HAES Physio – Health at Every Size Physiotherapy

Your health is not dependent on your weight.

This may be surprising given the narrative spun from a host of sources including health professionals. Health at Every Size (HAES) is “an approach to public health that seeks to de-emphasise weight loss as a health goal, and reduce stigma towards people who are overweight or obese.” At Barefoot Physiotherapy, we place a lot of value in inclusion and take a non-biased approach to healthcare for our community with leading HAES physio initiatives.

Weight isn’t as 2 dimensional as diet and exercise…

We understand that size is complex and is influenced by many factors outside an individual’s control e.g hormones, genetics, and illness. Yes, diet and exercise definitely play a role, however the research shows that focussing on these factors can often be counterproductive for a person’s overall health and wellbeing. It’s all very familiar when we hear our clients have been told to “just lose weight” in order to solve their health issues or pain. This is a problem because in addition to being misleading, it also tends to have a negative effect on an individual’s health. Research shows that intentional weight loss doesn’t work. 95% or more of people who start dieting end up regaining all the weight they lost and 2/3 of those end up being heavier than when they started. This phenomenon can result in very disordered eating patterns and unhealthy habits, so it makes sense to move the conversation away from weight and focus on health in a more holistic sense.

What does this mean?

We can use so many other outcomes to measure one’s health e.g sleep quality, energy levels, and mood. More accurately, we should look at health as a combination of all of it’s many facets and ask the question, “what healthy habits can I employ to feel better now?”. This may be to focus on the joy of movement itself. This isn’t to say that having the goal of losing weight is wrong, so long as there is a clear understanding as to why.

Whatever your goal may be, we are here to support you on your journey to achieving it and feeling your best. Book your appointment with a HAES Physio team by calling 1300 842 850 or booking online

Dry needling brisbane services

How does Dry Needling work?

We are often asked by clients “how does dry needling work?”. Dry needling is a treatment technique that can be used to improve function of a muscle or decrease pain felt in the body. Dry needling can be used to initiate an immune response and change activation of nerve fibres.  

What Is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a practice used by allied health professionals that have been specifically trained in this technique. Dry needling is named as such to contrast with other types of “wet” needling, think injection of medicine or a tattoo needle.

Dry needling works by using a very thin, single use needle inserted into the body at specific locations depending on what the goal of treatment is. Western Dry Needling focuses on the release of muscle, ‘trigger points’ by inserting the needling directly into the targeted muscle. Eastern Dry Needling in directed by the understanding of meridian or energy lines to treat systemic issues.

The physiotherapists at Barefoot Physiotherapy primarily use western techniques though occasionally eastern techniques are used to support treatment as well.

What Does Dry Needling Do?

You may be wondering “what does dry needling do?”

Dry needling works to alter and improve our body’s capacity to move comfortably. It reduces tension in the muscle by changing the length of muscle fibres. It can decrease overall sensitivity of a muscle or body part. Dry needling can be used to decrease joint stiffness and increase joint movement. It can also be used to calm the overall nervous system of a body, decreasing the stress response that occurs on a mental and cellular level.

So, How Do Dry Needles Work?

How Does Dry Needling Work?

Dry needling works via five main effects:

  • Peripheral (local) effects: initiates a local inflammatory response and release of local endorphins; increases local blood flow; causes a twitch and release response of muscle fibres via changes to calcium channels in the muscle fibres.
  • Segmental (at the spinal cord) effects: pain gating where information from the needle insertion overrides other information from the area; enkephalin (endorphin) releases which acts as an internal Panadol osteo.
  • Extra-segmental (at the brain) effects: releases serotonin, adrenaline and endogenous opioids to reduce pain felt in the whole body.
  • Sympathetic effects: needling can stimulate the autonomic system and change sympathetic output.
  • Immune effects: can support regulation of the immunoinflammatory process by release of endogenous opioids.

When to Use Dry Needling:

And when to use dry needling?

Dry needling can be used for a variety of injuries or concerns. Your physiotherapist may use this technique to help reduce swelling after an acute injury. It can reduce muscle spasm in a semi-acute flare up (e.g., back pain). We can use dry needling to assist in reducing headaches and stress. Dry needling techniques can be used to encourage tissue healing with persistent injuries such as a hamstring tendinopathy. It can be useful in reducing pain and swelling in knee osteoarthritis.

