Thursday, 7 December 2017

Pelvic Health Series: Our journey to regaining strength, alignment, & function Jamie - part 4

Wow! What a journey this has been! Seriously! The conversations that have been started, the support we have received and the knowledge we have gained has been amazing and more than we could have ever imagined.  We have been inspired by those of you who have sought assessment and began your own journey of increased alignment and function. If you’d like to catch up on how our journeys began, check out our previous posts here.  
In Kellie’s last post she discussed “graduating” from physiotherapy.  While I am not at the stage of graduation yet, (I am still working on healing my abdominal separation) I have had some very powerful moments.  Over the course of four months, I have learned so much about myself and my body, through working with Jillian Palmer at Bounce Back Physical Therapy.  This journey to regain strength, function and alignment has been eye opening, powerful, motivating, shocking, humbling, educational and above all empowering. My body awareness, alignment, and core strength have improved immensely.   Yet beyond those self-improvements, there are three takeaways from this journey that stand out in my mind that I’d like to share with you.


1.  Your Breath is a Powerful Tool
Photo Credit Roughley Originals

When I first started seeing Jillian, I knew how to connect my movement to breath.  We cue for it in classes and I understood that you exhale during the exertion phase of whatever exercise you do so you can get better activation of the core and inevitably more strength.  Jillian would check my separation by having me exhale as I was curling my neck up.  Each and every time my separation was wide and she could stick her fingers down in between my rectus abdominus, meaning I couldn’t generate very much tension along my linea alba.  A few visits later, after trying numerous techniques to fix my diastasis, Jillian pulled a trick out of her hat and asked me to exhale and then engage my core by rolling up, instead of exhaling at the same time as I engaged.  Miraculously the depth of my separation changed instantly.  It was the most amazing thing!  Something as simple as changing my breathing pattern allowed my core muscles to function better.  There was still a gap between my abdominals but I could generate tension along my linea alba and you couldn’t stick your fingers into my midsection anymore!
You may have heard of the technique Blow Before You Go or Piston Breathing.  This is exactly the technique I was using to help eliminate some of the pressure in my core capsule before asking my core muscles and pelvic floor to engage.  This little extra release of pressure allowed my pelvic floor and transverse abdominus to engage more effectively.  Once I figured out the timing of coordinating my new breathing pattern to movement, I felt stronger and more stable.  I could feel my core completely and fully engage, along with my other muscles.  It was AMAZING to say the least!
Breath grounds us, refreshes us, revives us, and strengthens us and I now have a new understanding and appreciation for what this means and feels like.    


2.  Listen to your body

No seriously! Listen to your body.  
But what exactly does that mean? We always say and hear, “Listen to your body,” but what if you don’t even know your body?  
What if you just had a baby and your body just spent the past 10 months changing, growing, and shifting?
What if you are getting less sleep than ever before in your life?
What if your hormones are going nuts and your emotions feel like they are on a rollercoaster?  
What if your main concern right now is keeping your new little human or humans alive?
What if you are recovering from a major abdominal surgery?  
What if you just pushed a human being out of your vagina?  
What if your perineum suffered some serious trauma?
What if you can’t even feel your core muscles or your pelvic floor let alone determine if you are activating and contracting them?


You may be hearing your body but are you actually able to listen to what it’s telling you with all of the physical and emotional shifts that are still occuring in your beautiful body?


What if instead of simply listening to your body, someone told you to breathe, take your time, move slow and with intention, learn, embrace the change and the opportunity to retrain your body and mind?  
And what if someone told you that in doing this, the results would be more effective and longer lasting than powering through to get your “body back”?
What if you would potentially suffer fewer injuries in the long term and have a greater understanding of what listen to your body actually means and feels like?


I’d like to give you a little perspective here.  When someone has a knee injury they might be in physiotherapy or rehab for months.  We as women birth babies either vaginally or  abdominal surgery and get exercise clearance after six weeks.  Could you imagine having knee surgery and after six weeks post surgery just bouncing back to your activity level pre-injury?  The doctor gives you clearance to exercise so you go out for a 5km run right after.  You’re probably shaking your head or chuckling a bit now because that sounds crazy, right?
Yet as women, that’s the type of recovery we often expect of ourselves.  Have a baby and six weeks later look and move the same way you did before you were pregnant.  

