I recently caught up with an old friend for coffee when she was visiting from interstate and as we were sitting chatting away bringing each other up-to-date on family events I noticed she was fidgeting in her chair, switching her weight from side to side. When I asked her what was wrong she leaned across the table and whispered “I’ve got awful haemorrhoids my doctor has me on all sorts of things and it looks like I will have to have an operation” and her eyes filled with tears , as did mine – in sympathy.
How long had she been suffering like this ? Since the week before, following a session with her personal trainer. That surprised me as I knew her to be a regular exerciser who put me to shame with her dedication. I also knew she had worked with her trainer for quite a while…..so what had changed?
“Oh Fiona – he decided I needed to be pushed more and started me on V sits with a medicine ball and crunches and holding planks for longer ……. I got home after the session and next time I went to the loo ouch ! and I’ve been like this since. I knew something wasn’t right during the session, I felt really uncomfortable ‘down there’.
Now here was a sensible girl who had trained for years, was well aware of haemorroids as she had previously had them following childbirth and knew how to maintain good bowel habits which had always saved her from further episodes and all of a sudden she was in trouble. I refrained from lecturing her on why she should know better than to exercise so inappropriately for her personal history as I could see she was in a bad way (and girlfriends support they don’t criticize ! ) but I was cross at what had happened to her.
This is a prime example of appropriate and inappropriate exercise for an individual and how important it is to know what is good for you. Poor exercise technique or loading muscles with too much weight or resistance will end in injury.
The pelvic muscles are skeletal muscles just like your biceps and all your other ‘moving muscles’ i.e the ones you have conscious control over. The only difference is that we can’t see our pelvic floor or kegel muscles so they are often forgotten or neglected until they are injured and it is then the symptoms of that injury that we pay attention to such as incontinence , haemorrhoids and prolapses.
The other types of muscles we have are called smooth muscles – we have no voluntary control over them , they are the muscles like the heart, the gut and our bladder and bowel sphincters- they work by contracting but we can’t make them contract consciously.
So….if you go to the gym and lift more weight than your muscles are capable of or lift in a poor posture you may damage the muscle tissue – tear, sprain or strain it with the resulting symptoms of pain, swelling and dysfunction….not unlike the haemorrhoids my poor friend was suffering from. Please please please, if something doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t – talk to your trainer or local women’s or men’s health physio for appropriate modifications to your exercise routine just as you would if you had a knee problem or a back problem. And men – don’t be fooled , the same can happen to you , particularly if you have had low back pain, your core muscles are compromised in any way or you have any lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) or prostate problems.
The happy outcome to this story is my friend returned home, followed conservative medical advice, allowed time for recovery and spoke to her trainer who has modified her program to a more appropriate level – he was genuinely unaware of the risk those exercises posed to her condition.
Exercise appropriately for your condition and don’t be afraid to say ‘no this is not suiting me”