When it comes to knowing what our own core and pelvic floor strength is, most of us have no idea. The problem is that we can only truly see our abdominal muscles, and they are but one part of an entire core muscle team.
What team you ask?
There are 4 muscles that comprise the core muscle team including the diaphragm, pelvic floor, abdominals, and a tiny muscle group along our spine called the multifidus. It is crucial that these muscles actually work as a team to do their primary job, which is to manage the pressure within the abdomen. In other words, their job collectively is to keep the pressure inside the abdominal space at a constant, but these muscles are always moving and adjusting to our breath and every other movement in the body.
Most individuals have spent the majority of their life without having to think for a moment if their core muscle team was working well. Until a pregnancy, injury to our back, an abdominal surgery, or with reduced fitness level. Then we may notice issues with bladder leaks, increased pelvic pressure, abdominal muscles that feel weak or we notice a gap (diastasis recti), or increased low back pain.
Since we cannot actually see the entire muscle team in action as some muscles are hidden from our view and located internally, we can use a couple of tests to assess how we are managing pressure with our core and pelvic floor. One is for absolute strength and the other is for quick contractions. When doing either test, we need to mentally focus on what we are feeling taking place with our belly and pelvic floor. Do we notice muscles tensing and lifting or bulging outward or downward?
Watch these two videos to try these out for yourself.
How did you do? Note that not doing well with these tests is NOT always due to weakness. Good coordination must be present to do well on these tests.
The more we learn about our own bodies, the better we can care for ourselves and learn to thrive. If you have any questions for our therapists, we would be happy to see you in office or virtually to help you regain that full and effective core strength.