Monday, October 13, 2008

Exercising Those Abs

I've started using free weights at home, and I'm getting addicted. I scoff at most exercise, but lifting weights I like. And I like the fact that having free weights at home means I can use them whenever I want and not have to schedule time and effort to go to a gym. I'm not a gym kind of person. I'm not a schedule kind of person.

But while my arms are getting all hard and buff, the rest of me is languishing in untonedness. My specific area of concern is my belly. I'm skinny, so there's nothing there to lose, but I like feeling how hard my biceps are getting, and I want to be able to feel my hard abs too.

The only problem is that ab exercises seem like just about the worst idea for me right now. If coughing and laughing hurt my coochie, a few dozen crunches sounds like a really big NO WAY. There are even some dumbbell exercises I don't do because of the pain they give me down there.

So how does one tone one's abs without igniting one's netherly pyre? Pelvic Pain Matters posted about this question just the other day. That blog's owner had a physical therapist comment on how regular ab exercises are really bad for someone with pelvic floor dysfunction (malfunctioning (often overly tense) pelvic-floor muscles). I don't know if I have PFD or if it's just all the northern stuff pushing south when I cough/laugh/crunch, but her advice seems like a good starting place: don't exercise abdominal muscles in isolation, and don't do anything that pushes the abdomen forward and the pelvic floor downward.

The physical therapist lists safe abdominal exercises in that post, but I, being not interested in exercise, don't know what they are. I tried Googling them, but they seem to require equipment and/or tapes. I, being not interested in exercise and also thrifty, am not going to go buy exercise equipment or tapes. I just want something quick and easy to remember that I can do with my body alone. Like crunches, but not crunches.

So I searched the web and found nothing. Then I found pregnancy abdominal exercises. Then I thought -- again; time number 10,524 -- if I got pregnant, would my pain go away? Then I gave up on the abdominal-exercise search. I think I'll just try a few ideas and see which ones hurt the least. May my inner Jane Fonda guide me to an ab-toning solution.


  1. Esther,

    I have had physical therapy for pelvic pain and found it helpful.

    I was found to have pelvic floor dysfunction... big-time!

    If there is a PT in your area that does pelvic pain PT, I would highly recommend trying it! They can provide the exercises right for YOU!

    Obviously insurance coverage varies but my regular copay covered it (with a referral from my doctor... but they can fill you in on all those rules).

    If you aren't sure how to search for such a PT, try this:

    1) Contact the National Vulvodynia Association to see if they know of any PTs in your area with this special training.

    2) Contact the International Pelvic Pain Society with the same questions.

    3) Open the yellow pages and call physical therapy places and just ask them, "do you have any PTs who specialize in PT for pelvic pain"? If they pause and sound confused, the answer is probably "no". :) If they say yes, they hopefully have someone with proper continuing education training in this special PT. If in doubt, contact one or both of the above organizations and see if the PT is a member of both or either of the above (NVA or IPPS) and/or if they can tell you ANYTHING about the therapist.

    While most organizations won't recommend specific health care parctitioners (liability mostly), that doesn't mean they can't point you in the right direction! You just have to ask your questions in a certain way to give them some latitude.

    Finally, if you have a pelvic pain specialist in your area, he/she may have some leads for this special PT therapy.

    As a layperson (this is NOT medical advice!), doing crunches may not be the optimal exercise method for you depending on if you have adhesions, scar tissue, pelvic floor dysfunction resulting in referred pain, etc. So many things can make this tough on the body.

    You may want to look into it further with your health care professionals b/4 you do any more exercises that could do more harm than good.

    Exercise is good... don't get me wrong. It sounds like you MIGHT be better served with stretches/exercises specifically designed for people with your symptom set! GOOD LUCK!


    P.S. You could buy all the tapes in the world and implement them to perfection -- but if the exercises aren't right for your body type and health issues, it could be a waste of money at best and a flare-up of symptoms at worst!

  2. Jeanne, thank you so much for your response! That's a ton of information, and I'm so glad you chose to share it.

    Believe me, I haven't even *tried* crunches! The pain of laughing and coughing has been enough to deter me from seeing just how painful crunches might be. But thanks for your concern.

    I will consider trying physical therapy -- I've read that it helps others a lot. My insurance is giving me the run-around for regular stuff, though, so I don't have high hopes that it would cover PT. But I'll look into it. It'd be nice just to have the opinion of someone who has a different perspective on that area than a regular gynecologist.

    Again, thanks so much!