Social media is a tricky thing, and I have mixed feelings about it... while it is a fabulous platform to educate and inspire... there is as much bad information out there as good evidence based information. While the increased awareness in women’s health, hormones and pelvic floor issues is definitely drawing an increasing number of great, well trained and experienced trainers (and equally some great training providers educating those trainers and coaches) out into the lime light… I have also been seeing an increasing number of trainers and coaches claiming to be specialists in women’s health who at best are offering ineffective advice, at worst dangerous advice.
A worrying number of these trainers seem to be promoting waist-trainers to help postnatal and menopausal women. This advice is often mixed in amongst some genuinely sound advice which makes it difficult for people looking for guidance to judge what is and what is not good advice. Particularly with the prevalence of social media influencers and celebrities posting glamorous photos of themselves with synched waists or perpetually camera ready ripped abs.
If a woman is using waist trainers or corsetry because they like the aesthetic - as long as they understand the possible consequences on their body - I am not going to judge or comment. However, if they are looking for help with pelvic floor issues and are attracted to someone who is touting themselves as a women’s health expert and claiming to specialise in pelvic floor health then in the same breath is recommending the use of waist trainers I have a problem with it.
Wearing overly tight corsets can cause problems with blood pressure, circulation , breathing mechanics and potentially weaken the core muscles that support and stabilise the spine.
Corsets and waist-trainers will also increase intra-abdominal pressure putting significant strain on the pelvic floor. This in turn can exacerbate issues with incontinence, symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse and/or chronic pelvic pain.
In fact if you look at women who have worn very tight corsets for long periods they often have a very specific postural shape and tend to have a slightly pot-belly and over developed neck and shoulder muscles due to these changes in breathing mechanics and increased intra-abdominal pressure.
So what is intra-abdominal pressure?… In simple terms if you think of the pelvic floor as being part of a muscular canister we commonly refer to as “The Core”, "The core cylinder" or "the core canister”.
The front and sides of this cylinder are formed by your deep abdominal wall (transverse abdominus)
The back is formed by the multifidi (two sausage shaped muscles that run either side of the spine).
The top of the cylinder is made of your diaphragm.
And the bottom of your cylinder is formed by your pelvic floor.
It is this cylinder of muscles that is often described simply as the “core” that contains your pelvic organs (bladder, vagina, uterus and rectum). While supporting the pelvic organs this cylinder of muscles work together to maintain an ideal level of intra-abdominal pressure and help to maintain and healthy balance of stability and flexibility through the lumbar spine.
I would like to stress at this point that intra-abdominal pressure like everything else in the body is not fixed and will increase and decrease as a result of our normal daily actives… lifting something heavy or jumping, running or sneezing will all cause an increase in our intra abdominal pressure and we should be able to comfortably deal with the rise and fall of this pressure during the day.
However wearing a corset or waist-trainer creates an constant increase in this intra-abdominal pressure for the duration of your wearing it. If you think of the “Core Cylinder” being like a ballon…. If you tie a band tightly around the middle of your ballon you will change the shape of the ballon, creating a “waist". However, the amount of air or gas in the ballon hasn’t changed so you have essentially pushed the air up and down away from the tight band. Causing the ballon to bulge at the top and bottom.
The same thing happens in the human body with the bulges in the ballon restricting either your normal breathing mechanics or pushing down into the pelvic floor.
Now imagine that there is a weak spot in the rubber that the ballon it is made of at the bottom of the ballon. When you increase the pressure at the top and bottom of the balloon (or into the diaphragm and pelvic floor) if there is a weak spot at the bottom (the pelvic floor) of the ballon the increased pressure will either cause the weak spot to bulge outwards or the ballon will burst.
Obviously the human body is more robust that that and won’t “POP” however the increased pressure can cause or exacerbate an pelvic organ prolapse or incontinence. And if you have an overactive pelvic floor the bodies attempts to resist the increased intra-abdominal pressure can cause an already overactive pelvic floor to become tighter and even more spasmy… and yes I know thats not a word, I hope all you “Grammar Girls” out there can forgive me and allow me a little latitude in my description.
The fact that this advice is being directed at women who are postnatal and peri-menopausal/menopausal and beyond is also a concern as these are two times in a woman’s life when we REALLY NEED good advice.
Pregnancy and delivery both put a fair amount of strain on the pelvic floor and there will almost certainly be a need for some level of rehabilitation after even the simplest pregnancy and delivery. Women are often under so much pressure to get back to their pre-baby figure rather than focussing on nurturing and healing the body that has had to change and support .
As for older ladies… once we hit peri-menopause the hormonal changes in our bodies mean our muscles and connective tissues can loose some of their integrity and we are subsequently more vulnerable to pelvic floor disfunction. This can be seen by the jump of women experiencing some form of incontinence from 30% to 50% as we reach our 50’s.
So while I think we should always be looking out for our pelvic floors I do feel that these two groups of women are more vulnerable to a bad physical outcome if they receive bad advice.
If you really want to get a waist Im afraid I can’t recommend using a waist-trainer to get it… I can only recommend eating an healthy and varied diet, keep moving and exercising and keep your weight/BMI in a healthy range and wear clothes that flatter your body type.
I am passionate about helping women with pelvic floor dysfunction wether that is incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse or chronic pelvic pain.
If you would like to work with me I do offer One-2-One training either Online or in Person I also have an online “Adore Your Pelvic Floor” course that will not only give you the practical skills to heal your body but the education and knowledge you need to feel empowered to make educated decisions for yourself so you are able to live your best life.
This course is split into two halves. The first is a comprehensive educational program that will give you a deep understanding of the anatomy of the pelvic floor, how it functions, what can go wrong and how to effectively train your pelvic floor.
This runs alongside a 16 week pelvic floor conditioning program that will take you from the basics of pelvic floor recruitment through to impact and loaded exercise…. in other words get you back to running, jumping, dancing and anything else you want to do so you can live your best life.
If you would like to work with me One-2-One https://www.fionacarterpilates.com
If you would like to access my Online Adore Your Pelvic Floor Course https://fiona-s-school-a743.thinkific.com/courses/adore-your-pelvic-floor-with-fiona-carter
If you would like to train to become an Adore Your Pelvic Floor Coach https://adoreyourpelvicfloor.co.uk/courses/teacher-education-classes/
This Blog is not meant to be used as a treatment programme. While I hope you find the information I have shared interesting it is based on what I have found useful in my teaching over the years and the best and most current research.
However, you should always seek the guidance of medical professionals in treating any condition. As a Pilates teacher I am not qualified to diagnose any condition. I would recommend seeking the advice of a good Physiotherapist or your General Practitioner. I would also recommend training with a Pilates Teacher who has completed a in depth training in the field. Pilates courses can vary vastly from short online or two day courses to three/four year in-depth full time apprenticeships. don’t be afraid to ask questions about your teachers training and experience. If you would like to train with me as a Pilates Teacher or as a Pelvic Floor Coach Or find an Adore Your Pelvic Floor programme in your area. Get in touch I'd Love 💗 to hear from you.