BOUNCE BACK PHYSICAL THERAPY: WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Have you heard of the analogy comparing your pelvic floor to a hammock? I have! It’s everywhere –in every internet article written about the pelvic floor and even in Physiotherapy School: “it’s the sling that supports your pelvic organs from below.” You want to know the problem with that analogy? It was developed after studying the pelvic anatomy of cadavers. CADAVERS! Of course it looked like a hammock – all saggy and limp – the tissue was dehydrated and preserved with chemicals and the subject was…dead.
In real life, the pelvic floor behaves more like a trampoline. It is taut, but not tight. It is composed of 3 layers of muscular tissue that hold just the right amount of tone so that your pelvic organs are supported, but not saggy. Just like a trampoline, it can give so that you can birth a baby and then bounce back, literally, to form and function (get it now? Bounce Back Physical Therapy?). Indeed, it is incredible and miraculous that a woman can even remotely control bowel and bladder function within hours of passing a baby through the pelvic floor. And after about 6 weeks, that pelvic floor is doing a great job of 1) supporting your organs that have shifted place now that there isn’t a full term baby (OR MORE! Love to my multiple moms) inside your abdominal cavity and 2) keeping your sphincters closed when they need to be.
So why are pelvic floor problems so common? I have a few thoughts on that:
1) We get in the way of our own progress. The messaging to new Mothers about “getting your body back” after baby is rampant. And what does that even mean? Your body didn’t go anywhere. Your body did, however, use its innate wisdom to change form in order to support the baby that was growing inside of you. After you birthed your baby, again your body changed form now to nourish and nurture your baby. And it will continue to change form as you have more children. That’s not a bad thing. We’ve accepted the false belief that our bodies after having a child should look the same as before we were pregnant. And when it doesn’t, we feel shame. You think a frog is feeling shame and trying to get her tadpole body back? Nope. So, very closely related to this point is…
2) We have this idea that postnatal fitness should look exactly the same as pre-pregnancy fitness just with a baby strapped to your front or while pushing a stroller. Sure we’ll ease into our running programs and take it easy for the first few boot camps but we’re itching to get back to the intense stuff and fast. If we can accept that our bodies have changed, can we please also accept that our exercise program should too? This is not to say that a marathoner can’t be a marathoner again. Of course you can! But not at X weeks or months postpartum, if you value the function of your core and pelvic floor. Again, very closely related to this point is…
3) We’ve come to value the look of our bodies so far above the function of our bodies. We’re trying so hard to look like tadpoles again that we ignore all of the signs our bodies are trying to give us. The universe is trying to teach us a lesson in slowing down and tuning in and we’re missing the signals completely – over and over and over again. So we’ll run even though we’re leaking. Or we’ll do sets of burpees or jump squats even though that bulging feeling in the vagina is getting worse. Or we’ll do double leg lowers even though that C-section scar is pulling.
I see a much different reality for new Moms on the horizon. It is one where we call bull on all the unsupportive messaging that women need to look a certain way to be valued. It is one where we can accept ourselves without comparison. And it is one where postpartum Pelvic Physiotherapy is standard care for women across the board. Just some friendly guidance to listen to your body and help with de-coding what those messages mean.
So, does this mean that it’s too late for the women who are currently training through core/pelvic symptoms? Heck no! Your body put its healing on hold so you could workout the way you thought you needed. And it’s just waiting for you to pause so that it can get back on track. Really, you ask? Absolutely. Because it’s never too late to BOUNCE BACK!