When I look back at my recovery from both Everly and Camden, I wish I knew then what I know now.  I would do things differently with both of my recoveries.  Moving my body felt good. Sweating and endorphins and pushing my body felt good.  It was what I knew and loved.  It was my happy place.  With Everly I was eager to get back to running, so pretty much the day I got the OK from my obstetrician, I laced up and headed out. (Refer to previous comment about chuckling and shaking your head and thinking that’s crazy.) With Camden I took things slower but was still eager to move like I used to before pregnancy.  Just ask Kellie how often I asked her in the final weeks of my pregnancy, if I could now re-introduce the jump in cardio moves in class and the beaming smile I got as soon as she said yes. The endorphin hungry part of my being was telling me I was doing everything right or at least what I knew before pregnancy to be right.  But my new body after having a baby wasn’t my old body.  It needed different things but I didn’t know what those things were.  Slow wasn’t a word in my exercise vocabulary but in hindsight I wish it was. 
I don’t think that a slower, more intentional recovery would have prevented my prolapse or diastasis but I do know that it would have helped me have greater awareness of my body and given me a greater ability to really listen to it. 
We never return to our pre-pregnancy state and that is okay! Our bodies have grown a human and we should be proud and honoured by what they have done for us. We should respect the stages of change they need to go through post-birth as they shift into their new normal state.


3. Be your own advocate

If your child came to you and told you that they had a pain or weren’t feeling well, you would do everything in your power to make them feel better.  If they continued to express feelings of pain you would take them to the doctor and you would keep taking them or finding doctors that would help them until you had answers and they felt better.  

As moms, it’s ok to do this for ourselves too.  Your body has just been through the ringer and it is totally common to feel pressure, pain, or bulging vaginally or rectally, pain during intercourse, vaginal bleeding, low back pain, leak urine, or have incontinence of any kind.  It is even common for women to be completely symptomless, but have internal organs escaping from their body, a prolapse, and not even know it, unless she had an internal examination done by a pelvic health physiotherapist.  While experiencing any of these symptoms postpartum is common, it is not normal and not something you have to live with.  Fortunately it’s the sole purpose of a women’s health physiotherapist to help women find cures for their symptoms.  


Trust me, I know it’s scary to make that appointment.  I know moms are busy people and it’s so hard to find time to make an appointment for our littles, let alone for ourselves.   But making that appointment to see a pelvic health physiotherapist was one of the most liberating things I’ve done and I am so so glad I finally made my own health a priority and saw Jillian.  


If I could give women one piece of advice after this experience, it would definitely be to please advocate for yourself and fight for yourself and your body.  Fight to feel good and comfortable in your own skin.  Seek help if you are feeling symptoms and find someone who can help you.  Even make an appointment with a women’s health physiotherapist to learn more about your own body.  Whether you are years, months, days, or minutes postpartum, it’s never too early or too late. As Kellie wrote in one of her first posts, if you could be even a little stronger or function a little better, why wouldn’t you?  What do you have to lose?


Although everyone’s journeys and recoveries from birth will be different, every body and mind needs time to heal.  
Give yourself the time and grace that is needed to fully recover from the amazing feat your body just accomplished.  Surround yourself with people who will support and enhance your recovery.  Move slowly and with intention and control.  Learn how your new body moves and feels.  Reestablish the connection between your brain and your pelvic floor.  Learn to breathe and use that breath to move better and be stronger.  Slowly build back up your strength and conditioning and take the time to discover all about this amazing new body you have and what makes it soar.  It may be the same things as before but chances are, if you take the time and navigate your recovery with a sense of wonder and exploration, you will find a new awareness and strength you never knew you had before. 
Photo Credit Roughley Originals

You are an amazing woman and an amazing mom 
and you deserve to take care of yourself 
and feel your best in your body.  


