Fix Your Posture (For Your Pelvic Floor’s Sake!)

We all know how important posture is for your neck and back, but did you know that bad posture could also affect your pelvic floor?

Good vs. Bad Posture

First, let’s start with what is “good” versus “bad” posture. This picture is a great example of good versus bad sitting posture at a desk.

What Does Good Posture Look Like?

  • Feet should be flat and in contact with the floor/stool
  • Make sure your chair has proper lumbar support
    • You may need to add extra lumbar support to your chair to be sure that there is a mild cur-e through your low back
      • A small pillow, a folded up sweatshirt or towel, or a specific “lumbar support” pillow can be used to give proper support
      • Make sure you are sitting forward onto your “sitz bones” instead of on your tailbone
  • Forearms should be at or below the level of your elbows.
    • You may need to adjust the height of your chair (or if possible, your desk) to attain this position. You may even need a stool/support for your feet.
  • The top of the screen should be at eye level

The Abdominal Muscles and Pelvic Floor

For this article, we will consider the abdominal muscles to include:

  • The rectus abdominis (the “six pack muscle”)
  • The obliques
  • The transverse abdominis (the deepest muscle of the abdominals)

The pelvic floor muscles are the muscles at the bottom of the pelvis that provide support to the organs, control bowel and bladder emptying, and provide sexual functions. The pelvic floor and abdominal muscles (specifically the transverse abdominis) co-contract with sitting and standing activities. This means, if the pelvic floor muscles turn on, so do the abdominals and vice versa. These muscle groups unconsciously work together to support your low back and pelvis during all normal daily activities. We need both sets of muscles to work as best as possible to prevent injuries. If the abdominals or pelvic floor muscles are too weak or tight, injuries can occur even with simple tasks such as bending over to pick up an object.

How does posture affect the pelvic floor?

In a study on healthy women, who previously had children, it was concluded that the pelvic floor is less active while sitting slumped versus sitting more upright.1 To put this simply, the pelvic floor is more relaxed with bad posture, and is more naturally contracting with good posture. Slumped or bad posture could contribute to weakness of the pelvic floor muscles because they are in a resting state when sitting for long periods of time. As a result, weakness of the pelvic floor muscles can lead to issues such as incontinence, prolapse, and even pelvic pain.

A common thought is that sitting in good upright posture for too long will be too fatiguing for the core muscles. When in reality, long periods of slumped sitting leads to abdominal fatigue, which can lead to decreased stability of the spine, therefore increasing the risk of injuring the low back due to weakness.2  So, overall, good posture will promote good strength of the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles.

Simple Exercises for Improved Posture

A few simple exercises that you can perform to improve posture include: shoulder blade squeezes, abdominal bracing, and chin tucks as described below.

Shoulder blade squeezes
Shoulder blade squeeze demonstration
  • Instructions: While sitting or standing, squeeze shoulder blades together. Be careful not to shrug shoulders up towards your ears.
  • Perform 10 repetitions, 1-2 times per day
Abdominal bracing
Abdominal bracing demonstration. Also known as TA (transverse abdominus) contraction or TA march.
  • Instructions: While sitting or lying on back, draw belly button inward towards spine (as if trying to put on a tight pair of pants).
  • Perform 10 repetitions, 1-2 times per day
  • Optional: Lift each leg, one at a time, a few inches off the ground without moving hips or pelvic and keeping the low back on the mat
Chin tucks
Chin tuck demonstration
  • Instructions: While sitting or standing, gently nod head down slightly draw chin backwards (as if to create a double chin).
  • Perform 10 repetitions, 1-2 times per day

Next Steps to Fix Your Posture

In conclusion, with properly supported “good” posture, your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles will work together to support your pelvis and low back to help prevent weakness, and therefore injuries. Getting assessed by a pelvic floor physical therapist could spare you long-term low back pain or pelvic floor issues! (Click here to take advantage of our free consultation). Lastly, try to stand up every 30-60 minutes to promote blood flow in your legs, reduce eyestrain, keep you awake, and keep your body strong!

If you have more questions about posture, low back pain, or pelvic floor issues please contact us at: contact@revitalize-pt.com to set up a FREE physical therapy consultation.

References:

  1. Sapsford RR, Richardson CA, Stanton WR. Sitting posture affects pelvic floor muscle activity in parous women: An observational study. Australian Journal of Physiotherapy. 2006;52(3):219-222. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16942457
  2. Waongenngarm P, Rajaratnam BS, Janwantanakul P. Internal Oblique and Transversus Abdominis Muscle Fatigue Induced by Slumped Sitting Posture after 1 Hour of Sitting in Office Workers. Safety and Health at Work. 2016;7(1):49-54. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2093791115000694

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *