Breathe, breathe, breathe
So much can be helped with good breathing!
- if you take a few good, full breaths when you go to urinate, you'll relax the pelvic floor muscles better and empty more easily!
-if you breathe out while you poop you'll also usually poop better!
Now that peeing and pooping is out of the way (we pelvic PTs have no issues talking about these things right off the bat!), let's talk about how breathing can help with pain management.
Often when we are in pain, our breath is very shallow and rapid. Sometimes our pain is made worse by the oh-so-natural tendency to guard and clench "against" the pain. This is true for any part of the body including the pelvic floor muscles. If the pelvic floor muscles are tight, gripped, and guarded they can develop or worsen spasms, trigger points and refer pain elsewhere, i.e. the bladder, the hips, the abdomen, the lower back. One of the strategies to start managing our discomfort and to help the muscles relax is to slow down the breath and do what's called diaphragmatic breathing. By doing so we can actually stimulate the part of our nervous system (parasympathetic) that calms us, slows down the heart rate, helps our muscles let go and reduce the fight, flight or freeze (sympathetic) tendency we all have.
Here's how I instruct my clients in diaphragmatic breathing. Give it a try the next time you are in discomfort (or even in times of stress or trying to pee or poop better!)
-Find a comfortable seated or reclined position
-Inhale through your nose to a count of 4 (you may have to work up to this and you can certainly strive to breathe in longer), imagining that you are filling up your torso first from your belly, up to your chest.
-As you exhale try to match the rate and rhythm of your inhale by that same count of 4, this time imagining that you are emptying air from your chest first then down to the belly.
-Take your time doing this and gradually settle into a comfortable rhythm. Do 4-6 repetitions. Notice how you feel, but feel free to increase your repetitions to what you may find helpful!
If you have difficulty finding this breath pattern or it makes you feel even more anxious, stop. Perhaps you need to connect with a PT, your fitness trainer, or your yoga instructor to have more guidance and strategies to find your breath.