That thing you’re doing that’s “good” for you? It’s not. Stoppit.
There’s so much information out there, from so many sources, it’s difficult to know what’s true and what’s false when it comes to taking care of our health.
So…we talked with our awesome physical therapists, Brianna and Meagan, to find out what things women are doing in an attempt to be healthier, and why they really shouldn’t. Turns out, some very “normal” things really aren’t good for you.
The problem: incontinence or urgency. One of Brianna’s clients was suffering from urgency – needing to urinate very badly and occasionally not making it to the bathroom in time. She assumed she was simply drinking too much water.
The wrong solution: intentional dehydration. To fix the problem, she pretty much stopped drinking water and other fluids while at work. The problem with doing this, says Bri, is it means the small amount of urine she is producing is much more concentrated, increasing her risk of urinary tract infections, for example.
The right solution: water. It turned out that her problem wasn’t caused by drinking too much water; she was actually drinking too little, and her bladder was constantly irritated. Bri worked with her to slowly and properly increase her fluids, ending the irritation and getting her back to walking to the bathroom instead of sprinting.
The problem: pain during intercourse. Meagan’s client was experiencing pain during sex as well as overall vaginal irritation.
The wrong solution: douching. Meagan explained to her client that the vagina has its own balanced system to keep it clean, and that the douching was only causing more irritation. “She was doing it more out of hypervigilance. She believed she could smell something,” Meagan tells us. “I examined her, and there was nothing abnormal or to be concerned about. Douching is not something we encourage. You’re messing with the delicate balance of the vaginal tissues, and you’re risking infection both on the outside and deeper within the vagina.”
The right solution: promote and protect healthy tissue. Sometimes the issue with painful intercourse is the tissues around the vulva are thin and delicate due to too little blood flow to the area. Pelvic floor exercises, Kegels, vibration and massage helped make the vaginal tissue healthy and more durable. Once that was resolved, the client no longer felt she had unusual discharge or sloughing of tissue, the issues which had led to her deciding to douche in the first place.
Irritation can also be resolved often by simply switching to cotton underwear, using a fragrance-free detergent, using the right intimate soap, and ditching the thongs, Bri adds. PS: this applies to steam cleaning of the vagina, according to Meagan – not necessary and potentially damaging to sensitive tissue.
The problem: wanting six-pack abs. While there’s nothing wrong with six-pack abs, a lot of us damage our bodies in the quest to get them.
The wrong solution: over-exercising our core and pelvic muscles. We hold our stomachs in, do too many crunches, over-exert our core muscles and basically put our pelvic muscles in a state of constant spasm. This can actually cause pain, incontinence, and urgency issues. “Hold weights over your head for 30 minutes, then tell me your arms don’t hurt,” Meagan says. “It’s the same with your pelvic floor – muscles need to clench and relax in order to become stronger.”
The right solution: exercise your core properly. Learn how to exercise your abdominals properly. Consult with your doctor or a pelvic floor specialist if you’re not sure.
The problem: painful intercourse. Pain during intercourse can happen for a number of reasons: vaginal dryness due to hormonal change, birth control, or medical procedures; pelvic floor issues such as spasms, etc.
The wrong solution: endure. “Too many women think painful sex is normal and they should just ‘grin and bear it’,” Bri says. “They go somewhere else mentally and just endure it, but it really ends up hurting them, hurting the relationship.”
The right solution: education, openness, and lubricants! Painful intercourse doesn’t have to be your new normal after menopause or for any other reason. “Gals feel like they should be able to have intercourse without any supplemental lubrication,” Meagan says, “and they’re ticked off that their bodies don’t make what they need. They don’t want to deal with using lube, reapplying lube… The problem is they’re causing all these micro tears in that tissue, and pain, increasing risk of infection. Just use a lube!”
The problem: painful intercourse, coupled (ha ha) with a desire to use “natural” lubricants.
The wrong solution: olive oil. Olive oil has exfoliating properties, meaning it causes the skin to slough off dead cells. This is not a part of the body one should exfoliate, Meagan says; nature has already taken care of that. Bonus info: jojoba isn’t the best choice either, as it’s wax based, and the small amount of wax can build up internally.
The right solution: do your research. If you prefer to go the natural route, there are choices that may well work for you. Just be sure you read research from credible sources, test any substance on another body part first, start small to test for a reaction, and report any unexpected or unwanted reactions to your doctor right away.
[Choose a lube that fits your needs and your lifestyle. Check out this lubricant info sheet from A Woman’s Touch]
The problem: yucky public toilets. Few of us are completely comfortable trusting our bare bottoms to a public toilet seat or outhouse, no matter how picturesque. We’ve all heard horror stories of people picking up strange diseases or at least sitting in something suspiciously moist.
The wrong solution: hover. To keep our tushies safe, we hover above the seat when it’s time to urinate. Not a good idea, say our PTs. “If you’re not in a relaxed, sitting posture or full-on squat position, the muscles through your hips and pelvis aren’t relaxing. This means you’re having to generate extra abdominal pressure to push and force the pee out,” says Meagan. “This recruits the wrong muscles and totally messes with how normal peeing should happen.”
The right solution: sit, Ubu, sit. Layers of TP on the rim. Know that if you don’t have an open sore at a contact point, the chances of contracting anything are pretty minimal. You’ll be fine. Or you can squirt some hand sanitizer on a piece of TP and give the seat a quick cleanse (but wait for the surface to dry to avoid skin irritation). Just don’t hover.
The problem: lack of Vitamin D in the nether region. Apparently women feel their vaginas aren’t getting enough Vitamin D.
The wrong solution: exposing one’s genitals to sunlight or tanning beds. The real problem? THIS ISN’T A PROBLEM. This part of the body is hidden and shaded for a reason – nature intended it that way. A burn in that area can be extremely painful and damaging to very delicate tissue over the long term.
The right solution: get enough Vitamin D in the usual ways. Exposing the skin to sunlight is good, when done carefully to avoid damage. But maybe bare only the skin that nature and culture have deemed reasonable. ?
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