I am still reading through mamasweat's blog posts and today I came across this gem:
"..., I think pelvic strength is great. But, as a scientist myself, I know that everything has an elasticity limit, even muscle. Pregnancy and birth can provide enough force for some muscle to never go back to it's strength or length. Look at your stretchmarks ladies - some women have more elastic skin. Nothing you can do to change it. Bottom line: don't blame yourself for your pelvic floor problems"
Signed, of course, Anonymous.
I responded with:
The mechanical failure you are speaking of is called CREEP (really, that's what it's called!) and has nothing to do with PFD (this is well researched, so with a little leg work anyone can see the extreme difference between the failure of skin vs. muscle). In other words, stretch marks have no scientific purpose in a discussion about PFD.
The incorrect notion that the structure is inherently weak and is the cause of PFD is really the problem in a nutshell (thanks for bringing it out to discuss, though!), and is really undermining Women's Health.
And then I signed my real name. Just because. And actually, to be a bit of a butthead, I added M.S. after it, because, well, the "M" stands for Master and the "S" for Science, so I was just pointing it out. And it's been fatiguing answering questions from "scientists" who don't know their biomechanics (or tissue properties) that well. And I may have PMS, but these days, who can tell.
Right-o. So, I just wanted to bring up this post (and am I wrong to think this wasn't posted by a woman, because I can't think of any woman who would say "Look at your stretchmarks ladies"?) to highlight the "scientific dismissal" issue. To further stray off topic, comedian Demetri Martin says that to make any sentence sound creepy, add the word "ladies" to the end of it. And frankly, I agree.
Focus. Okay, so, mechanical creep is best defined as "the elongation of tissue beyond it’s intrinsic extensibility resulting from a constant load over time." What makes skin and ligaments stretch beyond their ability to return, is, believe it or not, not that well understood. It has a lot to do with the fact that creep is affected by so many different things like temperature, rate of loading, size of loading, hydration, and probably, hormones too. Which is why hormonal changes often get blamed for PF issues. But, to remind you about ligaments, they are the back-up plan. You've always got the muscles there on the front line, so we need to get them to the right length to maximize force and minimize the demands on the supporting ligaments.
Finally, a note on scientists. There are scientists of many fields: physiotherapy, geology, chemistry, pharmacology, psychology, astronomy, etymology, etc. And while the education varies in each of these fields, a scientist will understand that there is information they don't know, and will consider that before making statements like: "Nothing you can do to change it" or "don't blame yourself for your pelvic floor problems." I for one, hope Anonymous Scientist isn't in the Women's Health field. Don't you agree...ladies?
And, for all my stay-at-home scientists, here's a fun journal abstract that shows the research on long-term effectiveness of traditional pelvic floor muscle strengthening: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18651881 (and note, when PF exercises are shown not be effective 8 years later, the conclusion is "we need to figure out how to get these women to do their exercises", despite the fact that they reported they did.) "Scientific Conclusion": Kegels work, and women are liars. Nice 🙂