More great webinar questions today. This question is from a fitness pro who is also undergoing treatment herself for pelvic health issues.
Q: (In the webinar) you reference a study saying the pelvic floor more strongly activates when sitting upright and with a natural lordotic curve, which makes sense. But apparently I am too lordotic and my pelvic floor is too tense, holding too much tension in the pelvic floor in a resting state, so why would sitting and standing in a position that more strongly activates the pelvic floor be a good thing? Would this just contribute to more resting tension? I apologize if this is a naive question. I can’t seem to differentiate between being strongly activated and being tense or figure out how to not be tense. Thanks for making the course available online.
A: You are asking a great question which others may be trying to work out too. First, we need to distinguish between resting tone and actively creating muscle tension. Resting tone is that sleeveless dress arm definition on another chick that makes you jealous. She is not holding her arm tight, her muscle has developed a resting, toned state that is higher than say your 80 year old aunt’s tricep that moves with the breeze. This is different than active recruitment or engagement of a muscle, which can occur consciously or subconsciously.
As the studies indicated, alignment does impact resting tone either for good or for bad. If you are in a less than ideal posture your pelvic floor may be asked to perform all its duties in a less than optimal position, which could cause subconscious active engagement such as guarding, spasm, or dynamic holding. Dynamic holding is an attempt by the body to create a functional tension that serves a purpose. This is in the absence of a properly functioning mechanism, aka a compensation. So the resting state of your pelvic floor, well, isn’t really resting. Instead, it is hyper-vigilant trying to help you hold a faulty posture together.
The concepts of resting tone and active engagement are linked. The chick in the sleeveles dress didn’t magically get that cut arm by wishing for it, she has put some effort into those guns. Appropriate active engagement will help to develop resting tone. In the same way that Goldilocks was searching for the perfect match, we need the “just-right” amount of tension in the pelvic floor. Not enough appropriate activation (“too cold”) will lead to a slouchy pelvic floor, too much participation (“too hot”) will contribute to a high, tight pelvic floor.
So in the right posture your pelvic floor will be asked to do its job, and only its job (appropriate activation) in the best possible environment to set it up for “just right” tension. In other words, the appropriate resting tone of the muscle would be present but without the inappropriate dynamic holding, guarding or spasm. But understand that in order for the pelvic floor to let go of any dynamic holding, or guarding it also needs to be integrated and re-united with its functional BFF’s. So alignment and teamwork go hand in hand.
Remember, just like Goldilocks, it takes a few tries to find that “just right” position and tension. Keep at it!
All the best, Julie
- Sapsford RR, Richardson CA, Maher CF, Hodges PW. Pelvic floor muscle activity in different sitting postures in continent and incontinent women. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2008;89(9):1741-1747.