Kellie and I are so excited for what 2018 has in store for us and Fit Your Life. We have enjoyed educating women about the importance of pelvic health and are already brainstorming ways to share even more information with all of you. Our goal is to continue spreading the word and shifting the thoughts that women need to “put up” with leaking, low libido and pain after giving birth.  
You can help too! Share this post, talk to your friends and family or make that appointment with a women's health physiotherapist. The more we normalize women's health by simply starting conversations, the quicker that shift in culture will happen.  

Keep watching here, Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date with Fit Your Life and some fun exciting educational opportunities you can get in on in 2018.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

@Term Initiative

Connect your mind and body to breath and movement in the final weeks of your pregnancy while also connecting with other moms! This amazing community of women will encourage, inspire, and motivate you as you eagerly await the day you meet your baby for the first time!


We are extremely excited to announce our brand new @Term Initiative!

At Fit Your Life, we are passionate about safely and effectively encouraging women to exercise throughout their pregnancy. Labour requires physical and psychological strength and stamina. Training for this incredible event in your life will increase your confidence in being prepared in body and mind. 

On the foundation of this passion, we have created the @Term Initiative! All women 37 weeks and greater, until the day their baby arrives, is eligible to attend FYL classes at no cost! 

The small print:
  • After 37 weeks gestation (must be 37+0 according to early ultrasound dates), you can attend classes, up to a maximum of two per week, until you deliver. 
  • You are welcome to use the passes for any classes - Prenatal Fit, Mom & Me Fit, and Family Fit
  • Email kellie.fityourlife@gmail.com once you are ready to use the passes - they can be booked up to a week in advance

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Pelvic Health Series: Our journey to regaining strength, alignment, & function Kellie - part 3

This has been a humbling journey for me. Not only seeing a physiotherapist for assessment and treatment, but also journaling about my journey through this blog series. Writing about my experience has allowed me to reflect and dig deeper into learning about my own body.

My last blog post explained my initial assessment with Bounce Back Physical Therapy and diagnoses. If you didn’t read it yet you can find it here! I want to now take you on my journey through my “homework”, three follow-up visits, and what being “discharged” means to me.

Homework

At each appointment – the initial and follow-ups – Jillian gave me a series of stretches, exercises, and tips to implement into my daily routine. As the list grew, I would often feel overwhelmed with how to sneak it all in. What made it feel more manageable was when I remembered our discussion about how it’s okay to be imperfect and really that our goal is to have perfect alignment and engagement available to us. I actually came to enjoy incorporating the stretches into my post-workout routine or while I played on the floor with our girls. I would complete the prescribed core exercises at the end of my workout or sprinkled in throughout the day. I never put it upon myself to get it all done in one shot and definitely did not pressure myself to complete each exercise and stretch every single day. This made it attainable and decreased the stress of adding tasks to my daily routine!

Each of our bodies are so different and what was prescribed to me might be completely different than what is prescribed to you, but I still want to give you an idea of my homework list. After three appointments (one assessment and two treatments), my to-do list entailed:
  • standing oblique stretch
  • seated quadratus lumborum (side low back) stretch
  • actively relaxing my pelvic floor with the use of a soft ball
  • actively relaxing my core and practicing “tension to task” technique
  • mindfully shifting my weight into my heels while standing and walking throughout the day
  • continue with self c-section scar massage, as well as adding in abdominal massage for the deeper adhesions
  • once a day to check-in with my rib alignment on the wall
  • laying pec stretch, which then progressed to a standing doorway chest opener
  • core breaths – belly breaths with multifidus engagement
  • glute squats – super challenging squats where you really force your weight over the heels!
  • core exercises – kneeling lean backs (I call these Matrix), bridge lifts, and single leg heel touches – with the focus on full core and pelvic floor engagement and release with breath

Yes, the list in lengthy, but remember that this was over the course of a month and a half. As I began noticing small changes in my alignment and posture, I also started to notice that this movement was becoming my new normal. I would automatically engage slightly while squatting to pick up Mikah and exhale as I came to standing with the weight in my heels. I would naturally allow my upper back to curve the way it is meant to rather than try to sit as straight and tall as possible, which also allowed my core to relax. It is truly amazing that once we become more mindful of our body position during movement and stillness that we can really sense when we are at our most functional.

