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How to support your pelvic floor while running

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It’s a run-derful life, that is, if you’re a runner in Toronto! Whether you’re running through High Park, or racing on the treadmill, runners know the thrill (and sweat) of a good running session. Running is a great form of fitness. Through running, you build strong bones and leg muscles, keep your weight in line, and race past any stress in your life! That being said, blazing down the Martin Goodman Trail every day can have a long-term impact on your pelvic floor muscles. 

Your pelvic floor supports your bladder, bowel, vagina, and uterus – it’s at your core! As a high impact exercise, running puts a lot of stress on your pelvic floor muscles. Did you know that each time your foot hits the ground, it’s your pelvic floor muscles that contract to protect your insides? After a while, all of this pressure and repetitive force can weaken your muscles or tip your pelvic floor muscles out of balance. 

Symptoms

If you’re a runner and you love to hit the Toronto trails, or your own treadmill, and you’ve experienced the following symptoms, it’s likely your pelvic floor muscles are feeling the stress of your running routine: 

  • Leakage: if you’re living with urinary or fecal incontinence, you and your pelvic floor muscles are in need of a check-up. Even if you only experience incontinence during or after exercising, this is a common symptom but it is not normal. Pelvic physiotherapy can help you fix this.
  • Frequent urge to go: if you’ve got to pee all the time, or frequently experience an urgent need to urinate during or after running, it’s time for a check up!
  • Lower back pain: heads-shoulders-knees and toes! Yes, everything is connected and this is especially true for your pelvic floor and lower back muscles. If your pelvic floor muscles are struggling, the lower back muscles will try to help out, which can increase the stress on this region.
  • Pelvic pain: this one may seem obvious, but it’s worth saying: if you’re experiencing pain in your pelvic or groin area, check in with your pelvic floor physiotherapist.
  • Heaviness, bulging or ‘tenting’ at the entrance of or around your vagina: if you have the sensation that something may literally fall out of your vagina, you could be living with pelvic floor prolapse. Pelvic floor physiotherapy can help you manage this serious pelvic floor condition.

woman runner going up stairs outdoors

What is it about running that puts stress on your pelvic floor?

Running is a high impact activity and these kinds of exercises put a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor. Besides, the source of a runner’s pelvic floor disorder may not be from weakness.

Just as kegels are not the answer to everything, pelvic floor disorders are not always caused by weak pelvic floor muscles! Other causes, especially in those who practice high impact activities such as running include: 

  • Muscle imbalance
  • Pelvic floor overactivity (yes, that is a real thing!)
  • Ineffective use of pelvic muscles
  • Impact of running is higher than the regular day-to-day activities and it puts more demands on your core and pelvic floor muscles.
  • Additional orthopaedic injuries can worsen the underlying pelvic floor disorders.

Treatment for runners

Common pelvic floor disorders in runners are urinary incontinence, lower back and hip pain, pelvic pain, deep glutes or hamstring pain, prolapse, and even dyspareunia. It might sound scary but the good news is that they’re all treatable. At InvigoPhysio, we’re experienced with treating all these conditions and can help you get back to your training asap! We’re here for you! 

As an expert in pelvic floor physiotherapy, InvigoPhysio is your local Toronto physiotherapist dedicated to helping you meet your own, unique health goals, at a pace that suits your lifestyle.

woman running outside woman

Ways for you to reduce the impact of running on your pelvic floor:

  • Wear well cushioned footwear: Have orthotic inserts? Wear them!
  • Manage your body weight – yes, we realize running may be your way to manage your weight, but by carrying excess weight while you’re running puts additional stress on your pelvic floor
  • Mix up your workouts – try different forms of cardio such as zumba, or swimming
  • Avoid running downhill, where possible
  • Reduce your running speed or distance, where possible 
  • Shake up your run by running on different surfaces such as trading in the flat asphalt track for a winding grass trail when you are able 

We love helping you get back to your running routine with a happy and strong pelvic floor! We can make you feel better and run faster! Reach out today for more questions or to book your InvigoPhysio appointment. 

Know an avid runner in your life? Even if they aren’t exhibiting symptoms, it’s good for them to know about the impact running could be having on their pelvic floor muscles.

Be kind, share this post with your running pals today!

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