Dry needling is one of many techniques that we use at Barefoot Physiotherapy for the best management of your care. It may be used in addition to joint mobilisations, muscle self-releases and strengthening exercises.

How Does Dry Needling Help Chronic Injuries or Pain?

Dry needling for chronic injuries or pain uses a slightly different approach to dry needling for tight muscles. In chronic injuries or pain, we are wanting to have more systemic changes from our needling techniques. In this instance, we may use more gentle techniques where the needles are left inserted for a longer period of time. We may also use more traditional eastern techniques to support certain systems of the body. We can use eastern techniques with a western framework to provide a variety of stimuli to the area of focus without overwhelming the system while still changing the input to certain joints or muscles.

How Long Does Dry Needling Take to Work?

The timeframe for how long dry needling takes to work changes depending on the reason for using and the technique used. We are often asked, “how does dry needling work with different techniques?”

Pecking techniques where we seek a muscle twitch work immediately and continue with an increase local blood flow for an hour post treatment. A twitch response corresponds with immediate changes to muscle length. Sustained insertion of a dry needle can begin to make changes in as little as 1-10 minutes. Chemical reactions initiated via the insertion of the needle continue to last for up to 48 hours post treatment. You may need multiple sessions utilizing dry needling to gain the full benefit.

Is Dry Needling Painful?

We are often asked if dry needling is painful. There is often a little pinch or “mosquito bite” on the insertion of the needle. As the needle moves into the targeted area of muscle you may feel a dull ache, a slight grab or even a muscle twitch (involuntary muscle activation). The ache will usually subside after the needle has been inserted for a few minutes. Your physiotherapist will be communicating with you during this process. There is a small chance of ongoing sharpness or a zapping sensation. If this is the case the physiotherapy will alter the position of the needle. At Barefoot Physiotherapy we stay in the room with you while the needles are inserted and can adjust or answer questions at any time.

Book In with Barefoot for Dry Needling Today

Hopefully this blog has helped you gain a better understanding of dry needling and how it can be used. If you have questions about using dry needling as a component of your treatment, ask your physiotherapist. Book in with us today by calling us on 1300 842 850 or using the book online link on our website home page.

Barefoot Physiotherapy Brisbane, example oA Physio treats jaw pain with a jaw release.

How to release Jaw Tension

How to release Jaw Tension is a common question we are asked by clients at Barefoot Physiotherapy. Jaw tension and pain can be a debilitating condition that affects your neck movement, ability to eat and ability to speak. The jaw muscles are utilised every time you eat, talk and smile, and like any muscle if overworked they can become tight causing you pain and discomfort. In some cases, this can result in a locked jaw.

The intensity of your jaw pain can vary and can often be described as throbbing, tender or achy. These feelings may be exasperated by smiling, talking, chewing or yawning. In addition, the location of your jaw pain can vary from both sides of your jaw, to just under your ear, closer to your chin, your neck or nose. Therefore, you may be wondering how to release jaw tension to help prevent pain and incorrect function. In this article we’re going to provide you 4 expert tips on releasing jaw tension backed by qualified and experienced physiotherapists here at Barefoot Physiotherapy.

What Causes Jaw Tension?

Releasing jaw tension is important for your overall jaw control, neck movement and in some cases headache management. Jaw tension can develop due to multiple reasons common ones include; TMJ disorder, teeth grinding, jaw clenching, poor neck positioning, stress and excessive chewing. If one of the above reasons isn’t causing your jaw pain your Physiotherapists will recommend consulting your GP to ensure there are no systematic issues that are the cause i.e. Rheumatoid arthritis. Your Physiotherapist might also recommend you consult your dental practitioner if your tension is developing due to night time teeth grinding or jaw clenching, as they can assist with developing a mouth guard for you.

How Can You Release Jaw Tension?

In your assessment, your Barefoot physiotherapist will explain and demonstrate how to relieve jaw tension and pain. Your physiotherapist can provide hands on relief to the jaw by targeting the muscles which make up the TMJ including; the masseter and temporomandibular.

If needed, your physiotherapist may also release through your upper cervical muscles to help relieve pressure around the joint and base of the skull. Once your physiotherapist determines the best way to release your individual pain, they will teach you how to manage your symptoms and relax the jaw in the comfort of your home, at work or with activities that tend to tighten your jaw.

