A healthy pelvic floor isn’t just about strength

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Haylie Lashta is a physical therapist and pelvic floor therapist who works extensively with pregnant and postpartum women at Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness. 

When we think about pelvic floor, we often think of doing kegels as a way to strengthen it to avoid incontinence.

However, strength is only part of the equation, says Haylie Lashta, owner and operator of Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness. She is a Physical Therapist and Certified Pelvic Floor Therapist who works extensively in women’s health, prenatal and postpartum care, and infant development.

When she sees women with symptoms, she often asks, ‘Who told you to ‘strengthen’ your pelvic floor?’

“Often we hear this from friends, family members and other healthcare providers after discussing for a few minutes some symptoms you’re having,” she says. “But does anyone check to make sure you are doing the exercise correctly? I find often no, this is not the case.”

She says part of the problem is women are expected to know what to do for kegels because of what we read in magazines like Cosmo, where kegels are described as squeezing the pelvic floor.

The problem with that?

When we compare this ‘squeeze’ of the pelvic floor to another area of the body, says Lashta, it’s like squeezing the muscles of the arm without actually moving the elbow.

“Does that impart strength? Sort of, but not really. A functional pelvic floor and the proper contraction is thinking of drawing the pelvic floor muscles up and into the abdomen, which will lift the muscles that are essentially like a sling between your pubic bone and tail bone,” she explains. “But we can’t just contract – no other muscle groups do we go to the gym and just hold for as long as we can, pause then repeat, so why do we do this in the pelvic floor?”

For the pelvic floor to be functional, it must be able to lift up and in, as well as relax down and out. An active relaxation is like taking that sling of muscles and letting them fall down and away and it often feels like work, notes Lashta.

She says a good analogy for comparison is to imagine your elbow is stuck in a bent position. You describe that you are having difficulty reaching and grasping things, particularly as they are falling off a table, and someone tells you to strengthen that muscle by contracting as hard as you can for 10 seconds, pause and then repeat 10 times in a row.

“Over time, the elbow will begin to bend farther as the muscle tightens and doesn’t lengthen, and your ability to catch falling objects will often get worse,” says Lashta. “So what does this muscle actually need? It needs first to lengthen to achieve full range of motion. Then it will need functional strengthening and coordination with the rest of the surrounding muscles to ensure that it can do it’s job all the time.”

If you experience any pelvic floor pain in pregnancy or postpartum, seek help: Lashta says it’s not normal.

“There is no reason for pain during pregnancy or postpartum – that’s like saying a runner ‘signed up for’ knee pain.”

And remember that it’s not just about strength: it’s about the ability to relax your muscles as well.

Haylie Lashta graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelors of Science Kinesiology with Great Distinction (2009), and Master of Physical Therapy (2011). She has been practicing in Warman since 2012, and opened Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness in the fall of 2014.

No-bake Nuts ‘n Bolts

Tis the season for snacking! And here’s a favourite of mine. My mom makes this every year, and now I do as well. You can change the ingredients to suit what you like or what you have in your pantry. In the past, I’ve packaged this in pretty Christmas bags complete with the recipe and an ornament – makes a great gift!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 C Cheerios
  • 2 C Shreddies
  • 3 C Crispex
  • 2 C pretzels
  • 2 C mini Ritz
  • Optional: 2 C nuts
  • 1 envelope dry ranch or country herb dressing
  • 2 tsp dill weed
  • ¾ C cooking oil

Directions:

Mix all dry ingredients well. Warm oil in microwave and then pour over mixture. Stir well. Let dry and much away!

Meal prep idea: Mexican chicken

Meal prep idea: Mexican chicken

A friend showed me one of those pretty videos on Facebook and the idea was similar to this one. I couldn’t find the link she sent me, so I just winged it. Happy with the results, I figured I should share it! It’s a fairly healthy and filling meal idea that would be good for anybody, including newborn moms or moms with littles.