Follow-up visits / “treatments”

Now that you know what I walked away from each visit with, you might also be curious about what actually happened during those visits. Well, other than Jillian and I going way over time because we get busy discussing all things pregnancy, birth, postpartum, fitness, mom life, balancing it all, and wine… I continued to learn so much about my own body. I have always maintained very straight posture. For as long as I can remember people have commented on how I sit and I take pride in this, but what I didn’t realize I was doing was actually forcing out the natural curve of my thoracic (or mid) spine. Who knew? Each visit we would check in with my glute squat form and really emphasized keeping my bum untucked. I have started to incorporate these small changes into moves in my classes and the light bulb moments I’ve seen in my client’s eyes is priceless!!

My first two appointments were only two weeks apart and in that time, with really only postural changes and bringing awareness to certain movements or body positions, we had already begun to close my abdominal separation. Small changes really do have a big impact! The tension in my linea alba, which is the connective tissue between the rectus abdominis, was strong even from our first assessment which likely helped the quick shifts in the musculature.  Some manual work helped to break down some of the scar tissue around my caesarean section incision, which has made movement through my core a lot more comfortable. Upon my final visit, where I graduated from therapy (more below!), we even found that one of my ribs might be in fact keeping my rectus abdominis slightly open. The body is truly interconnected and amazing!

Discharge planning

As a nurse, we learn about discharge teaching and how this actually begins before the patient is even admitted. I found this also true with my pelvic health physiotherapy journey. Jillian set me up for success from our very first meeting and continued to build on that knowledge at each appointment. At my fourth appointment, when we discussed that it could be my final visit, I had mixed emotions! Most of me was excited and proud that I had taken my rehabilitation seriously and committed to making small changes that had turned into healthier habits. A smaller bit of me was sad because I had enjoyed learning from someone who cared equally, if not more, about women’s pregnancy and postpartum bodies as I do.

I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion on how the goal moving forward will be that I no longer am required to do the prescribed exercises and stretches daily. With improved habits and a strong core base, I should be able to move with function and freedom!

If you are reading this, but hesitant to book an appointment because you are afraid that you will be told you need to avoid certain exercises or are no longer allowed to complete certain movements – please do not let that hold you back! A Pelvic Health Physiotherapist is on your team! Their goal is to have you moving in ways that make you feel strong! Sure, depending on your situation (pregnancy, diagnoses, breath connection, etc) they might suggest changes or pulling back from certain movements for a short time. If this is the case for you, I promise that it will be worth it! After your alignment and core function are improved, you will be amazed at your increased strength through those same movements!

I am so thankful that I hopped on this journey of self-improvement and found answers to questions that I didn’t even know I had. I continue to feel empowered by my strong and capable body!

A few final thoughts…

Would I have been completely fine if I never made the initial appointment? Definitely. I had great core connection and body awareness. However, the knowledge and strength I have gained through someone else’s assessment and treatment plan have been empowering.
Do I wish I had seen a pelvic health physical therapist sooner? YES! I am really just so excited about how much I learned about my own body and some of the things I can now bring to my clients in class.
Would I encourage you – pregnant, postnatal, neither – to be assessed? YES! We all have “little” things we can work on with our alignment and core function. Just as Jillian said to me at my first appointment – “If we can make you stronger and more efficient, why wouldn’t we?!”
What is one thing I wish I could demonstrate to everyone reading? How much stronger I am because of my increased connection to engaging my core in the most efficient way!

“The human body is the most complex system ever created. The more we learn about it, the more appreciation we have about what a rich system it is.” – Bill Gates

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Pelvic Health Series: Our journey to regaining strength, alignment, & function Jamie - part 3


It has been two months since my first appointment at Bounce Back Physical Therapy with Jillian Palmer.  I have had some ups and downs with my recovery but overall I have been loving the experience.  I have loved learning more about how my body functions and being able to apply what I'm learning from a women's health expert to my classes. Over the course of this two month span I have had appointments every two weeks to try to find a solution for the symptoms I was experiencing.  If you want to know more about the beginning part of my journey, my symptoms and diagnoses, or Kellie’s journey, please click here and read the first four posts in our series. I’m going to take you back to where I left off after my last post and share with you my experience of trying to find better function in my pelvic floor and close the abdominal separation I have. 

