Travelling Pelvic Floors
I love travelling and feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to do so. However, one of the downsides about moving to the other side of the world is that you do spend a lot of time in transit just to get home for a visit.
Over the last month and a bit, I have done a ridiculous amount of flying (for educational courses, home visits and fun), spending about 45hrs in the air (between Calgary, Vancouver, Seattle, Los Angeles, Brisbane, Sydney, Dallas and Austin) and a whole bunch more time in and around airports, taxis, buses and trains. All of this added up to a very sore tail bone and tight pelvic floor muscles and a lot of time to think about how travelling can affect your pelvic health.
Here are some of my travel-related observations to keep in mind that you can also apply to your everyday life!
The most obvious downside to travelling is the looong amounts of time spent sitting and particularly the limited space that you have to sit in. I have a tendency to curl up in my seat to sleep, however this causes lots increased pressure on the tailbone and sacrum, closing up the pelvic outlet and shortening all of the pelvic floor muscles. Not good! If you must sit for a long time, try these things:
Maintain a neutral pelvis while sitting by keeping your weight on your sit bones (ischial tuberosities) and off your tailbone. Sit tall (not always easy in the reclined plane or car bucket-seats) but still doable.
Use a folded towel/blanket/scarf/pillow/jumper (thats a "sweater" for you non-Australians) to pad up the back of your seat in order to create a flat surface (as opposed to one that is angled backwards).
Then try get your bum as far back on the seat as possible while keeping your feet supported which will help you maintain a neutral spine.
Change positions frequently where possible, pelvic tilting (rocking your hips forward and back) can help to gently stretch out the muscles in your back and open the pelvic outlet.
Get up and walk every now and then and see if you can find a space to stretch your hips, hamstrings and calves.
Travel (especially across time zones) can throw off your regular eating, hydration and sleeping routines which can lead to digestive changes. Not to mention higher toilet seats which can make it difficult to completely relax and open the pelvic floor muscles. Constipation is not only annoying and uncomfortable but is also a big concern for pelvic health due to straining. Try to minimize the damage to your pelvic organs and muscles by:
Staying hydrated - drink lots of water, even more than usual as the plane and airport environments are very dehydrating
Go when you need to! If you delay emptying your bowels, the stool becomes dehydrated and hard (not so fun)
Don't hold your breath and strain to empty
Don't forget the fibre in your diet, not always the first thought when dining out at restaurants but some greens and a bit of roughage can go a long way. Fibre supplements such as Metamucil can also be helpful to keep you regular
Avoiding shortening/tightening of the pelvic floor muscles (see above).
Handling luggage can be awkward at the best of times, but especially when your body is already fatigued and have limited space to get your luggage overhead or pull it off a carousel. These tips go for looking after your shoulders and back, as well as your pelvic floor:
Try to position yourself well and with a good amount of space when getting your luggage off the carousel. Use two hands if necessary.
Don't pack a reaally heavy carry-on if you know are going to put it overhead.
Bend your knees and stick out your bum when picking things up from the floor.
NEVER hold your breath when lifting heavy items. Or for any reason really, unless you're swimming underwater. It's a pretty important life function. Instead, breathing out while lifting helps to engage your core muscles and decrease the pressure inside your abdomen and pelvis.
Some people carry stress and tension in their shoulders. A lot of us hold it in our pelvic floor muscles and are super tense without even realising. Travelling and airports can be stressful but don't necessarily have to be. Give yourself enough time to get to the airport without having to panic about missing the plane. Remember to breathe.
Waiting in lines and waiting some more
This one you can turn into a positive! While waiting in ticketing lines/security lines/customs lines/boarding lines/during four hour stopovers, it is a great opportunity to practice active standing and good postural alignment.
Back your hips up to get your weight in your heels for optimal pelvic floor, core and bone loadining, rather than just hanging off your passive structures (ligaments).
Get some movement and walking in before you have to sit down for your flight or during stopovers, instead of going straight from sitting in the waiting lounge, to sitting on a plane and back to sitting in another waiting lounge.
You'll find me doing laps of the airport and stretching frequently on the ground, standing and sitting on chairs.
I know for a fact that Dallas Fort Worth and a few other airports have in-terminal yoga spaces for some peace and quiet stretching! Check it out if you're heading that way!
It definitely helps if you are wearing well fitted flat shoes while travelling so that you can move around comfortably (I love my Toms!)