Don’t be a PRUDE. The pelvic floor is important and we need to talk about it.

 

I didn’t know I had fractured my spine as a freshman in high-school until I was 43 years old and my hip ‘blew out’.  What does my hip pain have to do with a spinal injury?  I am a bodyworker whose job it is to discover dysfunctional patterns in my client’s bodies and help them bring balance before it causes a chronic problem, however, I couldn’t see it in myself until irreversible damage was done.  My story may be unique to my body but the treatment I discovered through the process will help many others.

 

As a student athlete on the track team my events were high-jump, shot-put and discus.  Every day after school the team practiced, many times until almost dark.  I remember practicing late one day, very tired, but I was jumping very well that day, I got up to 4’10” which is just a foot shorter than I am now.  Excited and wanting to jump higher, I raised the bar slightly and tried again, this time knocking the bar off the stand and onto the mat.  Just as I fell to the mat, all my body weight landed on the bar on my right lower back.  I was immediately in sharp, shooting pain, a lot of pain.  However, I could ‘walk it off’ and limp home.

 

That night it hurt badly, but my parents decided to make me comfortable by adjusting my bed so I could sleep sitting upright and I rested that night.  The next day, month, and years, I functioned, even though there was a near-constant ache in my back.  I was never diagnosed by a doctor for the symptom, and I carried on with my life.  Searching for relief of back pain naturally was the journey that led me to a 21-year long career in health and wellness (which is a story for another time).  Bottom line is, 30 years after hurting my back, my hip blew out without warning.

 

The day my hip got my attention I was teaching a class and during the course of the day my hip started hurting, and it hurt worse and worse as the day wore on, and it didn’t stop hurting with every step until I had laparoscopic debridement surgery almost a year later.  It was discovered that I had worn down the cartilage protecting the bone and frayed the labrum in my right hip.  Every step I took was bone-on-bone which was the cause of the intense pain.

 

While rehabilitating from surgery, I had time alone to focus on myself and put all the pieces together.  There was extra bone on the lumbar vertebrae on the right side, where I landed on the high jump bar and fractured it.  As bones heal from breaks, they create extra bone and make that site stronger than their adjacent areas.  Because of the fracture it appeared from x-rays that I had a natural fusion in the facet joints of L4, L5, and S1 on the right side only.  I have always been an active and athletic person.  As I moved around, exercised, and continued to grow a little more, my body compensated in a dysfunctional and unsustainable way.  The lumbar spine went into an anterior rotation to the right and I developed scoliosis, a c-curve to the right where the left side was left in a constant eccentric load.  The left SI joint stopped mobilizing because it was already pulled too tight, and had the job of stabilizing the load of my upper body on my hips.

 

Putting it simply, my hips shifted to the right, and because of the extra body weight on that side, the femur displaced laterally (to the side) 30 degrees out of the joint.  This was just enough to rub the joint the wrong way.  Over time, I had damaged the joint.  Now that I finally knew the cause, I could help my body fix the root of the problem.  I didn’t just want to heal my hip, I wanted to change my pattern, so that it’s sustainably functional… for the rest of my life.  Of course, I had to do all of this without my osteopathic surgeon helping because he is limited by liability and the insurance companies to only treat the symptom.  Since the symptom was my hip, I had to rehab my spinal injury on my own.

After surgery, I couldn’t put more than 50% of my weight on that right side, and I had to use crutches to get around.  After a while, I went down to one crutch, on my left side.  After walking for a month with most of my body weight on my left side, although I was sore, however, I observed strength developing for the first time in my left lumbars.  I started working with them daily and discovered I could hold the weight of my hips off my right hip by using my left lower back muscles and working to mobilize the left SI joint.  The discovery took on a whole new meaning when I dug deeper into the pelvis for muscular support.  This is where the pelvic floor took on a new importance to me personally and professionally.  This isn’t just a ‘me’ problem because I have a unique circumstance.  This information is for the masses!

 

My discovery was that if I could activate my pubococcygeal muscles (PC) enough, my pubic bone and coccyx lined up and my hips shifted back to center balance.  Wow, that’s hard.  I could only hold it for a few second at a time at first, but quickly realized the benefit of discovering this link and then became inspired to start intensive training to correct the pattern.  I am rehabbing my spinal injury, and my hip at the same time and building the foundational strength and endurance to hold that new pattern while I function in life.  Having a career which requires physical strength and stamina for hours at a time, I’ll have to be even stronger so I can have proper body mechanics while giving treatments.

 

Now, we have all been taught about Kegal exercises to strengthen the PC muscles, right? Remember, mother or grandma saying to practice training them by stopping the flow of urine mid-flow?  They can get weak from many reasons, including childbirth, and weak PC muscles can lead to bladder incontinence.  Of course, we can squeeze hard enough to not pee ourselves, but can we do it hard enough to become a functional foundation for our hip alignment?  That’s tough to do, especially without something to squeeze against, some kind of resistance.

 

Sorry guys, but this next part is just for the ladies.  Key-word… weighted Kegel balls, eggs, rods, any kind of small weighted device safe to insert into the vagina and hold it there.  That’s right, hold it there while you walk around, cook, drive, and work.  You can find them and order from Amazon.

 

For the guys, imagine pulling your testicles up into your pelvis creating a dome shape inside your core, and hold it.  These are your PC muscles.

