The Core Muscles and Function
The core muscles are an important group of muscles that have the job of supporting and stabilising the spinal column and the pelvis.
The muscles that form the core are the diaphragm, or breathing muscle, the abdominals and and pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles are the muscles that span from the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis, between the legs to the sit bones and the tail bone. They provide us with the muscular control of our bladder and bowels.
We often hear about how important it is to have a ‘strong’ core. In the fitness industry there is lots of emphasis on creating the perfect abs or ‘six pack’….we rarely hear about the importance of having a core that is able to relax appropriately and effectively. Chronic low back pain, pelvic pain, painful intercourse and issues with bladder and bowel continence can actually be associated with the pelvic floor being too tight or overactive. One of the key things that a physiotherapist skilled in treating pelvic floor disorders will work to assess is if the pelvic floor need to be strengthened or if in fact those muscles need to be taught to relax.
Tension Causes Muscles Ineffectiveness and Fatigue!
All healthy muscles work in a spectrum of being able to activate strongly when required, or relax when appropriate too.
Many people will notice that if they are under stress or tension that their muscle system will tend to be tight.
Classic signs of tension in the muscle system are:
– clenching the jaw or fists
– tightness around the chest and shoulders
– buttock clenching
– toe curling
– holding the pelvic floor in a tightened, shortened position
If you hold any muscle group in a tightened, shortened position habitually, eventually it is likely to become sore, fatigued and not able to perform it’s job effectively.
Simple Strategy for Relaxing the Pelvic Floor Muscles
You may well find the benefit of learning this technique is felt throughout the body too if there are other areas of holding muscle tension.
Choose a peaceful, quiet setting.
Sit in a chair with your spine resting on the back of the chair, feet flat on the floor.
Lengthen the spine up towards the ceiling – in a gentle, unforced manner.
Have your arms resting on your lap with the hands gently touching your abdominal wall.
Take your attention to your pelvic floor muscles which will be resting down towards the seat of the chair.
As you breath in, notice the tummy wall expanding into your hands…almost like a balloon softly inflating, and then as the air leaves the lungs the tummy softly falls.
Stay with you focus on the gentle flow of the breath while allowing the muscles of the pelvic floor to soften, lower, and lengthen down towards the seat of the chair.
Notice other areas of the body too…the inner thighs, buttocks, shoulders, throat, chest.
If there is tension or tightness – work towards releasing, softening and melting away that tension with the flow of your breath.
You can work on this relaxed breathing and softening the pelvic floor for several minutes…longer as you get skilled at this technique.
This technique of releasing muscle tension is not easy to master.
If you suspect that you have an over active pelvic floor please do not hesitate to seek advice from Women’s Health Physiotherapists Jane Rothe or Kate Goode
Women’s Health Physios specialise in pelvic pain (male or female) and are skilled at treating these issues in a variety of ways.