How to explain to kids that breathing affects the pelvic floor.

Be honest! You’ve probably wondered this yourself? So, let’s learn the basics along with our kids. But, if you’re already an expert in the respiratory system, then you’ll be that much more ahead and amazing when discussing this concept with your children.

Hands-on experiments and visuals work well if you have difficulty understanding anatomy and physiology through book study.

Check out Science Buddies: Make a Lung Model – STEM activity.

Do you recall seeing or helping your kids build a model of the lung using a plastic cup, some straws, and a couple of balloons? And as you actively pulled down on the balloon (which was acting as the diaphragm), the two balloons inside the air-sealed cup appeared to magically inflate? 

This is a fun project and easy to pull together. Holding and manipulating a model really helps to drive the lesson home. When explaining this experiment to your kids, ask yourselves, “What is happening to all the organs and tissues below the diaphragm?”

What is happening above the diaphragm?

The diaphragm is a large dome-shaped muscle that sits under the rib cage and above the abdominal cavity. 

As your diaphragm contracts, it creates a larger space within the vacuum-sealed chest cavity. The lungs pull open to fill the larger space and air is drawn into the lungs through the esophagus. 

And, as your chest expands, the movement has to occur at your joints to create space for your lungs. Your collarbone elevates above, your chest rises in front, your ribs spread and open along your sides, and your spine flexes in the back.

View looking up into the diaphragm muscle.
View looking up into the diaphragm muscle.

So, what happens below the diaphragm? 

The diaphragm contracts into the abdominal cavity. The abdominal cavity has to account for the decreasing space and the increased pressure on its internal organs, so the pressure is dispersed in all directions. 

The forces are spread evenly throughout the 360-degree sphere in an ideal situation. But our anatomy, genetics, and history will dictate where the weakest link in our core system is. That part of the system will have to work harder or give way first.

Think about that hernia in your groin or the slipped disc in your back or diastasis recti (splitting of your abdominal muscles). The load was too much for your anatomy to handle and it failed to result in protruding tissue or sprained and strained soft tissues.

View of abdominal muscles from the front.
View of abdominal muscles from the front.

If you stack LEGO bricks directly on top of each other, they hold steady. If they are placed haphazardly, the result is less than stable. 

The same can happen further south in our core system of muscles. Not only can pressure push through on our soft tissues, but we already have a few open spaces where transferred forces can easily escape.

The pelvic floor is one part of a system of muscles that work together to produce effective and efficient breathing. And dysfunction of the pelvic floor can affect the way we breathe, and the way we breathe can affect the pelvic floor.

Think Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The strength of your pelvic floor must equal or be greater than the force being applied down on it. If not, you release gas, urine, bowels, or organs.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction

This is an excellent segue into appropriate releases and what is considered dysfunctions.

What are pelvic floor dysfunctions?

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