For all you mothers out there, The post-pregnancy period is hard, right? Not that I would know, but I've been told...... by all of you!! haha, #funnynotfunny. On a serious note though, I was working with a patient, just the other day, on her breathing when she made an interesting comment about her pregnancy. As I was describing the importance of utilizing the diaphragm to drive inspiration she noted how impossible it was the last couple months of her pregnancy. She then described her mindset was that of "whatever it takes to get this kid out of me". I understand not all women share the same sentiment but everybody has their breaking point and not all of us are strong like an Oak.
The more I thought about this interaction I realized postpartum stabilization is generally overlooked. Post-pregnancy can wreck the female body; abdominals, pelvic floor, hormones, breast tissue, back, feet, hips..... I'm sure there are many more I'm forgetting, but for now, we get the point, right? For most mothers, the most common "recovery" tools utilized are Kegel exercises, spa days, massage etc.. Unfortunately not all mothers have the opportunity or funds to splurge on the later of those options. Luckily, of the options mention above the one that is free and can be done anywhere is Kegel exercises. If you are among the minority of females that haven't heard of Kegel exercises, they are exercises designed to target the pelvic floor muscles. Considering the amount of trauma the pelvic floor goes through during labor, not to mention that it controls bowel and bladder function, it's probably the most important to pre-hab and rehab before, during and after pregnancy.
For you overachievers out there; if you want to retake your pre-pregnancy glory (assuming you aren't that unicorn that does it naturally) then I would urge you to spend some time working on Transverse abdominus and diaphragm function. Uhhhh, yeah! Good point! How do I do that? Easy, just breath! Ok, it's not that easy, but it's not hard!!
So to rehab your breathing pattern from dysfunctional (chest breathing) to more functional (diaphragm) you start on your back with your legs elevated (hips and knees at 90 degrees). You then place one hand on your chest and the other over the belly button. This is the setup position that allows you to offload the lumbar spine from any weight-bearing and the hand position allows you to monitor the areas of movement while breathing. Once you've gotten into the proper position you know just breathe. Now the key to this is breathing into the lower hand keeping the upper hand (on the chest) still. Many of you will find this difficult at first. The idea is to, during inhale, you push your lower hand (belly button) to the ceiling as best you can. You will want to relax everything in the abdomen to do so. Once you can do this with ease and good expansion in the belly you are on the right track. At this point, you are able to contract the diaphragm functionally and that is the start of re-establishing transverse abdominal activity by resisting expansion at the belly button and redirect that expansion into the love handle area (area between the ribs and hip on your side) and lower abdominals (below the belt line, in the groin area). If you can do this you are on your way back to a stable core and lumbar spine.
If any of the above instructions are unclear feel free to call the office for a free 15-minute consultation with Dr. Aylor. If you have mastered the above skills and are keen to progress from there to more functional movements to further stabilize the trunk, pelvis, hips or shoulders schedule an appointment from the website or call the office for your first appointment with Dr. Aylor. I hope this helps, take care and hope to see you in the office soon. Cheers