In a world where over-the-counter pain medication and prescription drugs seem to be the knee-jerk reaction to discomfort, we often overlook the power within our own bodies.
For example, did you know that changing the way you breathe can relieve chronic pelvic pain? We all take our breathing for granted, but how we breathe is a lot more important than most people realize.
What's in a Breath?
Breathing relaxation techniques have been used for centuries for everything from daily meditation to bracing for childbirth — and to help regulate the body's reaction to chronic stress and pain.
The secret to leveraging the power of breathing for pain relief lies in understanding how it is intricately linked to our nervous system, impacting our bodily functions in profound ways.
Deep, intentional breathing can send signals to your brain to switch from a state of "fight or flight" (sympathetic nervous system) to a state of "rest and digest" (parasympathetic nervous system), which is conducive to healing and pain management.
Let’s delve deeper into the universe of breathwork. In this post, we'll explore various breathing techniques that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine to alleviate pelvic pain.
The Importance of Breathing for Pelvic Floor Relaxation
Before we get into breathing techniques, it’s important to understand why breathing can at all be connected to the pelvic floor (which is pretty far away from your nose). Yet the pelvic floor is intimately connected to your breath and how you can find relief from pelvic pain.
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that form a hammock-like structure at the bottom of the pelvis. It plays a crucial role in supporting pelvic region organs, including the bladder, uterus, and rectum.
Many people are unaware of the importance of the pelvic floor muscles until they experience pain or discomfort in the pelvic area. The pelvic floor muscles can become tight or weak due to various factors, such as pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, or even stress. This can lead to pelvic pain, urinary incontinence, or other issues.
Breathing is a fundamental and often overlooked aspect of pelvic floor relaxation. When we are stressed or in pain, our natural instinct is to take shallow breaths. However, shallow breathing can actually contribute to tension in the pelvic floor muscles, exacerbating pelvic pain.
Unlearning this instinct and replacing it with diaphragmatic breathing can be a game-changer for pelvic pain relief.
It takes practice and mindfulness to break the habit of shallow breathing when in pain. The next time you feel pelvic pain, take a moment to pause and become aware of your breath.
Consciously shift your focus to deep, diaphragmatic breathing. By doing so, you can help relax the pelvic floor muscles and alleviate some of the discomfort.
Diaphragmatic Breathing is Connected to the Pelvic Floor
Diaphragmatic breathing is the key to unlocking the power of breathing techniques for pelvic floor relaxation. By focusing on deep breaths that expand the diaphragm, we can engage the pelvic floor muscles in a gentle and relaxing manner. This helps to release tension in the pelvic floor and promote relaxation.
The diaphragm is often described as a “dome-shaped” muscle below the lungs. It plays a vital role in breathing (as in you can’t breathe at all without it). As it turns out, the diaphragm is also closely connected to the pelvic floor.
When we inhale deeply, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward, creating space in the chest cavity. This downward movement also puts gentle pressure on the pelvic floor, helping to relax the muscles.
Practicing diaphragmatic breathing can be incredibly beneficial for those experiencing pelvic pain.
Start by finding a comfortable position.
Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
Take a slow, deep breath through your nose, letting your lungs fill with as much air as you can.
Exhale slowly through your mouth, letting your abdomen deflate as you release the breath. While exhaling, gently engage your pelvic floor muscles.
Repeat deep, diaphragmatic breathing as long as you’d like. It’s a popular way to practice mindful meditation and is a common technique for entering a meditative state in general.
Breathing Techniques for Pain and Stress Relief
In addition to diaphragmatic breathing, there are various breathing techniques that can provide pain and stress relief.
These techniques aim to promote relaxation, reduce tension, and improve overall well-being. Here are a few breathing exercises you can incorporate into your routine:
Box breathing: Start by inhaling deeply for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, and hold your breath again for four seconds. Repeat this pattern as many times as you want, focusing on your breath and the calming rhythm it creates.
