May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Helping Female Athletes Up Their Game

This decade has seen the largest number of women participating in competitive and non-competitive sports in recent history. We work out for our health, to strengthen our minds as well as our bodies, to nurture the competitor inside of us, to prove to ourselves we have still “got it,” for our sanity and for some, to escape little and not-so-little people who constantly need something from us.

In my clinic, I treat women of all ages who often come in seeking relief from a painful hip or back. They report that their pain is exacerbated by participating in high-level forms of exercise, such as cooking for a three-day yontif, running, Zumba or playing tennis.

A women’s form can be susceptible to certain sports-related injuries that are unique to women. Joint laxity and weakness in the pelvic floor, the muscles that support the hip joint at the bottom, are often the hidden culprits. Who knew there were muscles down there? Who knew their strength and integrity could affect your jump shot?

The pelvic-floor musculature, which runs from the pubic bone in the front to the tail bone in the back, often doesn’t get enough love in typical athletic training programs. Yet, they are responsible for supporting our pelvis and the organs that rest inside.

With the growing popularity of Pilates and yoga, “strengthen your core” has become the mantra of the fitness world. For those uninitiated, “the core” commonly refers to the abdominal muscles and the muscles that support the trunk. Unfortunately, most women miss the muscle group that supports the core at the bottom, the pelvic-floor muscles. These muscles, when working correctly, contract and relax along with the other trunk stabilizers to provide a stable base for movement and activity. When they are weak, maligned or not firing correctly, they can cause pain and dysfunction. When their pelvic-floor muscles are strong and firing correctly, women will find that their overall ability to generate power during performance of their sport of choice will improve.

Paying attention to the forces acting on the pelvic floor during exercise, and the movement or lack of movement in these muscles can provide useful information about how this system is functioning. Leaking urine during exercise may be one symptom that the pelvic floor could use some support and strengthening. While leaking urine during exertion may be common, it is not normal.

Stabilizing and strengthening the pelvic floor correctly can be challenging, as it is easier to work muscles you can see. If you have been doing your kegel exercises for the last 500 years and feel like they have not helped at all, it could be that you are not doing them correctly. You are not alone. A recent study found that most women who attempt to performing the traditional “Kegel” pelvic-floor exercise are doing them wrong. A skilled physical therapist who specializes in the pelvic floor can be an excellent resource to help you learn the best methods to improve the strength and function of your pelvic floor muscles. During your physical therapy session she will make sure you are doing all your pelvic floor strengthening exercises correctly and help you make the most of the athlete in you.

Rivki Chudnoff, PT, MSPT is the owner of Hamakom Physical Therapy in Bogota, NJ. She specializes in the treatment of urinary incontinence; bladder and bowel conditions; pregnant and postpartum patients and SI joint, hip, and pelvic pain, as well as sexual function, painful intercourse, and unconsummated marriages. Through her treatment, she strives to help women improve their quality of life at every stage.

For more information go to www.hamakompt.com or contact Rivki directly at [email protected].

By Rivki Chudnoff PT, MSPT

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