When is the last time you thought about breathing? Unless you recently finished a yoga class, chances are it’s been awhile! Luckily, breathing is something we do automatically. We don’t have to think to make it happen. However, are we breathing correctly?
We live in a busy, high paced world and we all face daily stresses. Maybe you woke up late only to find that your coffee maker is broken, you forgot to pick up your pants from the dry cleaner and your child informs you over breakfast that she forgot about her history project due tomorrow. Did you feel your chest tighten and your breath become shallow after reading that sentence? Probably! But, what can you do about it?
Diaphragmatic (belly) breathing is the answer and it is a key factor in eliminating pelvic pain! The diaphragm is the major muscle responsible for breathing. As babies we innately know how to breathe. Watch a baby or a child breathing and you will notice her belly expand with inhalation and flatten with exhalation.
This is not how most adults breathe! Stress causes most adults to breathe into their upper chest and not into their belly.
I recently had a patient with this exact issue! She had such intense pelvic pain that it was difficult for her to walk! I assessed her breathing and realized that she was not able to coordinate her breathing. This means her belly was flattening when she was breathing in and was expanding when she was breathing out. The diaphragm and the pelvic floor are intimately connected. If the diaphragm is not moving down as it should when we inhale, then the pelvic floor cannot relax with inhalation. The goal in pelvic physical therapy is to coordinate your breathing and your pelvic floor mobility. As you inhale, your pelvic floor relaxes. As you exhale, your pelvic floor lifts.
After working on breathing techniques and utilizing other pelvic physical therapy treatments, such as biofeedback, the patient noticed a significant decrease in her pelvic pain.
Stress definitely makes pain worse! Breathing helps!
Here are some ways to start decreasing your pain levels…
Find some time to focus on your breathing. It’s nice to do this lying down but you can also do it in the car while you are waiting for your kids, or sitting in a waiting room waiting for an appointment. This way you can incorporate breathing into your life!
Place one hand over your belly button, and focus on breathing into your belly. Breathe in through your nose. You can choose to breathe out through your nose or mouth. Notice if you are breathing into your upper chest. When you breathe in you should feel your belly expand and when you breathe out you should feel your belly flatten. Try to do this for 5 minutes twice a day and notice the benefits!