Tips for Releasing Jaw Tension & Pain

  1. Jaw Relaxation position

The jaw relaxation position is an excellent way to help combat and prevent jaw tightness. It allows your jaw to maintain a relaxed position in activities throughout the day and can also help reduce the build-up of jaw/ neck tightness which leads to headaches. The jaw relaxation position; is to lightly place your tongue behind the top of your teeth and let your jaw sit in its natural position. You should feel a sense of lightness in your jaw and it should feel longer. You can practice this position whilst driving, working at a computer or watching TV.

  • Internal Jaw release

You may be wondering how to release jaw tension with your own release. There are 2 major muscle groups in the jaw that you can self-release, and your physiotherapist will show you how to release. For a more specific release, you can place your thumb on the inside of your mouth and the fingers on the outside. Your thumb is on the outside of your teeth (but inside your mouth) and your mouth is relaxed and closed. Squeeze the jaw muscles in between your thumb & fingers. Aim to find a spot in the muscle where your fingers feel like they are pushing against resistance (something firm like a “knot” or “band” in the muscle). Hold each spot for 30 seconds. Aim to find 2-3 spots per muscle group (minimum 1-2 mins per muscle total)

  • External Jaw release

You can also release the 2 major muscle groups in you jaw externally with a self-release. Your Physiotherapist will show you how to do this; Using your finger/s, move around the jaw muscles near where the jaw opens in front of the ear. Aim to find a spot in the muscle where your fingers feel like they are pushing against resistance (something firm like a “knot” or “band” in the muscle). Hold each spot for 30 seconds. Aim to find 2-3 spots per muscle group (minimum 1-2 mins per muscle total)

  • Hot/ cold compress

To help relieve aches and pain associated with TMJ disorder or jaw tightness, your physiotherapist will show you how to utilise a hold or cold compress. Using a heat pack will can reduce the muscle spasm around the jaw helping to relax the pull on the joint. In addition, a cold compress can help numb the area to calm any inflammation at the joint and relieve pain. When utilising a heat pack or a warm cloth, don’t apply heat warmer than bath water and only utilise 3-4 time a day for a duration of it 15 minutes at a time. If you are using a cold pack, make sure it is wrapped in a thin towel and only applied 3- or 4-times a day for 15 minutes at a time.  

How To Relax Jaw Tension Throughout the Day

If you are experiencing discomfort in your jaw, you can utilise the tips above to help relieve your jaw tension and pain. When determining how to relieve jaw tension and pain, it is best to first consult your physiotherapist so they can make sure you spend time on the exercises that are best for your individual condition. As described, everyone’s cause of jaw pain can be different and knowing how your pain and tightness is building up is essential to targeting the root cause of your symptoms. However, whilst waiting to consult your physiotherapist starting with some gentle releases and jaw relax position can help ease your symptoms.

How Can I Prevent Jaw Tension?

If you are reading this blog and aren’t experiencing any current jaw pain or discomfort but want to know how to prevent tension, follow these simple tips:

  • Awareness of your jaw position (set reminders to relax your jaw, sticky notes on your computer screen or email reminders are good).
  • Try not to excessively chew (i.e gum).
  • Utilise meditation to help mitigate stress and if you feel your jaw start to click or become tight act quickly and book in to see a physiotherapist.

Release Jaw Tension with Physiotherapy

At Barefoot Physiotherapy, we utilise our Barefoot treatment plan when assessing all new clients this includes when focusing on how to release jaw tension. Our plan includes testing for any nerve irritation, movement reduction, muscle tightness and joint stiffness. Our physiotherapist will also tailor the session to your concern by assessing your jaw range, local muscle tightness throughout the jaw, neck and upper back. If the cause of your jaw pain is due to a local issue at the TMJ joint, your Physiotherapist will discuss with you the best course of treatment to resolve your symptoms. 

Book in with Barefoot for TMJ Treatment Today

Therefore, we hope you now have a better understanding of how jaw muscles become tight and how to release jaw tension. If you or anyone you know is experiencing jaw pain, discomfort or locking please do not hesitate to contact us at Barefoot Physiotherapy. We can help determine if it is a musculoskeletal issue and then work with you to plan your best course of treatment. Book in with us today by calling us on 1300 842 850 or using the book online link on our website home page.

Shoes physio

Choosing the Right Shoes

What shoes should I buy? What are physio recommended shoes?

