How Breathing Affects the Pelvic Floor


Have you ever thought about what your body is doing when you breathe?





Chances are the answer is no. Breathing is such an automatic body function that we are usually not even aware that we are doing it… or how well we are doing it. Our body is amazing at how well it adapts - to postures, pregnancy, stress, the list goes on - and sometimes it gets so used to breathing in a maladapted way that it just becomes our new norm without us even realizing it.




Have your neck and upper traps ever felt tight??



Most often this new adapted way includes breathing up into our chest, neck, and shoulders. This type of breathing can be good if a lion is about to chase you

down. It triggers our sympathetic nervous system - our fight or flight response. But for the most part during our normal day we don’t want our bodies to be stuck in fight or flight mode. It wreaks havoc on our nervous system, affects our sleep, our hormones, not to mention it feeds into the everyday stresses we already have essentially magnifying them.





What the heck does this have to do with my pelvic floor?



We now know our diaphragm directly impacts our pelvic floor with every breath we take. Check out this diagram of our ‘core’, which you can imagine to be similar to a canister.


The sides of the canister are made up of our abdominal wall and some specific back muscles.


The top and bottom of our canister are our diaphragm and pelvic floor and they act like a piston as they move.


When we inhale our diaphragm lowers and flattens out, necessitating the contents in our torso to be dispersed - our belly extends out to the front and sides and our pelvic floor needs to lengthen to make room as well.


When we exhale everything returns back to its normal resting position. This controlled lengthening and returning to rest position can be compared to a bicep curl or the normal use of any muscle during our everyday lives. When we stop using a muscle appropriately this muscle becomes weak and less able to do the job it is meant to do.



Takeaway Message: PRESSURE MANAGEMENT!



When we use our core, whether it is during exercise or everyday lifting, we need to manage these pressures in our canister in such a way that doesn’t add unnecessary downward pressures on our pelvic floor or our abdominal wall (attn: prolapse, diastasis recti, pelvic floor muscle dysfunction😳).




Pelvic floor PT can help!



We are experts at assessing form during exercises and daily activities as well as how we are managing pressures during these activities to keep our bodies healthy.


Breathing is assessed in EVERY patient that comes to pelvic floor therapy (or should be at least!). Making sure you are breathing correctly can help improve pelvic floor strength, pain syndromes (such as endometriosis, tailbone pain, and interstitial cystitis), prolapse, diastasis recti, constipation, IBS, and so many more diagnoses!




Considering breathing is an activity that we perform 22,000 reps of in a day, shouldn’t we make sure we are performing this activity correctly, for the health of our entire body?








Contact your local pelvic health PT to find out if you are breathing correctly! Or contact me at brooke@synergypelvicphysio.com with any questions on this topic :)

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