Allison Oswald, PT, DPT, WCS, CPT is a visionary in the world of women’s health. Allison’s passion lies in working with clients to address their connection to the pelvic floor. As an area of the body that is often overlooked, the pelvis is the central anatomy from which virtually all other facets of our health operate. Not only is this area the center of proper body mechanics, it acts as the literal core of many women's health related issues. The maintenance of core strength and mobility impacts issues including anorgasmia, loss of bladder control, prenatal and postpartum preparation, and elements of emotional stability.
As a mother herself, Allison knows firsthand how the childbearing years affect a women’s health, and how challenging this transition can be without proper support.
When working with clients she starts with education to establish an initial connection and understanding, and then focuses on manual manipulation, myofascial release, breath work, visceral manipulation, DNS, and kinesio taping techniques to name a few.
The continued refinement of her work through study and practice achieves profound results. Allison helps women heal, feel inspired and embrace their bodies and the process. We caught up with the specialist so glean some insight into the pelvic floor.
What inspired you to become a pelvic floor specialist?
When I was introduced to pelvic health in my doctorate program it was like love at first sight. This speciality really sparked my interest and I immediately started taking continuing education to deepen my knowledge, and continue to do so today. I find it intriguing and exciting to be able to share and educate people surrounding the subject.
What has been your most rewarding client moment/experience?
With 15 years in practice, there have been so many incredible client experiences. But I will always remember one woman I worked with many years ago which made me realize early on that this work actually changes lives! She had 3 grown children, and had been suffering with incontinence in silence for over 18 years. She was very fit and had been doing countless workouts trying to “strengthen her pelvic floor,” however she was wearing pads daily and only wore dark leggings while working out to hide leaking. Within one visit she started feeling improvement and also an understanding of what was going on, which made it all less scary, less confusing, and less overwhelming. After 12 sessions (and a commitment to her home program) she was 90% improved. She still stays in touch and we do an annual check-in virtually to keep her on track, but she is completely continent and so happy and confident in her body.
What is a fact or myth about the pelvic floor that most women don't know about?
A big myth that almost all women believe when they first see me is that if they are experiencing any urinary incontinence (aka: leaking) they should do kegels. While kegels can sometimes be a part of the equation, it is most definitely not the only thing. Oftentimes women actually need to learn to lengthen and relax their pelvic floor muscles vs. tighten them. Pelvic health includes a whole body approach, including nutrition, stress management, and sleep.
Why is it important for expectant/new mothers to proactively strengthen their pelvic floor.
What is important is for these women to know and embody what the pelvic floor is and how it contributes to their body for labor prep, postpartum healing, and overall well-being. Strengthening the pelvic floor needs to include pelvic floor stretching/lengthening. Having this knowledge and connection will optimize function and also give women the awareness of when to reach out for more support vs. simply contributing these things to “just being part of pregnancy/postpartum.”
What are telltale signs indicating a pelvic floor dysfunction?
There are many things that the pelvic floor can contribute to, but some symptoms may include:
What is your go-to exercise to strengthen the pelvic floor?
Diaphragmatic breathing — The diaphragm and the pelvic floor work together, so learning how to breath using the full capacity of the diaphragm is really the gateway to getting the pelvic floor to function better. I recommend women do 10 breaths in the morning and 10 at night, everyday. It will also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to ground you and calm you.
Practice — Sit somewhere comfortable on your sit bones (ribcage over the pelvis). Breath in through the nose feeling the ribcage expand 360 degrees (vs. the shoulders rising). As this happens, the pelvic floor will expand down. On the exhale the ribcage recoils back in and the pelvic floor draws up and in. This coordinated movement is waking up the core system and can therefore become part of everyday function and purposeful movement (ie. exercise).
What are additional benefits of practicing pelvic floor exercises that aren't tied to childbirth/postpartum?
The benefits run deep — pregnancy and postpartum just happens to be a time when women have pelvic floor on their minds. Consistent pelvic floor work will improve alignment, a better core connection, sex, digestion and elimination, more hip and back stability, increase lymphatic flow and much more.