One of the most frequently asked questions in the clinic is “what shoes should I wear?”. With the options on the market ever expanding, this is a complex question influenced by a variety of factors. As with most things, there is no “best” shoe and the options are going to vary significantly depending on your personal physiotherapy/injury history and what you need from the shoe. While a shoe on its own is unlikely to cause or fix an injury, physio recommended shoes certainly can play an important role so you might as well make sure its making a positive impact!

For your day to day shoes, consider –

Are you on your feet or sitting for most of the day? It almost goes without saying – if you are on your feet for most of the day, you will likely need more support and cushioning. While more cushioning is straightforward (get the pillowy comfortable ones!), support is often overlooked. If you are standing for most of the day then it is likely your feet will get tired, so assisting your foot muscles with some passive support can help minimise injury. Look for shoes with arch support and a structured upper (ie not a soft mesh upper)

If you are looking for exercising shoes, some questions to consider:

  • What is the main activity you will be doing in them? The best shoes for lifting weight are not the same as the best shoes for running a marathon. Lifting shoes are usually stiff, with a raised heel to allow for maximum stability and driving through your heels when lifting heavy. Running shoes on the other hand are usually much softer to help cushion the impact of repetitive foot strikes. A ‘court shoe’ (no, not that kind) for squash/netball/court sports, is usually less cushioned than a running shoe but provides some side-to-side stability to help with changing direction.

    If you have an even split of running and lifting (or lifting and squash etc) and your budget allows – you are best off getting two different pairs of shoes. If you mostly run and do some body weight strength once or twice a week then go with the running shoes! There are also some shoes out there now that do try to accommodate some running and lifting so there are plenty of options but make sure you consider what your primary purpose for the shoes are.

  • How do you want your shoes to support you? Every body has its ‘weaker links’ – if one of yours is in your feet (eg your physio or podiatrist has said you could benefit from strengthening your feet and arch) the consider how your shoe might be able to support this. Likewise if you really feel the impact of running – consider a softer or more cushioned shoe (as well as a biomechanics review with your physio!)

The most important question of all is always are they comfortable? While it might take some getting used to a new shoe, if you are getting foot pain or blisters then they are not the right ones for you!

If you aren’t sure if your new shoes are right for you – bring them along to your appointment and get your physio to check them out on your body! Barefoot Physiotherapy can provide professional advice on physio recommended shoes to make sure you’re getting. the most out of your footwear.

Foot pain

Intrinsic Foot Muscles

Foot intrinsics & intrinsic foot muscles

It is a commonly known “fun fact” that the bones of the feet make up roughly 25% of the total bones in the body. What is not as commonly understood is the complexity of the role the foot plays in the overall function of the body and the importance of the muscles that control the foot. A well functioning foot can adapt shape and both generate and dissipate force depending on the demands placed on it. Just think of a foot walking barefoot on pebbles compared to sprinting at top speed compared to dancing en pointe. The muscles of the foot make all these different activities possible.

When we discuss the muscles of the foot, they are often separated into two groups – intrinsic and extrinsic muscles. Intrinsic means the muscles originate and insert in the foot, while extrinsic means the muscle starts outside the foot (eg somewhere along the shin) but inserts in the foot (think along the lines of your calf muscles). The intrinsic muscles are often somewhat forgotten, but their importance in injury prevention is continuing to emerge in the research.

Foot physio

The intrinsic muscles of the foot are divided into layers. On the bottom (plantar surface) of your foot they are in 4 layers (listed below in order of most superficial to deepest)

  • Plantarfascia (thick fascia that is influenced by the muscles that insert into it)
  • Abductor hallucis, abductor digiti minimi, flexor digitorum brevis
  • Adductor hallucis, flexor hallucis brevis, flexor digiti minimi
  • Plantar interossei

On the top of foot is extensor hallucis brevis, extensor digitorum brevis and the dorsal interossei

Together these muscles control the arch of the foot, help modulate the foot and create the stiffness in the foot that is vital to forward propulsion in walking. Reduced strength and even muscle bulk of the intrinsic foot muscles has been implicated in a number of conditions in the foot and lower leg. 

Below are some exercises that specifically target the intrinsic foot muscles. Even if you are injury free they are fun to try out!

Short foot exercise (doming) – sitting down and keeping the toes flat (ie not curling under), “shorten” the foot by drawing up the arch of the foot

Toe spread – try to separate your toes away from one another

Big toe extension – keeping your smaller toes flat on the floor, lift just the big toe up

Small toe extension – keeping your big toe flat on the floor, lift up toes 2-5

If you have a foot injury or are interested in learning more about intrinsic foot muscles, chat to your physio!

