“Pelvic floor issues can make you feel very vulnerable, depressed and as though you are aging fast”, Michelle Kenway
Exercises in general are the bane of those of us with fibromyalgia and I have not been able to find books that address specific instructions regarding those which will not cause further pain. QiGong, TaiChi, Feldenkrais and other movements for general toning are beneficial to everyone and in particular for those of us who tire easily and cannot sustain exercise for long periods of time. Videos/cds are available for QiGong and I have one which I practice daily, that is, the 7 movements which takes about 15 minutes of my day. While there is a minor focus on meridians I tend to ignore that concept (since who can find either a meridian or a chi in the human body? For that matter who can find a mind or a soul? I prefer to ignore that language) and instead I do the movements which seem to help with the tightness of my muscles. Furthermore, as I have repeatedly written, movement is necessary for changing the brain and patterns we have developed for many years because of past traumas and our overly stimulated nervous systems. But, of late I have become concerned about pelvic floor disorders and the exercises that have been developed by physiotherapists and I have made this the topic of interest for these last three blogs. These have become actual mechanical issues which require hard work and discipline in order to live life more comfortably.
Exercise for those of us with fibromyalgia is a delicate endeavour. Easily fatigued and quick to a flare up, we either have been leary of taking on too much so we don’t do anything at all, or when we do we usually don’t know when to back off and have over- extended ourselves. One step forward and often two steps backwards. Yet we know that without exercise we become less and less mobile. Depression, stress, anxiety set in and we begin to think of ourselves as invalids. Sometimes just minor exercises are too much but on good days we can easily overdo it. The key is appropriate ways of staying active and building up endurance. How many of us have had instructions from health care providers about various stretches and exercises that we should be doing daily? They can be overwhelming. But, few of us have had information regarding pelvic floor muscle exercises after childbirth, and menopause , or if suffering from irritable bowel and/ or an overactive bladder! This has been an area that has rarely been addressed with women in general, but even less so with those of us with fibromyalgia, except the briefest discussions about fibromyalgia and interstitial cystitis or irritable bowel syndrome. Even more absent from the literature is sexual activity and fibromyalgia, which of course is closely related to the pelvic floor. None of these topics are discussed openly and often women deal with the various pelvic floor disorders with shame.
It is to the work of Michelle Kenway, another physiotherapist, that I now turn. Her book is filled with information regarding toning of the pelvic floor and tips regarding safe exercises to build strength. It is highly likely that as we age, those of us with fibromyalgia will have an unstable pelvic floor unless we develop strength in those muscles. Indeed even young persons with fibromyalgia have written to me regarding incontinence, pelvic pain and painful intercourse. Kenway’s book gives expert guidelines with diagrams on exercises for strengthening the pelvic floor that even if we are suffering from pain can slowly begin to incorporate in our daily lives since they are so gentle. We do not need fancy clothing, expensive gym equipment, nor a personal trainer. With the step by step process of Kenway’s exercises we can find ways to either live with a condition that already exists or prevent some of the more troublesome conditions that could develop as we deal with constipation, aging, inability to have intercourse and the weak muscles that plague those of us with fibromyalgia.
It is even said that sexual pleasures can be enhanced with consistent PF exercises. As the book I laughed so hard I peed my pants points out ,with exercises of the pelvic floor even intercourse becomes more pleasurable. The many benefits to exercises, movement, and relaxation techniques never cease to reinforce the theory that fibromyalgia can only be helped if we dedicate ourselves to move beyond the pain and incorporate a regime with daily discipline … it isn’t an easy task, I don’t advocate this easily as I often have to practice what I preach.