29 Jan Respiratory Problems and the Pelvic Floor
Did you know that chronic respiratory diseases pose a risk of weakening of the pelvic muscles? Women who suffer from these have a higher risk of pelvic floor problems such as urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, or sexual dysfunction. In this post you will understand why this occurs and how to avoid future problems with your pelvic floor.
The respiratory system and the pelvic floor
The first thing to understand why respiratory diseases affect the pelvic floor, is to understand the relationship between breathing (performed by the diaphragm) and the pelvic floor.
Imagine the pelvic cavity is like a balloon, in which, both the top (the diaphragm) and the bottom (the pelvic floor) is domed together to form the balloon.
When we breathe in, the diaphragm contracts down, and the pelvic floor is stretched and also bulges down. When we breathe out, the diaphragm relaxes and collects back up, thus the pelvic floor also lifts up with it.
In this image you can see the movement of the pelvic floor and diaphragm while breathing:
So you can see that while inhaling the pelvic floor rises and when exhaling it falls. The relationship between breathing and pelvic floor is direct! Thus, when we cough or sneeze, the diaphragm descends strongly, and directs the pressure to the pelvic floor.
Check it: Sit erect with your back straight, place a hand on the vulva and cough. Do you notice the movement? It is the impact your pelvic floor receives when you cough.
When frequent, this impact causes the pelvic floor to weaken. That’s why the (mostly chronic) respiratory diseases or large periods of respiratory dysfunction cause problems within the pelvic floor as well, especially in regards to pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence. It also can cause other problems such as constipation, lower back pain, or sexual dysfunction.
The main chronic respiratory diseases that affect the pelvic floor are:
- Bronquial Asma
- Colds, sinusitis, rinitis
- Chronic bronchitis
- Gastroesophageal reflux (Acid Reflux)
Pelvic floor exercises improve lung capacity
A study (linked here) revealed that there is a significant change in the diaphragmatic movement and pulmonary function when the pelvic floor contracts. Therefore, when contraction of the pelvic floor and breathing is coordinated, such as through the pelvic floor exercises, breathing capacity becomes more effective.
According to this study, the relationship is so direct that the pelvic floor provides a means to help with respiratory recovery. Thus exercising the pelvic floor should also be included in respiratory recovery programs.
In October 2015 another study (linked here) confirmed that Kegel exercises (exercises that work on the pelvic floor) significantly improved lung function in patients.
Isn’t it awesome? In another post we will teach you how to coordinate your breathing so that you can also benefit from the effectiveness of your Kegel exercises.
So what should you do if you suffer from these diseases?
Make an assessment of your pelvic floor
As we explained, these respiratory diseases give you a high risk of developing problems such as urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse, so you should first make an assessment of the health of your pelvic floor.
To do this, as a first step, you can download our app Bwom for either iOS or Android devices, where we have developed a professional test to assess the state of the pelvic floor. It’s an easy, practical and free way to assess your status, and you’ll have access to customized exercise plans and tips so that you can take control of your health and correct symptoms of pelvic floor problems.
If your level of care is high (4 or 5) you will be notified that you should also consult with a physical therapist to give you in-person guidance. Bwom is a professional tool, but is not intended as a substitute for a visit to a specialist.
If you already have urogynecological symptoms (urinary incontinence, heaviness in the vagina) but are not improving, make sure to treat any respiratory issues as those can also be attributing to your pelvic floor problems.
Protect your pelvic floor when coughing and sneezing
When the pelvic floor is weak, coughing or sneezing may weaken it further. Therefore, it is important that this area receives minimal impact.
But how does one avoid the very common problem of coughing and sneezing? In next week’s post we explain two very simple ways to improve and protect your pelvic floor in these situations. You can also find this information on how to protect yourself in the Bwom app’s custom plans.
Subscribe to our blog and/or download our app to find out more about pelvic floor exercises and your intimate health. You can download our app through iOS or Android devices. You’ll receive your personal assessment and be able to access Kegel exercises and many other techniques for strengthening your pelvic floor.