Physio Advice Versus Fitness Advice
This blog, was inspired by Five Myths Around Incontinence and the Fitness Industry. I shared my story… but it was only half the story. You see, my qualifications to become a Fitness Professional did me, and all the women I trained, a dis-service.
And I have been ok and open about sharing that.
What I have not shared before, is the injustice I felt about the advice given to me by the Women’s Health Physiotherapist that I saw.
And the dis-connect I had to her words …
Let me share my full story.
I had had my 2 kids and did not have any pelvic floor dysfunction. When my youngest baby turned one, I decided to change my career from sedentary teaching to becoming a Fitness Instructor. I spent the next year pushing myself physically to get into shape. (Or get into the only perceived shape I thought that people would take me seriously as a Fit Pro). It was during this time, I noticed that my incontinence started. But it was only sometimes.
It was easy to ignore.
The next year, when I went to study Certificate III and IV in Fitness, I was pretty keen to find out as much as I could. I would have dearly loved to have asked my tutors about my personal leaking, but in a room of new school leavers I just couldn’t. So apart from a few titters of laughter and stray comments from other mums at the gym, I was left thinking that I was the only one suffering. How could I have an old lady affliction when I was only 34?
I sincerely hoped my incontinence would just go away , but instead it started to get worse. Much worse.
It was not until I was teaching Body Pump to a sea of people who were eye level with my crotch, that I simply could NOT take the stress of worrying if I would leak through the pad, or that they would see the tell-tale pad bulge anymore.
I went to my Dr. who sent me off to a Women’s Health Physio and she told me in no un-certain words, I had exercise-induced-incontinence. My work out was too hard for my pelvic floor, she said, and it was simply not coping. I was devastated. Working out was my sanity pill and now, my new profession.
It seems crazy that I did not completely or immediately equate my high intensity work out with my growing incontinence concerns.
But if I am completely honest, I did not even want to make that correlation. And hence why I had suffered in silence for so long and to the verge of prolapse.
After I got over the initial shock of what the Women’s Health Physio told me… the anger followed. In short, the fitness industry had short-changed me. I had completed all my studies with flying colours. I have always been a bit of nerdy geek when it comes to learning! Yet education on pelvic floor, both as muscle and how it responded to exercise was completely omitted! And I did not receive any supplement education at my gym or with my own Personal Trainer.
This lack of knowledge was now affecting me personally and profoundly.
Then I quickly realised this injustice affected not just me, but all women I was working with! Up until now, I was helping damaging the target market, I was committed to helping!
However, there was another injustice that day when I went to see the Women’s Health Physio. And that was the advice she gave me… I was specifically told that I was to stop exercising the way in which I was. She provided no exercise alternatives and painted a bleak picture of what would happen should I continue the way I was, probably to scare me into action. But the reality was far darker.
I used exercise to deal with post-natal depression. Or to be more exact… Post Traumatic Stress because of this back story (Skip down to the circumstances around the birth of my second child, that motivated me to change my career from teaching to Fitness).
Quite honestly, exercise enabled me to get off medication and deal with the big black holes of depression that I regularly fell head first into.
Just stopping my exercise program, quite simply, was not an option.
Inactivity creates a huge impact on women’s health. And those who (like myself) use exercise to help with mental health/ post natal depression, telling women to stop exercising is NOT the answer either.
Statistic’s released by Queensland University tell us that the biggest impact on heart disease for women over the age of 30, is not smoking or obesity… it is inactivity.
There is also plenty of research on exercise positively impacting on postnatal depression.
Yet many women are still given this advice when seeking help from Women’s Health Physiotherapists:
“Lift nothing heavier than 5kg and DO NOT run!”
Let’s imagine that I received this information and left the appointment with my toddler and baby. I lift my 12 kg baby into the car seat and then have to sprint to stop my runaway toddler who is heading to the road. In less than 10 minutes, I break both rules.
It is easy to heap blame onto the Fitness Professionals, who have absolutely no education as part of Cert. III and IV in Fitness on working with women (other than women being trained as men) as contributing to the massive statistics around women’s incontinence. However, most postnatal women (and we know that they are one of the biggest risk factor groups for exercise-induced incontinence and exercise-induced-prolapse) will see a fitness professional before they seek out a Women’s Health Physiotherapist. Often their biggest concern is getting into shape and are in Stage 1: ignorance around pelvic floor concerns.
And the unfortunate reality is that if all the women with pelvic floor dysfunction decided to do something about it tomorrow… the health system would simply collapse! There are often waiting lists to seek help from either Women’s Health Physiotherapists at both private and public practices.
There needs to be a united approach between physio and fitness to keep women active, safely!
Knowing what I now know, it has long been my mission to bring awareness to exercise-induced-incontinence and exercise-induced-prolapse, to both the women who turn up to work out and those who deliver the work outs. However, there needs to be a more holistic approach to women’s health and fitness. One that includes the value of what Fitness Professionals bring to women’s health and fitness. And one where Fitness Professionals know when and who to refer to.
Fitness Professionals are perfectly placed to start conversations and differentiate between what is “common” and what is “normal” and advise their clients on who might be the next best person to consult.
I feel so strongly about:
a) All Fitness Professionals receiving information that can make a massive impact on women’s health, in particularly exercise-induced incontinence and exercise-induced prolapse
b) That all Women’s Health Physiotherapists who do not have the facilities to provide exercise to their clients, partner with a like-minded Fitness Professional, so the advice is “continue exercising… and here is how”
The benefits of a positive working relationship between physio and fitness truly benefit our female clients / patients. And if this makes complete sense to you… and you are working with women – either as a physiotherapist or a Fit Pro, then the Women’s Health and Fitness Summit is your place to educate, connect and have a hand in re-designing the landscape of women’s health and fitness in Australia.
See you there!
Click here to read about another 4 myths around incontinence and the Fitness Industry!
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