Breath and Pelvic floor…..
Why does your pelvic floor physical therapist give you deep breathing if you have been breathing just fine, without need for instruction, your whole life? It’s because of the connection between the diaphragm and the pelvic floor. They move together like a piston, IF you are breathing correctly. I imagine the diaphragm being bossy and saying “MOVE get out of the way organs. The lungs need room for oxygen.” The abdominal and pelvic organs, following instructions, move downwards into your pelvic floor, allowing the diaphragm to expand and pull oxygen into the lungs. This downward motion of the pelvic floor means that it is relaxing. This is especially important for people who suffer from pelvic pain or other conditions that are caused by pelvic floor tension. For those of you that say, huh, well this doesn’t apply to me, I don’t have pelvic floor tension, I would say – breathing correctly applies to everyone. For people that have pelvic floor weakness, the upward movement of the diaphragm during exhalation can facilitate a pelvic floor contraction. If you have trouble contracting your pelvic floor, breathing can be a useful tool! Your pelvic floor PT likely has some other ideas for you as well, but a proper breathing pattern is a good start.
Now that we know breathing will affect our pelvic floor the most important thing is to do it correctly. A lot of us breathe in by sucking in our stomachs and lifting our chests, this is called shallow breathing. In order for our diaphragm to be able to descend and pull oxygen into our lungs, our lower abdomen needs to expand and blow up almost like a balloon. Our chests may rise slightly, but more movement should be coming from our abdomen. If you are someone that has pelvic floor tension, it may feel like your abdomen does not expand a great deal at first; this will likely improve the more you practice. You might also say, “I can’t feel that this is doing anything to my pelvic floor!” You may start to feel more movement as you and your therapist work on your pelvic floor tension. Changing your breathing pattern is hard at first and it takes some time to get good at it. Also – let’s be realistic, it’s not as if we won’t get enough oxygen if we breath by raising our chests, but it won’t have the most beneficial impact on your pelvic floor.
Some people like to count the seconds as they inhale and exhale but the important part is that you feel relaxed as you breathe. This means you do not want to breathe too rapidly. You can start with inhaling for 3 seconds and exhaling for 5 seconds; see how that feels. Adjusting the length of time for what is comfortable for your is perfectly fine.
Deep/diaphragmatic breathing is a good tool that you can use to decrease your pelvic floor tension. There are many instances in which deep breathing is a good idea and it can be especially helpful when you’re in pain. Deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the system that is activated when we are in a calm environment. It is likely that if you have been a patient at Sullivan Physical Therapy, someone has talked to you about breathing and how it affects your pelvic floor. If you have questions about deep breathing – how it may affect you, when and how long you should do it, talk to your physical therapist!
Breath and Pelvic floor…..