4-7-8 breathing: This technique is known for its calming effect on the nerves. Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth. Shut your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for seven seconds. Finally, exhale completely through your mouth for eight seconds. Gradually up the number of repetitions as you become more comfortable.
Alternate nostril breathing: This technique balances the flow of energy in the body and can also promote a sense of calm. Start by sitting in a comfortable position and close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale deeply through your left nostril, then close your left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through your right nostril. Inhale through your right nostril, close it with your thumb, and exhale through your left nostril. Repeat the cycle, focusing on the gentle flow of breath through each nostril.
Additional Pelvic Floor Relaxation Exercises
Incorporating pelvic floor relaxation exercises into your routine can further enhance the benefits of breathing techniques. These exercises specifically target the pelvic floor muscles, helping to release tension and promote relaxation. Here are a few exercises you can try:
Pelvic floor drops: Start by sitting or standing with good posture. Exhale and imagine your pelvic floor slowly descending, allowing your pelvic floor muscles to relax. Inhale, and imagine your pelvic floor ascending back to its starting position.
Kegels with a twist: Kegel exercises are commonly recommended for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. However, they can also be modified to promote relaxation. Start by inhaling deeply and as you exhale, contract your pelvic floor muscles the same way you do when you stop urinating. Hold this position for a few seconds, then relax.
Repeat these exercises several times, focusing on the sensation of relaxation and release in your pelvic floor.
Adding Pelvic Floor Relaxation into Your Daily Routine
To reap the full benefits of pelvic floor relaxation from diaphragmatic breathing and other exercises, it's essential to incorporate these techniques into your daily routine. Consistency is key when it comes to relieving pelvic pain and promoting overall well-being.
Here are some tips to help you make pelvic floor relaxation a regular part of your life:
Set aside dedicated time: Schedule specific times throughout the day for pelvic floor relaxation exercises. This could be in the morning, during a lunch break, or before bed. By making it a priority and setting aside dedicated time, you are more likely to follow through with your practice.
Find a quiet and comfortable space: Create a calm and peaceful environment for your relaxation practice. Find a quiet space where you can focus on your breath and pelvic floor. Consider using props such as pillows or cushions to support your body and create a comfortable position.
Practice mindfulness: As you engage in pelvic floor relaxation exercises, practice mindfulness and focus on the present moment. Pay attention to the sensations in your body, the rhythm of your breath, and the gentle release of tension in your pelvic floor. By cultivating mindfulness, you can deepen the benefits of your practice and enhance your overall well-being.
Other Natural Pain Relief Options for Pelvic Floor Relaxation
While pelvic floor relaxation exercises and breathing techniques can be incredibly effective for natural pain relief, they can also be complemented by other natural options. Here are a few additional strategies to consider:
Heat therapy: Applying heat to the pelvic area can relax muscles and relieve pain. Use a heating pad, sit with a warm towel, or take a warm bath to experience the soothing benefits of heat therapy.
Gentle exercise: Engaging in gentle exercise, such as walking or swimming, can improve circulation, reduce muscle tension, and promote overall well-being. Consult with your provider to decide on the best exercise routine for your specific needs.
Mind-body techniques: Well-established relaxation exercises like meditation, yoga, and tai chi can help reduce stress and improve body awareness. Consider mixing these mind-body techniques into your routine to enhance the benefits of pelvic floor relaxation.
A pelvic floor physical therapist or pelvic pain specialist can provide personalized recommendations, ensuring you’re following proper techniques while addressing specific concerns or questions you may have.
They can also guide you through a comprehensive pelvic pain relief program tailored to your individual needs.
Take a Deep Breath and Relax
Taking a deep breath and unlocking the power of breathing techniques for natural pelvic pain relief is an empowering journey.
By understanding the pelvic floor, practicing diaphragmatic breathing, and incorporating pelvic floor relaxation exercises into your routine, you can find relief from pelvic pain, promote relaxation, and improve overall well-being.
Remember, consistency is key, and seeking professional guidance can further enhance your journey toward pelvic pain relief. So take that first deep breath and embark on the path toward a pain-free life.