 

Did I really think my journey would lead me to become an advocate for the pelvic floor muscles?  NOT until it became a matter of functioning well or not functioning at all.  Training them is hard work, and at first you won’t be able to do it for long without noticing pain somewhere else in the body that is weak and trying to catch up.  Do it like you would working-out at a gym.  Train them until you get sore, then rest…   and repeat.  Strength and endurance will come with time, and the whole body will benefit from a strong foundational core from which to move functionally and will readjust accordingly from that strong core working out other issues in the thoracic spine, neck, shoulders, even down to the legs and feet.

 

Check in with your body right now.  Are you using your PC muscles?  Or are they just ‘splayed out’ being ‘couch-potatoes’?  If you squeeze them, how does that affect your hips or spinal alignment?  Even activating them while being seated as you are reading this you can see a benefit, right?  Now imagine being strong enough to hold them subconsciously and benefitting from correct postural alignment in the whole body as a result.

 

I think there are a lot of others out there that need this information.  Whether or not you have an imbalance in your hips, training to have strong PC muscles comes with a lot of positive side effects, some of which you will have to experience for yourself, but not limited to not peeing yourself when you sneeze.

 

Got Pain? Re-Pattern your Body!

pain photo

 

It has occurred to me that I need to hire a ‘Title Writer” for my blogs.   I seem to be missing the creativity gene that others in my family have. (smile)

This article is about my personal experience living with, and treating people with dysfunctional musculoskeletal patterns in their bodies that cause pain and discomfort.

If you ask people in the massage and bodywork profession why they chose to work in this field, many will say it is because of their own journey toward healing. This is also my story. As a high school freshman high-jumper on the track and field team, I landed with my lower back directly on the bar during a practice jump. It was a traumatic injury that took many years to heal from.  Because I felt almost constant pain in my back, I moved my body into the most comfortable position comfortable to go about daily activities. This position was NOT in neutral alignment, and therefore I compensated with the less painful muscles, tendons, fascia, and ultimately ligaments (which led to joint misalignment) to do the work of the injured ones. This injury became my starting point on a path to find relief.

Fast forward 25 years and I am a deep tissue massage therapist that studied many different modalities of bodywork on my path to find relief. I leaned toward deep tissue therapies because that is what gave my body the relief it needed. I developed a physical strength and an applied working knowledge of structure and function of the body and my strength lies in helping bodies move toward a more neutral, less painful functional pattern.

What I have found in my clinical experience is that many people have dysfunctional patterns in their bodies because of physical trauma, emotional trauma, bad posture, and many other reasons.

I am continuously fascinated by how releasing restrictions in the tissues that are holding patterns can INSTANTLY help to relieve this kind of pain. For years, my clients have been grateful for this gift of healing.

And it lasted…for various amounts of time for each person. Some people never had pain again, for some the relief lasted weeks, and for some just a few days. This intrigued me and I wanted to study this and see what I could do to help make it last longer.

Enter Wendy Cooper, MS, Co-Owner of The Hub by ProMotion Fitness, home of the BioCored Corrective Suspension Training system. (BioCored™ incorporates visual, vestibular and proprioceptive nervous systems to influence pain and performance patterns in the body.) I’ve known Wendy for 18 years, and she is a leader in this community for health and fitness. She has also known me and helped me with my physical struggles for much of that time.

I have been training with Wendy for over a year on the BioCored system and I am extremely pleased with the balance and neutrality it has given my body.   It is what I call “prescriptive exercise”. When you get a private training appointment, it’s all about YOUR body, YOUR pattern and waking up muscles, tendons, fascia that have ‘been asleep’ for a period of time so they can DO THEIR JOB, and help bring the body back to a more neutral state.

I started recommending it to my clients to help support the bodywork they were receiving at my office for the second half of this equation that worked for me. Then Wendy started sending her clients to me for the adhesion release piece. This equation seemed to be working… really, really well. Actually, the results were nothing short of MIRACULOUS… See the before and after picture of two of our clients.

The female as you can see suffered from scoliosis of the lower back, which impaired her ability to stand for long periods of time and walk for exercise without extreme pain. While the pattern is still in her body, because it takes more time for the harder structures of the body to shift (bones), her body is more NEUTRAL and less painful by a huge amount.

SW2*17*14-presession[6]SWafter2*17*14[6]

(pictures used with permission) 

The male started with BioCored™ and after six weeks made this HUGE postural shift that required deep tissue/adhesion work in order to be able to tolerate the new pattern without suffering from headaches and other body pains. After his first deep tissue session he felt the relief his body needed to support the rapid change. Before picture is on the bottom, note his forward head posture.

 

Dan Before and After Overlay

As you can see, this is VERY EXCITING NEWS for those of us in this field who so badly want to see all of their clients holding the bodywork longer and feeling pain-free longer.

We have seen that this combination of adhesion release and re-patterning the body through corrective exercise is the key to gaining relief of musculo-skeletal dysfunction causing pain.

Both clients have reported feeling MUCH RELIEF from the combination and continue to receive treatments from both of us regularly.

I also found relief through this kind of therapy in my body.  For me, I had to incorporate one more missing piece, and that’s the modality of Ortho-Bionomy® .  That’s a whole other blog post!

On a side note, Wendy and I have recently been experimenting with working ‘in tandem’ with each other on our clients (in the same hour). It just makes sense to catch the body when it’s trying to do an exercise but can’t do the form properly due to restriction to treat it right away, give the joint a chance to do the exercise properly (in alignment) then immediately re-pattern the neuro-muscular pathways to support the new pattern. Right now this kind of treatment is making waves in the local competitive cycling community, and it is SO exciting to see the results in athletes too!

The Hub Indy is located at 620 S. Rangeline Rd Unit H Carmel, IN  46032.

Phone: (317) 914-4316  Web: http://www.thehubindy.com