock-on effect on keeping the pelvic floor strong. It's all related to the fact that your body is connected from top to bottom.
Your feet impacts your legs, which impacts your knees, which impacts your hips and, close by, your pelvic floor. So, let's have a closer look.
The Relationship Between Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and Foot Pain
When we think about the anatomy of the body and the hips in particular, we see a vital connection to the pelvic floor via the hip rotators and adductors.
A bit like the famous kid song skeleton dance,
"The foot bone's connected to the leg bone. The leg bone's connected to the knee bone. The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone,..."
so everything we do has an impact on the whole body.
Good foot health has a positive impact on the pelvic floor, the core muscles, the alignment of the body and movement functionality, so it really is important that you look after your feet.
Flat Foot and Low Arches
If you are someone who has low arches or possibly flat feet, running and walking, may have a higher impact on the adductors. In turn, this pulls on the rotators because your hip is twisting.
There is also an element of tension between the knee and the hip, and this can actually lead to overtightened pelvic floor muscles.
While we talk a lot about pelvic floor dysfunction and muscles becoming weak and not correctly supporting the system, having very tight pelvic floor muscles can also have negative consequences.
For example, they can cause hip pain, urine leakage, pain during intercourse, problems, totally emptying the bladder, constipation and even symptoms of a UTI, although no infection will be found.
Stiff Feet/High Arches
If you have high arches and, therefore, stiff feet when you walk or run, more force is transferred up towards the pelvic floor. Normally a lot of this force is absorbed by the feet in a normal running or walking gait. If you do not have strong pelvic floor muscles at this point, you will find you start to develop urine leakage as well as pelvic hip and lower back pain.
High-end athletes will often suffer leakage, especially if they are involved in sports like gymnastics, basketball, volleyball or distance running, because more of the force of the exercise gets absorbed in their pelvic area.
No matter whether you have flat feet or high arches, the best thing you can do is ensure you wear correctly fitted shoes with inserts if needed, that will support your feet and do the best you can to mimic a healthy foot position.
Foot Health in Pregnancy
Another key time of life to pay attention to foot health, and of course, pelvic health itself, is during pregnancy. As a natural response to carrying the weight of a baby, many women find that their feet become wider and even grow in length to support the extra passenger.
The changes in hormones and excess fluid in the body can also create swollen feet. This is very common and not really something you can avoid, but good foot care can reduce the swelling, which in turn will help with your pelvic health.
Pregnancy can also lead to arches dropping and feet becoming flatter. All of these factors, including the growing baby, mean your pelvis will tilt in ways it normally doesn't. For some women, this means it rotates to fall backwards or forwards and then creates instability in the lumbar spine region. If this is not righted, once the baby is born, pelvic health and core strength can suffer in later life.
Minimise Your Risk
Ensuring that your feet provide proper support and you don't suffer from swollen limbs, which have this knock-on effect on pelvic health, is vital during pregnancy. Depending on your job, sitting with your feet elevated can really help.
If you have an office job, this could be quite simple with a stool under the desk. If elevating your feet at work is not possible, then try and compensate by lifting your feet a lot during your evenings and weekends.
You can even place a pillow under your ankles in the bed, and the small amount of elevation will help.
Compression socks are another great way to look after your feet during pregnancy, and modern maternity leggings, often have compression included in the legs.
Finally, before bed, consider 10 minutes of yoga. The pose called legs up the wall, which is pretty much as it sounds, helps. You correct your circulation and relieve any swelling in your legs. Towards the very end of pregnancy, this may not be appropriate as laying flat on your back is contraindicated.
Good Foot Health
No matter what stage of life you are in, taking care of your feet can be very simple. First of all, consider going barefoot as much as possible. Perhaps at home, you can get rid of shoes and slippers and consider any exercise also being done barefoot.
If you do have issues, ensure you are making sensible choices. High-fashion shoes may well look appealing, but they do very little for the health of your feet.
The toe spacers used in pedicures and nail painting on feet actually really help. Stretch out the muscles of the toes and avoid wearing ill fitting uncomfortable shoes.
Taking care of your feet is a long-term investment in your health, particularly the pelvic floor. Learning to walk with a good gait, investing in shoes that support the feet and exercising barefoot are all great ways to maintain good foot health.
Everything in the body is connected, so while it may seem a little bit strange, looking after your feet can help with your pelvic floor health.
If you would like to learn more about how Kegels (pelvic floor exercises) can help you. We run our next 30 Day Pelvic Floor Challenge, to get you into a good habit. Starts Monday 5th June 2023.