Exercise and “Leakage:” A Physical Therapist’s Perspective

Jamie Justice, PT, WCS

Jamie Justice, PT, WCS

I recently had a conversation with someone who really likes to do CrossFit.  CrossFit is a high intensity workout regimen using varied functional movements, popular with many fitness enthusiasts.  This person told me that during training sessions people are instructed that “you are not squatting hard enough unless you pee your pants.” While I suspect and hope this instruction is tongue-in-cheek, as a pelvic floor therapist I can’t help but be disturbed. I think about the damage you could be doing to your pelvic floor muscles by straining this hard when squatting. This damage could have a big effect on your quality of life–but it can be avoided.

Simply put: peeing/leakage should not be a measure of a successful squat. In fact, it may be a sign that your pelvic floor muscles are not able to withstand that amount of intra-abdominal pressure, causing urine to leak out.  When this happens, you might indeed be strengthening larger muscle groups in your legs or glutes (buttock muscles); but you may also be straining your smaller pelvic floor muscles, weakening them more and more over time.

This CrossFit anecdote is a pretty extreme example of leaking when you exercise, and it might be something you joke about with friends during your workouts.  However, this condition is extremely common, and sadly, often silently accepted as “normal.” For many women it actually prevents them from exercising.  Many don’t understand that this condition can be successfully treated.

Whether you experience leakage when you run, do aerobics or jumping on a trampoline, don’t let this be the reason you don’t exercise.    Physical therapy can help with this kind of leakage, and we can help you to exercise again, or exercise without having to worry about wearing pads. We can tell if you have been straining your pelvic floor and teach you the correct way to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. We are experts in looking at how you move, understanding the many connections in motion in your body. If you experience leakage or any sort of acute or prolonged pain during exercise, let us help get you moving safely again!


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