Are you a female athlete?  Before you say no, please understand our definition of a Female Athlete and why this article is for you.  But please keep reading below as there is lot’s of good information for you here.

Are you a Female Athlete?

Anatomy

The pelvis has 3 main bones, the pelvic bone – made up of the ischium, pubis, and ilium – the sacrum, and the coccyx.  A couple other things that are important to note is that the lumbar vertebrae insert on the sacrum, and the femur inserts on the acetabulum, which is a horseshoe-shaped indent on the ilium. (see picture below)

female hip – sacrum / pubis / ischium / ilium

Now onto the pelvic musculature.  The main focus of this program is the pelvic floor.  The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that sits inside the pelvic inlet (the circular opening formed by your pelvic bones).  The pelvic floor consists of the Levator Ani muscle group (Puborectalis, Pubococcygeus, and Iliococcygeus) as well as the Ischiocavernosus muscle.  These muscles work together to stabilize your core during everyday life.  But that’s not all they do, they also support your Pelvic Viscera (Pelvic Organs).  This includes the bladder, genital organs, rectum, urethra, and more.  When the pelvic floor is weak or dysfunctional, it cannot properly support these organs and they may experience excess stretch causing common problems such as ‘leaking’  during exercise, due to the increased pressure in the abdominal cavity during exercise.

It is also important to note that there are many other muscles that attach to the pelvic bones.  This includes the iliacus, psoas, gracilis, the adductor group as well as many others.  Because of all these other muscle attachments, problems in the pelvic floor can cause residual effects throughout the body, especially in the lower limbs.

Function

Now onto the function of the pelvic floor.  One of the main functions of the pelvic floor is to support the pelvic viscera.  As mentioned previously the pelvic viscera (organs) can undergo great amounts of stress during exercise and other everyday activities that cause an increase in intra-abdominal pressure – IAP.   This increase in pressure puts stress on your organs and it is the job of the pelvic floor to keep

Locomotion

them properly supported, and aligned, and to alleviate the pressure.  A failure or dysfunction can cause any degree of urinary or fecal incontinence, low back or pelvic pain, as well as pain in knees, and groin.  These muscles are also responsible for load transfer, hip stability, and sexual pleasure.

Let’s talk about how the pelvic floor affects core stability. Think of any sport you play or all the times you walk to and from work, school, or a friends house.  Anytime you are moving your core is constantly engaged. However, what most people think of when they think core, is a nice looking “six pack” – but there is much more to it.  The pelvic floor is often referred to as your deep core.  It is the non-glamorous, highly essential, highly functional area of your core.  This part of your core is responsible for supporting the entire pelvic region during motion.  When performing any locomotion (walking, running, skipping, etc) all forces are being transferred up into the pelvis and through the pelvic floor.  If the pelvic floor is weak or dysfunctional the pelvic region can be thrown out of alignment, or not supported properly.  This may cause injury to a variety of regions in the body, mainly the hip, knee and lower back.

There are some steps I want you to take today to get you started on building the strength and function you need to do your sport at your desired intensity:

  • If you are having any of the issues we have discussed – go and see a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist
  • Train the deep core muscles to work together synergistically.  Learn the Foundation Breath to get you started:

And another great resource for you:

5 reasons for Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy postpartum

So, stay active, do your thing and work at the intensity you want – but do it in a way that is safe, functional and is optimal for YOUR body.  We can help: Contact us today for a consultation.  We now offer online/skype training as well for those of you who are outside of our “in-home” area.

In fitness and strength,

Elisabeth xo