I’m no stranger to relationships with physiotherapists. After my accident in 2005, I began a whirlwind “affair” with my wonderful physio who helped get me moving again after so much injury. I’m kidding when I say “affair” but when you spend so much time with a practitioner who assists you with so many things related to your body and your life, it kind of feels like an intimate relationship. Joanne was probably the single most important therapist and her entire family were a huge part of my recovery.
Fast forward to today and I’m starting off a new relationship with a different physiotherapist. It’s not the same kind of life and death situation, but she is treating me for problems of a much more embarrassing and intimate nature. Considering the whole thing revolves around parts of the body that people don’t normally chat about lightly, I was super relieved to meet Laura and find that she is totally cool and super relaxed. Trust me, it is a lot easier to discuss bathroom and sex issues with someone who is casual and friendly.
Anyhow, I went back yesterday for my second visit this week and it was more like an interesting science lesson than it was a treatment. Laura works at Dayan Physiotherapy, a women’s issues and pelvic floor clinic and they have some really cool tools to help you learn about your body and learn how to do the right things. One of the issues I am seeing her for is my abdominal diastasis – essentially, the separation of my abdominal muscles due to pregnancy – and in order to really show me, she used ultrasound to show me my internal workings as I practised the exercises. It was soooo cool to see visually which muscles are moving, and how much, as you do the movements. It totally helped me differentiate between when I was doing things correctly and when I wasn’t.
Since part of my treatment is rehabilitating my pelvic floor, she also used the ultrasound on my tummy to show me how the pelvic floor muscles are activated when I moved other parts of my body – like arms and legs, breathing, coughing, lifting etc. It was seriously fascinating. What I liked best about it was that I was really able to see what the different exercises were doing and how it felt when I was doing each one to various degrees of intensity and effort. It was really cool.
So I know this is all kind of gross for some people, but it shouldn’t be as your PF is an important part of the body just like anything else. Many women have issues but never find relief because they don’t want to bring up such embarrassing things to their doctors or friends. Not me. Perhaps I talk about it more than I should, but I’m finding it awfully interesting learning about how much your PF affects the rest of your body and it’s functionality.
Laura has been so helpful so far and we had some really good discussions about where to go from here. She is very supportive of my running, but it sounds like her recommendation is to hold off on it until I am absolutely sure that I have restored some of the strength down there. She’s given me some goals to work towards but it sounds like it is going to take quite a bit of time before my bits are ready to start bouncing down the road again. Boo.
So what have I learned so far? Well, tons about my anatomy and how it all affects your physical processes. But, I’m also amazed at how small you have to start. A lot of women do further damage after childbirth by just jumping back into vigorous exercise and if your body is significantly weakened (like mine is) that can exacerbate the problems. In order to build these supports back up again, I’m going to have to start with very small movements and exercises to fine tune the smaller muscles first before getting more intense and working on the bigger muscles. That’s why the ultrasound is so key – now I know the difference between doing those finer movements vs. squeezing away and doing nothing.
Anyhow, it feels good to have a plan. In other news I am anxiously awaiting my friend to go into labour as I will be attending the birth as well. Sounds like things are imminent but the waiting is always tough.