We all know how true the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is. Brushing and flossing your teeth, staying fit, having proper ergonomics at your desk, are all good examples of this. But did you know, something as common and simple as going to the washroom, if done properly, can prevent many issues often blamed on old age or pregnancy?
Our pelvic floor is made up of muscles, ligaments, fascia, nerves and more- no different than any other part of the body- and it is therefore just as easily prone to injury if we develop bad habits. When we strain to go to the bathroom or sit in non-ideal positions while using the washroom, this adds extra pressure to our pelvic floor that can eventually lead to issues such as weak pelvic floor muscles, pelvic organ prolapse, pelvic pain and more.
One important preventative tip is to make sure the frequency of bowel movements is within normal range, which varies from between 1-3 times per day to at least 3 times per week. If you rush, put-off or simply do not go to the washroom within this range, you could be damaging your pelvic floor muscles, leading to issues such as bowel/ bladder incontinence, hemorrhoids, painful intercourse, organ prolapse and even lower back and pelvic pain.
A second important preventative strategy is your body’s ergonomics or positioning while going to the washroom.
You can protect your pelvic floor by following these tips:
1. While seated on a toilet, your feet should be supported and your knees should be above your hips. There are products such as the squatty potty available in the market, however, a simple stool under the feet will do the trick. The toilet is considered a pretty recent invention and on top of that, they are getting higher and higher to make it easier to get off and on as our population ages. This higher positioning isn’t ideal for our bowels, however. As we sit on the toilet, this places our rectum into a kinked position. The increased angle with our feet on a stool can change our ano-rectal angle, which allows the puborectalis muscle to relax allowing for passage. Ultimately, every person will vary on what stool works for them based on their anatomy and their at home toilet environment, so choose a stool that works for you.
2. Back should be straight but your tail bone should be tilted upwards.
3. Your arms can rest on your thighs for support so you remain relaxed throughout the body
4. Most importantly, do not strain. This adds too much pressure to your pelvic floor!
Some tricks to help you not strain if you are having trouble evacuating include:
- Rotating your body side to side
- Tilting your pelvis up and down
- As the stool moves into your anal canal, reach your left arm over your right shoulder
- Breathe! Slow your breathing by exhaling through pursed lips (like you are blowing bubbles)
- Take your time. Do not rush.
5. Always sit down. This may seem a little intuitive but we have all heard of the public bathroom “hoverers”. This does not allow the pelvic floor to completely relax to evacuate, and forces you to push a little to urinate, which means you are straining and injuring your pelvic floor muscles. Alternatives can be to use toilet paper or seat covers, to allow you to sit down.
6. Lastly, do not ever ignore the urge to go. This is bad for your bowels as the longer the stool sits, the more water that can be absorbed. This can lead to harder stools and constipation, straining and injury to pelvic floor musculature.
If you are interested in booking in for a physiotherapy assessment or for more information please contact Maria Radelich, PT at our Halifax location 902-404-3668 ext 2.