I feel like Jillian, or any physio therapist for that matter, is like Sherlock Holmes, trying to solve the mystery of what is causing the symptoms or problems your body is experiencing.  She has this brain full of tools that could potentially fix your problem, but the trick is finding the right tool for your body. 

I was lucky with my pelvic floor.  She sent me home after the first appointment with a little foam ball to sit on and breathe and relax and imagine my pelvic floor wrapping around the ball with each breath.  Within two weeks I noticed a difference and after just one month of allowing my pelvic floor a chance to relax, I was already noticing a huge difference in function.  I could do up to 30 jumping jacks without feeling any heaviness in my rectum!

Your pelvic floor is an amazing muscle that is responsible for so many important functions in your body.  By not allowing my pelvic floor to fully relax, it wasn’t able to do its job.  Think about it like this, if you walked around squeezing your hand into a fist all day, your hand would be tired too and wouldn’t be able to function properly.  Or if you constantly clenched your bicep, when you needed it to engage to lift something, it would have a hard time doing what you were asking of it.  Your pelvic floor is the same.  It needs to engage and relax just like every other muscle in your body.  Thankfully, when you give your body the chance to behave the way it is built to, it responds magically.

Finding the right tool to unlock the mystery behind why I am experiencing a significant diastasis has been much harder to find.  Your rectus abdominus (or your six-pack muscles) want to be close together.  They don’t function well with a large gap between them, so if you can find the right tool to unlock the reason they are stuck open, they should willingly go back to where they are supposed to be.  I continued to see Jillian every two weeks, and every two weeks she would send me home with new exercises or stretches to try to get my separation to close. One tool Jillian talked about that really hit home with me was thinking about tension to task.  I needed to start to think about engaging my core relative to the task I was trying to complete.  There was no need to engage my core to a level 10 when I was picking up a pen or washing dishes, when a one or two would suffice. 

No Diastasis Recti          Diastasis during pregnancy      Diastasis postpartum
Image used from ProgressiveMotion.com
During one of my appointments, Jillian watched my abdominals closely as I was doing my core breaths and with every exhale and engagement I would get a small bulge in between by abs. There wasn’t any significant coning or doming or tenting like when I was pregnant.  It was just a small space where my abs were separated that would slightly raise above my abdominals.  This small bulge meant that with every exhale and engagement of my pelvic floor and transverse abdominus, I was generating pressure within my core capsule.  This pressure needed to go somewhere and it was going straight to my weakened linea alba, or the space between my abs that I couldn’t generate enough tension in to contain the pressure.  My insides, my organs, were literally being pushed out and trying to escape from my body. 

Once we realized this was happening, we needed to test my core's abilities. She lead me through very basic movements to see exactly what kind of pressure my core was capable of handling and I was shocked to learn how little I was actually able to control.  When someone tells you that your insides are trying to come out of your body and can show you exactly when, if that isn’t a rude awakening, I don’t know what is.  The reality was that if I continued to push my core and body the way I was, I was at risk of a hernia.  So, over some Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough icecream, (a necessity for me when I have some soul searching to do or let's be honest, anytime really) I did some thinking.   Is doing a full push-up or burpie really worth a hernia?  Physically, I had always prided myself on pushing my body’s limits but at this point was the risk really worth the “reward”? 

On top of significantly modifying all core and prone exercises, I needed to learn to relax my core.  We noticed that I was pre-engaging my obliques with every core breath I did, further separating my rectus abdominus.  Even though we discussed tension to task, and I understood what it meant, I wasn’t actually applying it except when physically lifting things.  For every core breath I did, I was fully engaging every muscle in my midsection, which wasn't necessary. I needed to learn to relax my obliques and just let my pelvic floor, transverse abdominus and multifidus do the work.  Put your hands on your obliques next time you do a belly breath or a kegel and see if they harden or engage.  You might be surprised.  I sure was and it took a lot of mental focus to let them relax while only engaging my pelvic floor, transverse abdonminus and multifidus. 

