How Breathing Affects GI and Pelvic Health

First, look at these great videos from FXNL Media and Stockbridge Orthopedic Practice before reading the rest of this article. 

As one can clearly see in these videos, proper diaphragmatic breathing is essential for GI and pelvic health. When the diaphragm is able to contract and descend during inhalation followed by a recoil into its original domed shaped upon exhalation, the abdominal contents including the GI and pelvic floor muscles essentially get a massage. This massaging and pumping action helps to move food and gasses throughout the GI system. It also allows the pelvic floor muscles to cycle through ascended/descended positions and active/relaxed muscle tone. This allows the pelvic floor to be able to attenuate to the forces applied on it from the gut as well as the core during weight bearing activities. It also allows the pelvic floor to stay active all day long without fatiguing. 

When we develop compensated breathing patterns, our resting abdominal muscle tension plummets. Because there is no force from the abdominals to prevent this, our bellies then distend as we inhale instead of applying a healthy pressure down into the abdominal cavity. As that pressure begins to move forward instead of downward, our GI and pelvic floor no longer receive that important massage. This can result in a multitude of problems from constipation, gas, bloating, pelvic pain (with or without intercourse), urinary/gas/fecal incontinence, and even sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction.

Proper diaphragmatic breathing is the cornerstone of Postural Restoration Institute and is available at Integrate 360 Physical Therapy. Because of it’s attachment sites and constant use (about 22,000 times a day) diaphragmatic breathing is essential to avoiding and treating a seemingly endless list of problems including those already discussed in this article to anxiety and musculoskeletal pain of all manners (for more information on this please refer back to our previous posts). No other approach to physical therapy takes into consideration the importance of this muscle as well as its innate asymmetries that often lead to us developing our compensatory strategies around it. 

If you have pain (especially pelvic or women’s health in nature), GI dysfunction,  anxiety, or breathing problems and haven’t found relief in the past, please come in for an evaluation. Let the therapists at Integrate 360 Physical Therapy evaluate your body and your respiratory capacity and inform you how it is related to your complaints. We will discuss a plan of care and give you exercises to improve your breathing and your overall health! Don’t wait another day! Call us at 314-733-5000. 

Written by Lesley Callaham, MPT, PRC on October 30, 2019.