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Meals for the week! Or whenever you’re in a rush and need to grab something quick: just toss it in the microwave.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of chicken breasts
  • 1 C basmati rice
  • 2 C water
  • 1 – 341 mL can kernel corn
  • 1 – 398 mL can refried beans
  • 1 – 540 mL can black beans
  • Salsa
  • Shredded cheese

Directions:

Place chicken breasts on a baking sheet and top each one with a couple spoonfuls of your favourite salsa. I use a delicious zucchini salsa made by the Warman Collective Garden! Check them out on Facebook.

Bake in the oven: probably about 30-45 minutes at 350.

Meanwhile, place rice and water in a pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, and then let stand for another 10.

Once chicken is cooked and cool enough to touch, slice.

Once your chicken and rice are both ready, drain and rinse the corn and black beans, then set up a little assembly line of chicken, rice, and each of your cans of corn, beans, and refried beans.

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Ready to top with chicken, salsa, and cheese!

In microwavable and freezer-friendly containers, put about 2 Tbsps of each: rice, refried beans, black beans, and corn. Place one sliced chicken breast in each container. Top with more salsa if desired, then top with cheese, and voila! Lunch or supper ready. Pop them into the fridge or freezer to have on the days you don’t have time or don’t feel like making a meal.

Perogy casserole

The ultimate comfort food and very easy to make. Who doesn’t love perogies?! Even your toddler will love this one. 

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For this batch, I added broccoli. You can add whatever veggies you have on hand. Nothing quite like perogies with mushroom sauce and cheese to warm you up.

Ingredients:

  • Bag of your favourite perogies
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 C milk
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2C cooked ham or bacon, chopped
  • 1 diced red pepper
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 1/2 C cheddar cheese, grated

Directions:

Grease a 9×13″ pan. Layer the frozen perogies in the bottom of the pan. Melt the butter in a frying pan and saute the onion and red pepper for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add to the pan. Also add the bacon or ham.

Combine milk and mushroom soup in a bowl and then pour over casserole. Top with cheese. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Spiced lentil, kale, and sweet potato rolls

These are great as a snack or you can add a side to make them into a meal. They are also easy to eat with one hand, so perfect for those early days when you feel like you’re constantly breastfeeding or holding a baby and don’t have two free hands!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 packages Pillsbury crescent rolls (dough for 8)
  • 2 or 3 small sweet potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 inch chunk of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmet
  • ½ C green lentils
  • 2 C water
  • 2 C loosely packed kale, torn into bite-sized pieces without stems
  • Dash of Himalayan rock salt

Directions:

Warm about a tablespoon of oil in a medium sauce pan. Add onion and garlic and saute until translucent. Then add the ginger and other spices and continue stirring until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add the lentils and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat and simmer uncovered about 10 minutes.

While doing this, pierce the 3 sweet potatoes and microwave them to cook them. Check on them every couple of minutes. It will take about 10 minutes total. Set aside to cool. Once cool, cut in half and scoop out the sweet potato, “mashing” it at the same time.

Add the kale and rock salt to your lentil mixture (mine is in a twister, so I twist it a couple times). Cover and simmer until the lentils are soft, but not mushy. This time could vary: mine took about 20 minutes.

While cooking your lentil/kale mixture, open your crescent rolls and spread some on a cookie sheet (I use a non-stick one, but you could also use parchment paper).

Using a slotted spoon, add some of the lentil/kale mixture. It will be a bit watery, so you will want the slotted spoon to make sure there is little water (alternatively, you could drain the liquid from the lentil/kale mix first).

Then roll up into a crescent roll. You can also make these into pockets and instead of making rolls, pinch two triangles together. In this case, spread the sweet potato onto one of the triangles, being sure to leave an edge so you can pinch the top and bottom pastry pieces together if you choose to make pockets. Then place a second pastry piece on top and pinch the two pieces together.

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Bake at 375 for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. You can serve as a meal and add a salad (see photo: I added a nice salad-in-a-bag!) or have to eat with one hand during those mega nursing sessions!

 

 

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