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Breathing and your core


Our core is formed by 4 different muscles, and they ar

  1. The diaphragm (the roof)
  2. The multifidus (the back)
  3. The pelvic floor (the base)
  4. The transversus abdominals (the front)

When we are doing the diaphragmic breathing (belly breathing), we should notice the abdominal wall expand as we breathe in and collapse as we breathe out. Now try putting one hand on your chest and the other on your tummy, you should feel the belly bulge out and the chest should stay relatively still as you do so. And while you are breathing out, the hand on the belly may get sucked in by the belly and again the chest should stay relatively still. 
While a lot of us may be aware that sitting in front of a desk, and having a poor posture working all day long without many breaks can be detrimental to our core (most may think abdominal and back muscles), little of us know what breathing can do to our pelvic floor muscles. As mentioned above, with a diaphragmic breathe in, air get sucked into our lung, our lung and abdominal wall expands, so does our pelvic floor. Yes, our pelvic floor muscle should be able to move like our abdominal muscle, out and in with breathing if they are healthy!
This beautiful synergy however does not work well when we are experiencing pain (eg. lower back pain, chronic pelvic pain) and/or breathe holding while exercising. Pain may disrupt how we breath, change our deep core muscle recruitment, activate those big surface abdominal and back muscles to make our body rigid to try to keep us away from danger. If we allow the wrong breathing pattern to go on, overtime, the rigidity of the front and back core can put a lot of pressure on our base one (right, our pelvic floor muscle!) and that can result in pelvic floor dysfunction. This also applies if we breath-hold while exercising. It is therefore very important not to hold our breath while exercising!
Below are some common signs of pelvic floor dysfunction.

  • Urinary leakage with coughing/sneezing/exercising/laughing
  • Increase urinary frequency and urgency (day and night)
  • Heaviness/bulging sensation over the perineal area when you are upright/exercising
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain after sex
  • Poor sensation of your bladder/bowel
  • Problems with your bowel

If you are experiencing any of the above or not sure if you are breathing correctly while exercising, physio can help.