Pregnancy comes with an assortment of issues ranging from tingling fingers and swollen feet to discomforts that can turn into full-blown injuries. As the ligaments of the pelvis are softened by hormones preparing it to widen for birth, one painful situation that can develop is pubic symphysis dysfunction. However, the condition is treatable.
Also known as symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), women who have it feel excruciating pain at and around their pubic bone whenever they step over things. Getting in and out of the shower can leave them waddling in tears for days, but they don’t have to live with so much pain.
Kelly Dean is a licensed physical therapist who specializes in neuromuscular and core rehabilitation. She and several other specialists treat issues related to core strength every day at her clinic in Camas, known as The Tummy Team.
“Rather than accepting these symptoms as ‘normal’ or just living with incontinence products, pain medications or surgery, we believe there is a common cause connecting all these symptoms together,” Dean stated. “When your core and pelvic floor muscles lack the strength to help stabilize you, pain sets in.”
Those who visit her clinic describe it as safe, informative and life-changing. The living area is host to many community classes, and toys for little ones and swings for babies are in each room. It’s also not uncommon to see the receptionist cradling a newborn for a mama who is having her core evaluated in the next room.
Each client is seen for a full hour at every appointment and given a prescription of motions and supports tailored to meet her personal needs.
The most common thing women seek out The Tummy Team for is treatment of diastasis recti (DR). When Dean checks women for DR, she is testing how thin and wide the central connective tissue of her abs has become, allowing the two sides of her abdominal wall to shift apart. Having a DR is a symptom of broader core dysfunction and, in severe cases, the internal organs can be palpated. It’s tied to major loss of stability which is how it relates to SPD.
It affects so many women, that Dean is adding further education about SPD to her online courses for pregnancy and professionals. She will have a free training tip about SPD on The Tummy Team’s facebook page during their Mother’s Day sale as well.
According to Dean, inner thigh activation is key for anyone dealing with pubic symphysis or sacroiliac (SI) joint instability.
“There are several strategies, but keep in mind the first part of the program is just developing awareness to all that you are doing that could be sabotaging your core,” Dean said.
Dean has several recommendations that can be implemented right away while you’re waiting to get in to see her at her clinic or use one of her online programs:
- Tall kneeling or hinging at your hips instead of rounding in your spine is a great option. So “standing on your knees” while sorting clothes at your washer and dryer.
- Recruiting the kids for “floor patrol” so you don’t have to pick as many things up: Put a laundry basket down, have them fill it up with the stuff on the floor, and then you can put it away or have them help you put it away.
- When sitting in a chair, squeeze your fist or a ball between your knees. This feels amazing!
“Medical and fitness professionals flippantly prescribe kegels, but that is a gross oversimplification of the issue. The pelvic floor needs to be able to have multi-directional, dynamic movement for all the activities of real life,” said Dean.
The Tummy Team’s online fitness partner that takes core fitness beyond kegels and crunches is Fit2B Studio which is set up to provide women with a safe return to exercise. Women who have invested in healing their core don’t want to undo all the work they’ve done in rehab, but most mainstream fitness providers are unaware of the ramifications of SPD and DR and do not know how to modify for it.
One of the home fitness workouts on Fit2B was designed specifically for women dealing with SPD to help them move and get fit safely during and after the rehabilitation process. Here is the article about it on fit2b.com and a sample of it from the Fit2B channel on youtube.
If you think you might be dealing with SPD or DR, consider giving The Tummy Team a call. The clinic also has specialized pelvic floor physical therapy, as well as chiropractic and massage care on site.
“The body has an incredible capacity to heal when given the right opportunity,” said Dean.
Beth Learn is a Battle Ground resident, freelance health reporter and founder of www.fit2b.com.