Earlier this year I attended the British Wheel of Yoga Congress – it’s basically a national conference for yoga teachers in the UK. There was a huge variety of classes and lectures available over the three days and I had especially sought out the one on hypermobility by Susanne Lahusen. I was aware that hypermobile people can be attracted to yoga as they often have much more joint flexibility, and I have seen many such people in my classes over the years. So, my intention was to learn more about the condition to better care for my students.
What I wasn’t prepared for was a big revelation about my own health problems following the birth of my daughter!
I am not naturally very flexible – I have never been able to do hanumanasana (the splits) even as a child; my shoulders are tight and backbends do not come easy! So I have never considered myself hypermobile. However, as Susanne explained – it is actually a connective tissue disorder that has many other symptoms and problems associated with it.
As the talk progressed, on every slide I was seeing myself to some degree and a new picture of my body was emerging that made sense of many apparently unconnected minor issues I have:
- Flat feet/fallen arches
- Low blood pressure
- Tendency to bruise easily
- Joints that click easily or dislocate (I can partially dislocate my hips at will, my sacrum is mobile when it should be fixed)
- Poor digestion (mine has always been sluggish however good my diet)
- Joint pain when stationery for long periods (especially my knees)
- Hernias and organ prolapse
If you think you may be somewhere on the hypermobility spectrum then contact your GP and ask for a specialist referral to get a diagnosis. Symptoms can be mild to severe and very varied. For more information on EDS and hypermobility see the NHS website.
When it came to the slide about hernias and abdominal problems it was a lightbulb moment for me regarding my diastasis and accompanying cystocele and rectocele.
A lot of reading I had done on the subject just gave statistics – 30% of women have some degree of diastasis post-partum, 50% of women over 50 years of age have some degree of POP (pelvic organ prolapse), but no real underlying causes. Of course there is mention of multiple births, instrumental delivery, prolonged labour or large babies - but that doesn’t apply in many cases of POP and some woman have all these factors and yet not develop POP or diastasis. There was still something missing.
My daughter is 3 now and all this time I had been looking for an answer and carrying a sense of failure and frustration. After all, I’m a healthcare professional, I was super healthy and fit before conceiving, ate well, exercised and took supplements during my pregnancy. Labour was quick and natural in the birthing pool and my daughter was on the small side of average – but this had still happened to me. I really wanted to know why! So now here I was in a lecture theatre in Warwick thinking – is hypermobility the missing piece of the puzzle?
It certainly looks that way. Subsequent reading has found that a high proportion of women with POP have hypermobility. For many it is perhaps pregnancy that was the stressor, but a significant number have not had babies and there are cases of teenagers with POP. Thankfully POP and diastasis do not necessarily have to be inevitable. There are ways of helping to prevent and correct them without surgery. Good posture and movement is essential as is an emphasis on strengthening the body rather than stretching it. In general it is advised to avoid high impact activities and heavy weight training.
After my GP told me surgery was the only option (or just 'learn to live with it' - yes he really said that!), I investigated alternatives and found a combination of private women’s physio, online exercise system and womb yoga has worked for me. I can happily say my diastasis is nearly closed, my cystocele has resolved as has the rectocele. On my last physio visit I was finally cleared to run again. Never did I think the prospect of a 5k run would bring such joy!
What you can do if you have or suspect you have diastasis or pelvic organ prolapse:
- See a specialist women’s health physiotherapist. You may be able to access this through the NHS or you can find one privately. I personally recommend My French Physio in Kentish Town -Elodie, you are a star!
- Learn how to move and exercise safely. It is important to avoid high impact exercise, heavy weight lifting, and stomach crunches all of which make the problem worse. Correct posture can also improve the situation. I recommend the online MuTu System , movement coach Danielle White, or one to one yoga.
- Get your digestion working well, bloating and constipation only increase abdominal pressure which exacerbates the problem. Regular walking helps as well as drinking sufficient water. If you need a nutritionist I would recommend Lindi Radomsky-Jaff. Regular reflexology also helps to promote healthy digestion and hormonal balance.
I would love to hear your story – what worked for you, what didn’t; and if you need any further information or advice. Do please contact me here at firstname.lastname@example.org.