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By: Rita G. Reid, MSPT

I like to look at the abdominal cavity as a canister or piston. If you look at the diagram, the top of the canister is the diaphragm which pushes down with each inhalation & raises up with exhalation. Erector Spinae and Transverse Abdominus form the sides of the canister. The pelvic floor is the bottom of the canister.

This illustrates the importance of proper breathing with all exercises but especially for pelvic floor dysfunction. If you hold your breath while lifting or exercising, it puts more pressure on the pelvic floor. This concept of belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing is used in yoga and pilates. We use it in physical therapy to re-modulate the pelvic floor so that it becomes a team player and turns on before the larger muscles in the arms or legs do their jobs lifting, pushing, or pulling.

This is good news because it means that the pelvic floor can be trained just like any other group of muscles. According to David Butler and Larimer Moseley from their book Explain Pain 2003, altering the threat value of an injury or pain state improves coping and enhances healing. Diaphragmatic breathing is the first step in affecting the piston or canister of the pelvis and move towards healing.

Rita G. Reid, MSPT