Tips & Techniques

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and the Runner

Denise Smith 
April 23, 2020

We have a special addition from our friend, Christen Louderman, PT. Christen is the director of the Physical Therapy Assistant Program at McHenry County College.  We are lucky because Christen is also a specialist in Women's Health Physical Therapy.   While Ashley is on maternity leave, Christen will be helping to make sure all of our female runners/athletes continue to get the BEST CARE!

Today we discuss how pelvic floor dysfunction can affect a runner!

The pelvic floor has a very important job and it is to hold all of your organs in place and give support to everything else (like your pelvic bones).  (To learn more about how the pelvic floor works, Ashley gives a a great description so click here to learn more.)

Pelvic floor dysfunction can look different for each runner.  Dysfunction to the pelvic area can present as pain - so you may experience pain with running in the pelvic region.  Or you may have pain with intercourse, pain with a bowel movement, or pain with urination.  In those cases, we would tend to think that you are having something similar to a muscle knot that you can get anywhere, you can get a lot of muscle tension, and it can also occur in the pelvic floor. (Ask the owner of Smith Physical Therapy, Denise Smith, her experience of returning to running after having a c-section!)  Another problem is that you may have weakness in your pelvic floor. This may lead you to experience incontinence.  This may come on where when you run, laugh, sneeze, cough and it may cause you to have slight (or a lot!) of urine leakage.  Most of the time, this occurs as urinary incontinence but it can also be fecal incontinence in severe cases.  I know - super embarrassing but something that needs to be talked about (because you are not the only one out there)!!

In some cases, pelvic floor dysfunction does not always show up as a pelvic issue.  In some cases, women (and men) may have different pains in other places than the pelvis.  They may experience hip pain, low back pain, or groin pain. It is easy to think “Oh I have bursitis," but it might not actually be coming from the hip . . . you can't always believe everything Dr. Google tells you!   It could be coming from another location all together.   One of the most obvious indicators is a urinary accident because there is never a time that you should leak urine!  If you leak with that small laugh, sneeze, cough, then that is something that needs to be investigated a little bit further.  It seems in society we all believe this leakage is a right of passage as a female or as a mother.  We all brush it off that we pee our pants with laughing hard, coughing, or when we try jumping jacks.  Just because you have had children does not make it okay that you are experiencing this.  On a more personal level, if you are experiencing pain with intercourse, that is also something that needs to be investigated - and fast!

More specifically to runners, if you have a problem with running and you notice low back, hip, and knee pain, it may be because something is not being supported in the pelvic floor and you are now compensating.  One of the best places to start is with an assessment by a running technique specialist.  During your session with the specialist, they may ask you about your pelvic health.  Pelvic floor dysfunction is one of the most common things women will experience at some point in their life - whether that is right after childbirth or 40-50 years after childbirth.  But we wholeheartedly believe that this problem is fixable and women should not have to suffer.  Starting the conversation is the first step toward helping women understand that pelvic floor dysfunction should not be accepted as a stage in life.  We should not have to accept that we have to live with this and we should definitely not brush this off as something all women go through.  One of my instructions once told me that we do not let our kids pee their pants, so why should we let grown women pee their pants??!

Please call our clinic if you have questions about your pelvic health.  We can schedule a free discovery session to talk about what you are experiencing and how physical therapy may be beneficial for you.  We can also help you figure out if you need to see a physician that specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction like a gynecologist or urologist.

Stop running to the bathroom before every run and stop wearing pads all the time!



Meet the Author
Denise Smith graduated from Marquette University in 2002 with a Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy and has been a certified running technique specialist since 2014. She is a consultant for multiple local middle and high schools and instructs courses in Kinesiology at McHenry County College. Denise also travels the country as part of the Pose Method education team with a lecture series on injury prevention and treatment along with the running technique certification course.
You were made to move!