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Under Pressure

What have hernias around the abdomen and disc prolapses in the spine have in common?

It seems like they are quite different things, don’t they? Hernias around the belly look like soft tissue injuries and disc prolapses appear to have something to do with bones and joints, right?

Well, to understand if they are similar, we need to firstly consider how they are created in the first place. Often, our doctors don’t actually seem to know, or don’t tell us. Wouldn’t you want to know to prevent this happening again, and to recover from something that had already taken place?

Simply put, it is a pressure thing. Imagine you are holding a balloon. Give it a good squeeze in the middle. The balloon will bulge at the top and the bottom. Now imagine your hands are your ribcage, and the squeeze is your exhale. Pressure created by the ribs when we exhale will be displacing organs and pushing them downwards, outwards, and upwards. Downwards will be onto the pelvic floor, outwards is into the abdominal wall, and upwards is towards the diaphragm.

Multiply this by 20,000 to 25,000 times a day, as this is how many breaths we take… then add load, leading to heavier breathing with exercise, lifting, carrying larger things, and we might end up with a problem. Pressure habitually pushed downwards creates an increased risk of pelvic floor dysfunction or prolapse, outwards - of diastasis recti or belly button hernias, and upwards a risk of hiatus hernias.

Spinal disc herniations are also to do with pressure, believe it or not. What keeps spinal discs healthy and happy? Good posture, good spinal curves as nature intended, strength of muscles around the spine, and, believe it or not, strength of muscles around the abdomen, as they wrap around our sides and connect into the back tissues of our body. If our spinal curves are compromised (flattened, or excessively deepened), the strength of our muscles had reduced, vertebrae are not as stably stacked anymore. Add load – bending, twisting, heavier lifting – and squeezing the exhales with the ribs, as described above – and things are at risk of shearing or being squeezed out of place.

And that, my reader, is why we need to learn to manage this wonderful thing called intra-abdominal pressure so that we don’t continuously squeeze that ball in the middle as we breathe. Instead, we need to breathe so that we create tension in the right places all around the ball to contain that pressure centrally. And then we will have strong abdominals, a stable and mobile spine, and a stable pelvis. Breathe well to heal your body – that is the very first step.

I teach better breathing, postural alignment, better core engagement in my Restore Your Core and Pilates therapy classes in-person in Wimborne, Dorset, and online over Zoom. Ask me anything and send an inquiry via and let’s get you breathing and moving better to start healing from existing past injuries.

To your health


Pilates and Movement Therapist. Restore Your Core ® teacher. NeuroKinetic Therapy ® Practitioner

07768 135481


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