Posture And The Pelvic Floor
Proper breathing is incredibly important for healthy pelvic floor function. Our primary breathing muscle is the diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle which operates like a parachute. It connects to the lower part of the ribcage. The intercostals, little muscles that fit between your ribs, also play a primary role in breathing. The muscles of the pelvic floor (PFM) support the abdominal and pelvic and are active in standing and sitting. Furthermore, because the abdomen is a fluid-filled cavity, intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) is distributed in all directions and the PFM, which form the floor of the abdominal cavity, contribute to its control. As a result of this contribution to control of IAP, the PFM are likely to contribute to control of the spine and pelvis. The slouched posture places prolonged and excessive pressure on our internal organs and pelvic floor which can worsen urinary incontinence, pelvic pain, and symptoms related to prolapse and rectus diastasis. For example, if we collapse our chest while sitting, we end up with a “C-curve” in the spine. This makes it challenging to take a deep breath, and as a consequence, the muscles of the pelvic floor don’t receive the gentle ‘exercise’ they need, stretching and contracting with every breath in and out.
Research has shown that when we sit in a slumped posture, our pelvic floor muscle activity is significantly less than when we are sitting tall. Additionally, slouched sitting postures decrease the activity of your transverse abdominal muscles. Proper breathing pattern encourages the pelvic floor to move more dynamically. Dysfunctional breathing patterns inhibit this dynamic movement of the pelvic floor.
An assessment by a pelvic health physiotherapist includes a thorough postural examination. Your pelvic health physiotherapist will be able to identify your unique postural compensations and can help guide you on the road to improved body positional awareness.
1. Sapsford, RR. et al (2006) Sitting posture affects pelvic floor muscle activity in parous women: an observation study. Aust L Physiother. 52(3):219-22
2. Reeve, A., Dilley, A., (2009) Effects of posture on the thickness of Transverse Abdominal Muscle and Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises for Stress Urinary Incontinence: A Randomized controlled Trial. J Phys Ther Sci. 26(8): 1161-1163.