You have probably heard of the importance of having a strong core to keep your spine, pelvis, and hips stable during movement. Something that a lot of people do not know is that the “core” includes more than abdominal and back muscles.
The core is more like an abdominal canister with a top, a bottom, and stability around the sides. The diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles are less familiar yet vital parts of what creates our abdominal core, and they must function well together for our bodies to have good stability and healthy pressure mechanics.
What even is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor consists of 3 layers of muscles that sit like a bowl within your pelvic ring. These muscles have attachments to your pelvis and run from pubic bone to tailbone.
Our pelvic floor muscles are constantly working for us and these 16 muscles function together to control bladder and bowel function, support the pelvic organs, allow for sexual activity, stabilize the hips and pelvis, and act as a pump for lymphatic fluid and blood to return to the heart. The pelvic floor musculature forms the base of the abdominal canister, or the core.
And the diaphragm?
The diaphragm is a domed muscle that acts as the roof of the abdominal canister. It attaches in the front to the breastbone, on the sides to the lower ribs, and in the back to the lumbar spine.
The diaphragm is our main muscle of respiration. It descends into the abdominal cavity during inhalation to create pressure to draw air into your lungs and returns up to resting on exhalation.
The diaphragm and the pelvic floor muscles work together as the roof and the foundation of the abdominal canister, and both need to function in coordination with each other for proper pressure mechanics to exist.
When you inhale, the diaphragm should go down in conjunction with the pelvic floor. When you exhale, the diaphragm will go back up and the pelvic floor will mirror it, relaxing.
As well as being functionally connected, the diaphragm and pelvic floor are also structurally linked by connective tissue called fascia, so if the fascia of one part of the abdominal canister is tight, it can cause dysfunction and pain elsewhere.
So why are these relationships important?
We need the muscles of the abdominal canister to work together at all times to manage the pressure put on our bodies, which is especially important when we do things that increase intra-abdominal pressure like pick something heavy up, run, jump, sneeze, laugh or cough.
If the pelvic floor is tight, weak or cannot descend properly during inhalation, it can cause pelvic pain, leakage, or constipation. In contrast, if you have an abnormal breathing pattern and the diaphragm cannot descend properly, that can cause the pelvic floor muscles to tighten which causes disfunction.
The pelvic floor muscles can also become loose, weak, or unable to handle changes in intra-abdominal pressure. This can cause leakage or prolapse of pelvic organs as well as low back pain or hip pain because the muscles will tighten to find and provide stability however it can.
So, that means…
In short, having a strong core is extremely important, not only to promote stability but to keep the respiratory system and the pelvic floor muscles functioning properly so you can go about your daily life without pain or limitations!
If you would like to learn more about how to build up your core please give us a call today! (720) 493-1181