Pelvic floor control and Running

A different type of running injury! Can running cause and/or worsen pelvic floor dysfunction?

Running is a high impact activity as we all know, and for some who hit the ground hard and with poor technique this can add to their pelvic floor issues. The physical force that is associated with landing passes through the lower limb and pelvic floor rapidly as the foot strikes the ground and the ground reaction force is felt as the abdominal contents bear down on the pelvic floor. It can stretch the pelvic floor, especially if structures of the abdominal wall are not there to support it- such issues diastesis in the recti muscles (yes it can happen to men as well as woman!.)

Fortunately there are a number of steps you can take to improve your pelvic floor support for running:

*Perform regular daily pelvic floor exercises to optimize your pelvic floor strength and the support for your pelvic organs (including bladder, uterus and bowel).Increasing the tone and stiffness in these muscles leads them being able to with stand the downwards forces that running places on them.

*There are various devices on the market that your physiotherapist can help you with that can support the bladder neck and reduce leakage with exercise. Seeking guidance from a Woman’s health physio is a great start.

*Mix up the surfaces you are running on- i.e. trails and grass, as compared to cement paths or tarmac roads. More importantly changing the way you hit the ground and what your strike pattern is will have the greatest effect. More Ninja and less elephant! Shortening the stride length to reduce the amount you hit the ground in front of you and slowing down slightly.

*Avoiding running very fast down hill- as you tend to over stride and hit the ground hard, and stop running before your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles start to fatigue, putting you at risk.

*Other things that can help are managing your body weight, so there is less weight pushing down on your pelvic floor, and it always best to do a run/walk programme to start as this way your pelvic floor muscles will gradually build up to the stresses and strains you are putting in them. Look for a beginners running class to help you with this.

*Making sure the control of the deep abdominals are there, and do a class every week that makes these work to support you when you are running. Doing exercise that challenges your stomach, gluts and pelvic floor is a great adjunct to running. Running itself will not improve this group of muscles.

Lastly seek help, do not suffer in silence.


with thanks to

Jayne Nixon
Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist
Manor Clinic