Outside of relaxing my obliques during core breathing, I needed to let my stomach go.  As hard as physically modifying everything is, mentally for me, this one was 100 times harder.  Not only has this been a challenge almost every minute of the day for me, it has been completely eye opening.  When I started to be really mindful about my core and started to think about tension to task for every aspect of my life, it shocked me to realize how much of my day was spent with my core engaged.  Why would my core need to be engaged fully when I was sitting in the car or watching tv, or walking around the grocery store?  I then started to wonder how long I had been doing this for.  Definitely the whole time I was pregnant, but maybe even before.  Maybe even as long ago as my teenage years.  That’s an awful long time to ask your core to engage and not expect to see some negative side effects. It is highly likely that I was experiencing symptoms before but pregnancy and recovering from pregnancy brought them to the forefront.  “Sucking in” my core was a bad habit I developed a long time ago and it was going to take a lot to unlearn it and retrain my body and mind.  My journey quickly switched from solely a physical one to a mental one as well. 

Habits are important. 
Up to 90 percent of our everyday behaviour is based on habit. 
Nearly all of what we do each day, every day,
 is simply habit.
 – Jack D. Hodge

So for the time being, I am working on unlearning, retraining, relaxing fully, engaging properly when I need to and learning new habits.  I am still smiling and remembering each day to celebrate the small victories and am proud of myself for working within my current bodies capabilities.  


Photo Credit Roughley Originals

After 2 months of visits we still haven’t unlocked the mystery that is causing my abdominal separation but I am happy to report that the depth of my separation has decreased, I am able to generate a lot more tension in my Linea Alba and at my last appointment we found a tool that worked some magic and I can’t wait to see what it does for my body.  Stay tuned for my next post to find out all about this magical trick. 





Thursday, 26 October 2017

Pelvic Health Series: Our journey to regaining strength, alignment and function Kellie - part 2

Hello! I am starting this post with a huge thank you!! Jamie and I are incredibly humbled by, and grateful for the beautiful messages we have received since opening up about our journeys through this pelvic health blog series. Amongst your notes, we have found joy in knowing that you are becoming more aware of the changes occurring within your body. Many of you have even sought assessment because of our journey and we could not be more proud of you for doing so. Truly!

If you have not read our previous posts in the series, please check out Jamie’s first and second installments as we as my first that precedes this post!

Also, I wanted to remind all of you that there are so many incredible women’s health physiotherapists in Edmonton and surrounding area. Jamie and I are both seeing Jillian Palmer, from Bounce Back Physical Therapy, because we had started to develop a professional relationship with her through referring clients. We appreciated her approach, and her proximity to our homes was perfect! We encourage you to find a Physical Therapist with whom you can connect and feel comfortable with. In order to help you find a physiotherapist that is right for you, we have compiled a list of many of the wonderful pelvic health specialists in Edmonton and surrounding area here. In addition, there are links to the Albertan and Canadian Physical Therapists Association pages where you can search for a Women’s Health physical Therapist in your area.

So, now let’s dig back into my journey. I was essentially symptom free, other than some nagging “tightness” with the excess scar tissue building around my cesarean incision. This tightness would bother me more on some days than others and most traditional abdominal (core) exercises were uncomfortable. The more I learn the more there is to learn. I knew by making an appointment with Jillian, that if nothing else, I would learn how to improve outcomes for my Fit Your Life clients, but would likely also learn many things about my own body.

I drove to my first appointment nervous and very unsure of what to expect. I made a point of arriving right on time so that I did not need to sit in the waiting room and allow the suspense to build even more. Thankfully, Jillian was also right on time and no waiting occurred! I really enjoyed the initial part of the appointment. We reviewed my pregnancy history, exercise background, and overall physical health. We discussed anything currently occurring in my body and focused in on habits relating to the core and pelvic areas. Through our conversation I realized over the last year, I was paying less attention to my body with two little bodies to look after. I could tell you how often they empty their bowels and bladders and how much water they take in, but I had to really think about the answers for myself.

