Breathing and your Pelvic Floor. The little known, but fantastic connection between breathing and our pelvic floors.
Breathing is something we do everyday, however many of us are breathing inefficiently. If you ever watch a child breathe, they take nice big breaths into their lower ribs and belly (they have minimal chest breathing). Through our many years and poor habits, us adults have altered the way we breathe and as a result have become predominantly upper rib and chest breathers.
Our diaphragm is a big strong muscle that is the primary muscle of respiration, thus we want it to do most of the work when we breathe. Instead with our poor breathing mechanics that we have adopted, we are making our smaller muscles of the neck and upper ribs do the work.
With breathing, we want to take a nice breath in and firstly feel our lower ribs expand laterally (out to the sides) and then posteriorly (to the back) – this is indicating our diaphragm is working well. Following on from this we will get some tummy breathing and finally a small degree of chest movement. It is what we may refer to as 3D breathing. This type of breath is great for filling up our lungs with oxygen and also helping our parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system to kick into gear. Click on the photo below to watch a video demonstrating 3D breathing in action.
When we take a nice diaphragmatic breath in, our diaphragm descends and as a result our pelvic floor lengthens (i.e. moves deeper into our pelvic bowl). When our diaphragm and pelvic floor work together synergistically we have a beautiful adaptation to the changes in intra abdominal pressure, the pressure in our abdominal region. When we take a breath out, our diaphragm will ascend and our pelvic floor will contract and lift.
What we commonly see in practice are patients who are not breathing ‘properly’ and this in turn is complicating their pelvic health. For example if you have to cough, this requires us to breathe out forcefully. This will increase the pressure in our abdomen and as a result place a lot of downwards force on our pelvic floor. For people who may have incontinence, the coordination between our diaphragm and pelvic floor is disrupted. This may be because of poor breathing patterns, muscles being too tight or too weak. This is why addressing breathing patterns is something we assess and give as a fundamental exercise to our pelvic health patients.
Once someone has connected to their breath and has an understanding of the relationship between breathing and the pelvic floor, you can then use this knowledge to help with pelvic floor exercises. When we take a breath in, our pelvic floor lengthens and relaxes, and this should be the focus. When we take a breath out, our pelvic floor contracts and lifts, so this is when you want to be doing your pelvic floor activations.
Pelvic health is something Sarah, Loz, Simmone and I are so passionate about, so please if you have any questions at all, contact us at the clinic on 9773 8085 or you can book a pelvic health appointment online.
Have a great week.
Bec @ Total Balance Healthcare
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This blog post is an educational tool only. It is not a replacement for medical advice from a registered and qualified doctor or health professional.
Phone: (03) 9773 8085