Updated: Jul 16
What do you do when you have to rush to go to the bathroom, but you are on your way back from your walk or you are in grocery store?
Maybe hold your breath and tuck your belly in? Is that a good idea ? or is it better do take nice relaxed deep breaths?
Believe it or not, studies have shown that taking a few relaxed breaths will give you those extra few minutes you need to reach the washroom.
Efficient breathing involves the diaphragm and the pelvic floor muscles, both during deep inhalation and exhalation. A very important functional relationship exists between the diaphragm and the pelvic floor muscles. As we inhale the diaphragm moves down and flattens as the lungs fill with air, pushing on our abdominal contents (stomach, intestines, bladder, etc), sending them down toward our pelvis. Then the pelvic floor muscles located between the pubic bone and tail bone move in coordination with the diaphragm, which further descends to lengthen and relax the pelvic muscles. This allows us to manage the increase in abdominal pressure associated with the diaphragm flattening.
When we exhale or breathe out, essentially the opposite happens: the diaphragm relaxes and goes back up toward the heart, the organs move up, and the pelvic floor muscles contract.
Now if you have to cough, sneeze or jump - something that requires us to breathe out forcefully, the abdominal muscles are going to contract more forcefully. This increases the pressure in our abdomen and the pelvic floor muscles now have to contract as well, to help prevent things from being pushed down.
If someone has issues like urine incontinence with sneezing, coughing, or jumping, one of the common factors behind this involves a lack of coordinated movement between these segments. Your pelvic floor muscles may be too tight (not relaxing enough) or too weak (not contracting enough).
How to start engaging the right muscles during breathing?
Try this exercise:
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet hip width apart.
2. To begin, notice the abdominal movement with each breath, just observe.
3. Put one hand on your lower belly below the navel, the other on your chest. Allow yourself to feel the breath move under your hands for a couple of minutes.
4.Then, as you exhale, gently contract the lower abdomen, moving the navel toward the spine. Repeat a few times, each time emptying out the air more fully. As you inhale, let the belly relax and be soft. Allow the air to fill your lungs, as your belly naturally inflates. Repeat these 3 to 5 breaths, and then just relax and return to your normal breath.
5. Now bring your awareness to your pelvic floor muscles. As you breathe out, see if you can engage them by squeezing them gently. This would be a similar feeling to trying to not to pass gas, or hold a flow of your urine (but never hold your pee for exercise).
Make sure to not only contract when you exhale but also relax when you inhale. As this gets easier to do, practice in a variety of positions.
Repeat this breath 8 to 10 times or as long as comfortable, then again, relax and return to your normal breath.
And the next time you really, really need to go but are still a few minutes away from the bathroom, focus on breathing out and contracting your pelvic floor muscles. Trust me, it will help a lot more than holding your breath or breathing in!
At Harmony Physiotherapy we are Experts in Pelvic Physiotherapy. We coordinate all patient care with your obstetrician, midwife, physician, and other health care professionals. Harmony Physiotherapy will assist you in achieving a full and healthy recovery. Book an appointment with our Harmony Pelvic Physiotherapy Experts today. We can help get you back on your path of recovery!