After this portion, we moved into the external physical exam. This is where Jillian assessed my alignment and posture during static standing and while moving through a squat. Having a background in Kinesiology, I knew to some extent the things she was looking for, but I was still interested to learn her observations. She then had me climb up onto the table/bed to assess my linea alba (the connective tissue between the rectus abdominis) through single leg raises. Although I secretly hoped she wouldn’t feel the separation of my abdominal muscles when I crunched up through my upper body, I knew she would. I shyly admitted that I had felt the gap at my belly button and to my pleasant surprise, she was happy that it didn’t continue above or below. Whew! When she asked me to perform a single leg raise, I was able to complete this on both sides, without any doming (where your body tries to push through weakened areas in the linea alba), but my legs did feel quite heavy and I also felt the same tugging or tightness around my incision. THIS was my “magic moment”… Jillian then gently squeezed my rectus abdominis together with her hands and asked me to perform the single leg raises again. They practically floated into the air!!! Whoa. My face lit up. What did this mean? That although my core was strong and functioning even with a small separation, if we were able to close it, I could fire those muscles even more effectively!

Although I was on a high from this “magic moment”, I knew the internal exam was coming next.

With the Physical Therapist stepping out of the room and me physically and mentally preparing for the unknown, I took a deep breath. She could tell I was nervous and, like Jamie described in her story, I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciated the knee analogy. She described this assessment just as any other body part. I relaxed a little. To my surprise, this exam was over really quickly. For that I was grateful mainly because that meant there were no startling diagnoses! Jillian left the room for me to dress so that we could discuss all of her observations and create our plan.

What filled me with so much excitement and anticipation for the months to come was when she sat down and told me, “You are strong. You would have been completely fine if you never booked an appointment with me, but you are here and now we are going to make you so much stronger!” Sold!!

So, what were her findings?
  • Holding excess tone through my core and pelvic floor
  • Two finger separation at umbilicus (belly button)
  • Rib flaring
  • Alignment – standing and squatting with a “tucked bum” and not allowing the natural curve of the thoracic (mid) spine
  • Pushing down through my pelvic floor, rather than containing while coughing and sneezing

What were her recommendations after our initial visit?
  • Oblique (side abdominals) and quadratus lumborum (side low back) stretches and pelvic floor relaxation techniques. These will help my rectus abdominis close by creating space within those muscle groups, as opposed to holding. 
  • Actively practice relaxing through my core and pelvic floor during the day. This will help those muscles know how to relax and therefore be able to fire maximally when needed!
  • During walking and exercise, keep my weight overtop of my heels and keep my bum untucked. This will help me also to find neutral posture when carrying the girls and assist my ribs to unflare and come back to neutral.
  • Actively contain (or squeeze up) through my pelvic floor when coughing or sneezing to re-train my body, as that is what those muscles are meant to do (i.e. keep everything contained!).
  • Continue with self-scar massage to break down the scar tissue and which we will address more at the next appointment.

I really appreciate that Jillian doesn’t attempt to fix all things at once. I will expand in my next post, as I felt this was a manageable amount of tasks to work on and things to consider as I move through my day. She addresses the most important aspects of re-aligning and strengthening my body and gives new homework at each visit to build upon the last.

Driving home, I felt so inspired!! Yes, I had a list of things to work on and by no means was my body perfect, but I felt I had been given tools to effectively and efficiently re-train my body while it was still adjusting postpartum. Back to that “magic moment”! I wish I could re-create that sensation in all of you – to be bluntly shown how strong your body can be! The best part was to achieve a closer connection of my rectus abdominis and to begin to close my belly button separation, all I needed to do was relax! Jillian straight up told me that likely by doing “nothing” it would begin to close on it’s own over time.

I truly believe that we can all benefit from a posture and alignment assessment. In our busy days – sitting, standing, carrying, holding, laying, breastfeeding in all positions – our spines take a toll. Even small shifts can make a huge difference in the way you carry your body and finding its optimal alignment.

“You don’t need to have perfect alignment 100% of the time. Our goal is to have optimal alignment available to you.”
When Jillian said this to me, I felt like I finally had permission to “let go” and relax throughout the day. This has been a game changer for me.

Thank you again for following along this journey with me as I share my discoveries and inspirations! In my next installment, I will take you through my daily routine to incorporate my homework as well as my high five moments and accomplishments!

Stay tuned for Jamie’s next post where she shares her successes and challenges as she and Jillian Palmer continue to work together to tackle her list of diagnoses.