Pelvic floor – Squish and Squash

So, in my last blog post we talked about how the pelvic floor functions alongside other muscles, and we focussed on pelvis, hips and legs. Today I want to guide your thoughts upwards, to the things that are stacked on top of the pelvis – and the pelvic floor!

I’m talking about your ‘core’ – which most of us recognise as being really important for good movement as these muscles are at the centre of things – holding you up and allowing your legs and arms to work efficiently and keep your back healthy.

But there’s more to your ‘core’ than this….. There’s STUFF.

The ‘stuff’ between your pelvic floor and your ribs is rather important – it contains almost all your internal organs for digesting food, eliminating waste, creating and processing some hormones and all your reproductive organs too.

Its a hive of activity! And it requires some smart looking after. This ‘area’ is bounded by a system of muscles and connective tissue which all work together to try to create both stability and movement – in just the right amounts. Your pelvic floor muscles form the base of this system, and work alongside your tummy muscles, your back muscles, and your diaphragm to create what is sometimes called the ‘abdominal canister’.

Our abdominal canister:

the_core

Canister – because its like a sealed system, with a top, and bottom, and some rounded-ish sides, a bit like a coke can or oil drum.

The muscles of your abdominal canister work together as part of a sensitive and responsive (yes, that’s you !!) system – syncing and nuancing with each other to create the right pressures inside the canister, as well, of course as its ‘core stability’ duties which we’re a bit more familiar with.

OK, so we’ve got this nice picture in our heads of all our squishy bits being squished and squashed in just the right way by our – remember – sensitive and responsive (that’s me!) muscles.

Then – how is it that this fantastic system is not working for me, and squishing out fluids which i’d rather it kept in??? Methinks you already have an idea of the answer…..
We are, through the way we are holding and using our bodies – organising TOO MUCH squishing.

i-could-squish-you

 

If we take our little mental picture of your coke can tummy, and soften the sides of it, to make it more like real body tissue – and picture a balloon, it helps to understand this better. If you find yourself a balloon or any object filled with air so it allows some movement…press down on to the top of it and you will see that the pressure which you exert on it, transfers itself around the rest of the walls of the balloon, or ball – and these other parts bulge outwards. Its the same for your own inner balloon aka abdominal canister.

Lets think now about how we might be squishing our own ‘balloons’…..
Squishing method 1: Loads of us are holding our tummies tight ALL the TIME. Holding your tummy in may hide a wee belly temporarily, but in the long run, it leads to many other undesirable effects, affecting the way your breathing can happen and by increasing the pressure inside your abdomen – pushing on all the walls of this abdominal canister, including downwards to the bladder, pelvic organs and pelvic floor.  Squiiiiish.

Squishing method 2: Breathing technique. There are lots of different ways to achieve breathing (see ref 2) but different ways have different effects. To cut a loooooooong story very short – if you breathe in by pulling your belly forward, (belly breathing) you pull your diaphragm downwards and thus increase the pressure and squish in your abdominal area. Ideally – you would use the movement of your ribs to breathe, allowing the diaphragm to lengthen and not pushing downwards. But many of us have tight ribs, torso and waist due to a lot of sitting and forward back movement with little rotation and little upper arm work – and often our ribs are not the thing that works to help us breathe.

A bit of squish is good – essential, actually. But if excessive squish is happening over and over again in our core area – the tissues are loaded too much and the pelvic floor, being at the base of this area – is a prime candidate for getting overworked and overloaded, and thus, we experience problems.

Crushed fresh tomato isolated on white background.

Stay tuned for a wee home video on starting to get those ribs a-working!

Further Reading:

1. Article on the Abdominal Canister and your body, by Diane Lee: http://dianelee.ca/articles/UnderstandYourBack&PGPopt.pdf
2. Katy Bowman, describing different ways to breathe and their effects with the help of a bony friend. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3j_gQdicWI
3.  Blog post on abdominal pressure – Katy B again! https://nutritiousmovement.com/under-pressure-part-2/
4.  Chaitow, Leon, “Breathing Pattern Disorders and Lumbopelvic Pain and Dysfunction: An update”,  http://leonchaitow.com/2012/01/23/breathing-pattern-disorders-and-lumbopelvic-pain-and-dysfunction-an-update/

Susanna