We have discussed in an earlier entry how our posture can affect the position of our pelvic organs, shifting them slightly forward to sit over the top of our pubic bone when we are in neutral spine. It makes sense to recognize how the position of our pelvis can affect our pelvic floor muscles and our pelvic organs, but how can our rounded shoulders effect our pelvic floor function?
To connect these two areas of our body, we have to take a good look at our abdominal and pelvic cavities.
The areas of our pelvis and our abdomen are one continuous body cavity. This is important to realize because as we take up space within our abdomen, it directly affects our pelvic cavity and its contents. Our diaphragm is continuously descending and ascending with every breath we take, taking up space as it descends and giving it back as it ascends. When we breathe in and our diaphragm draws down within our abdomen, we normally accommodate this by expanding our chest and our lower rib cage. If this rib and chest expansion doesn't happen, then the other two areas that are most affected are the soft tissue areas of our pelvis. These are our lower belly and our pelvic floor.
If we are in the habit of sitting or standing with rounded or forward shoulders, we depress our rib cage and don't allow for maximum expansion of our chest or our lower ribs. You can visualize the soft tissue of your pelvic floor repetitively being stressed by our breaths when the pressure within our abdomen and pelvis has nowhere else to go.
This tissue already has the disadvantage of working against gravity every day and supporting the weight of our pelvic organs as well as any extra pounds of abdominal fat that we carry. While facing all these challenges, we still expect our pelvic floor to react when called upon to control the passage of solids, liquids, and air from our bodies.
With this visual, it is easy to recognize how important that rib expansion and chest elevation can be. We have the ability to take one of these stresses off of our pelvic floor muscle tissue simply by opening up our shoulders and drawing them back and down. You'll be amazed at how much air you can draw in when you open up the movement of your ribs which has health benefits beyond relieving the stress on your pelvic floor. It can make you feel more awake, you will have better oxygenation of all of your tissues, and it can play a big role in preventing shoulder and neck pain.
The following is a description of an easy, but effective exercise to start you on your way to opening up your shoulders and chest. This is just one more step you can take to relieve your incontinence symptoms!
Shoulder blade squeeze "down and in" - (3 x 10) Standing with your arms out in a scarecrow position - arms out to the side with your elbows bent and your hands hanging down toward the ground. Rotate your hands up and pull your bent elbows down to a W position. Squeeze your shoulder blades down and in. Hold for a 2 count and then release your shoulder blades and allow your arms to return to the scarecrow starting position.