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Good to Know... Intra-Abdominal Pressure

Updated: Apr 17, 2021

What is intra-abdominal pressure?

Intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) is the pressure in the cavity we have between the abdominal wall and the organs and viscera (guts). It changes with breath - increasing as we inhale, and reducing as we exhale.

What is the deal with IAP? It serves a very important role - it tenses up the deep abdominal core muscles that act like a corset to provide tension into the lower back which stabilises it at a very deep level. So it is your internal support mechanism to prevent hernias in the weakest points of your anatomy. That's a pretty huge deal, right?

If the core is not working very well, the rest of your body has to work so much harder as the stable base from which it moves is not so stable anymore.

Well managed IAP creates a stable and safe environment to move well whilst protecting you from within. So the bending, rotation and other challenging movements can be done with no issues and with greater ease. Unfortunately many of us don't manage IAP very well without realising it. Many a musculo-skeletal pain condition has poorly managed IAP at the root of it.

Well-managed IAP is created by good breathing skills as well as correct postural alignment. Poorly managed IAP creates a risk of pelvic floor issues and hernias - disc and abdominal ones. It is not a strength issue - it is a deep core stability issue!

Our management of IAP can definitely be improved when we work on it. This is how we heal our disc herniations or prevent abdominal hernias from getting bigger. To achieve this, we need breathing exercises and postural improvements. Start by doing a slow deep exhale lying on your back and monitor what your belly does - does it deepen as you exhale all around, like a pressurised container shrinking as it stiffens, or do you feel some areas of your container "pop up"? Do you feel increased tension or pressure in the pelvic floor when you exhale? If you do, this means you need to get better at managing pressure on the exhale.

Working on the breath, liberating the diaphragm to reduce tension in it, improving ribcage mobility will be great first steps. This will start freeing up your whole body from tension and discomfort.

To get help with any of these issues - back pain, hernias, pelvic floor, tension - drop me a message for a chat and start the journey to greater health and mobility.

And join the Movement for Life tribe where we discuss more tips like this.


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