Did you know that breathing affects your pelvic floor?
Breathing – one of the major things our bodies do without us even thinking about it, can even affect your pelvic floor muscles!
I’m going to tell you how breathing plays a part in pelvic floor function, and what you can do to make sure the two are working together harmoniously.
The major players here are the diaphragm (the big breathing muscle at the bottom of the ribcage), your core, as well as your pelvic floor. You can think of your entire abdominal cavity – including your diaphragm at the top and pelvic floor at the bottom – as a big piston. When you have movement and pressure changes from the top (diaphragm), you will have movement and changes at the bottom (pelvic floor).
When you inhale, your diaphragm moves downward, into your upper abdomen. This causes increased pressure in your abdomen, which results in the pelvic floor also lowering down, essentially giving it a small stretch. When you exhale, your diaphragm rises into your lower ribcage, and the pressure in your abdomen decreases. This causes your pelvic floor to rise up into your pelvis. Basically, when your diaphragm moves lower with inhalation your pelvic floor lowers, and when your diaphragm moves up with exhalation, your pelvic floor moves up.
So, how does this action affect your pelvic floor function?
Well, your pelvic floor is working at low levels all day long to provide support for the pelvic organs, and to keep you dry. When you inhale, the small stretch applied to the pelvic floor is sort of like a nice little break. When you aren’t breathing correctly and your pelvic floor constantly is in action. This may cause the muscles to become tense or tight, which can lead to issues such as pelvic pain, urinary incontinence, and overactive bladder type symptoms. On the other hand, when you exhale, your pelvic floor will rise up and have a small contraction. When you aren’t able to exhale correctly, your pelvic floor may remain on a constant stretching from the pressure in the abdomen. This may lead to weakening of your pelvic floor, which causes urinary incontinence and prolapse.
So, what’s the best way to breathe to ensure your pelvic floor is functioning at its best?
We call it “belly breathing”! When you inhale, you want to make sure your abdomen “expands” as your lungs fill with air. Basically, your belly should get a little bit bigger. As you exhale, your abdomen should return to its normal resting position. If you’ve worked with one of your awesome pelvic health PTs, you maybe practiced breathing for an exercise, because it can be that important!
If you have any questions about the pelvic floor and breathing, please reach out to one of our pelvic health PTs.
We are more than happy to answer any questions you may have!