Chronic fatigue physiotherapy

The Role of Physiotherapy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic Fatigue is a complex disorder characterised by debilitating fatigue which can’t be explained by any underlying medical or psychological conditions. Therefore, it is often referred to as a diagnosis of exclusion. The symptoms can vary in intensity or range from person to person but often include headaches, nausea, fibromyalgia and sleep disturbances. Physiotherapy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can help to manage symptoms. If you, or someone you know is suffering from chronic fatigue, get in touch with Barefoot to learn about our chronic fatigue treatment Brisbane services.

Medically, fatigue is described as ‘ the early onset of tiredness after an activity has been started.’ Chronic fatigue is diagnosed when the fatigue has lasted more than six months. (Sanchez et al, 2005).

There are multiple means of treatment used for Chronic Fatigue but this blog will cover the benefits of Physiotherapy. At Barefoot Physiotherapy whenever a client presents with chronic fatigue we utilise the same treatment plan because it allows us to make tailored treatment programs for every client no matter what they presenting with. Here is a link to our blog explaining the Barefoot Physiotherapy Plan.

In our first session of physiotherapy for chronic fatigue syndrome, we will set realistic and measured goals with the client. These goals can range anywhere from social (ie. wanting to be able to spend 15 minutes at the park with their children without fatigue) to sporting (ie. 20 min walk or jog without fatigue).  Once we have developed a set of goals we then utilise manual therapy techniques to help reduce their discomfort, musculoskeletal or nerve irritation and once their strain is at a minimum we commence an endurance and strength program.

Exercise therapy is essential to improving chronic fatigue as it allows clients to build up their tolerance and endurance to every day tasks.  It is important to utilise a graded exercise program and assess each client’s tolerance level separately.  Exercise therapy should be functional allowing the client to build their strength and endurance whilst carrying out tasks that are utilised in their day to day activity. Exercise built into daily tasks is a great way to maximise adherence and to develop muscle memory and confidence within the individual. For instance, some ideas include, working squats into their day through utilising sit to stand, calf raises while boiling the kettle, step ups at the park with their children or upper body strengthening whilst putting the groceries away.

Once a client’s confidence is restored or improved and they are less intimidated by the prospect of a full exercise program you can introduce a more weighted or structured exercise program to continue building their strength and endurance. It is important to check back in with the clients goals to make sure they are on track to achieve them and if you have it is time to set new ones.  

If you or anyone you know of is experiencing the symptoms of chronic fatigue , muscle, joint or possible nerve irritation please contact us. We can determine if it is a musculoskeletal issue before having to see a GP. We are open 5 days a week and a couple Saturdays a month. We have early and late appointments available. Please call us at 1300 842 850 or Click here to book an appointment.

physio exercise

Menopause and Exercise

Menopause + exercise

The importance of staying active across our lifespan is well known. However, menopause results in a number of changes including the body’s response to exercise. A shift in the way we workout can help mitigate the negative impacts of menopause and get the most out of exercise.

What is happening during menopause?

Estrogen and progesterone are two hormones that play a key role in normal menstrual cycles (along with luteinising hormone and follicular stimulating hormone). They both influence a number of systems throughout the body, including the cardiovascular system, sweating/body temperature, muscle and bone health and the central nervous system.

Quite simply put, menopause is the drop-off of these hormones which results in the cessation of menstrual cycles as well as changes to all the other systems normally affected. This can look like:

  • Loss of bone mass
  • Loss of muscle mass (reduced sensitivity to anabolic stimulus + reduced muscle protein + increased breakdown of muscles)
  • Reduced sensitivity to insulin
  • Increased serotonin and tryptophan (can contribute to ‘brain fog’)
  • Peri-menopausal fluctuations in hormones can contribute to hot flushes, poor sleep and poor cognition

Role of exercise

Exercise can be used to help mitigate some of these changes and assist in optimising health. We know that exercise can aid in clearing the mind and assist in getting a god night’s sleep. Regular exercise is also one of the best ways to improve sensitivity to insulin. Any form of exercise is beneficial, so go with what you enjoy most!

On the other hand, more specificity is required to minimise loss of muscle and bone mass. As the body is less sensitive to ‘anabolic stimulus’ (eg resistance/strength training), the stimulus needs to be increased. Likewise, new bone mass is laid down in response to ‘novel stimulus’ so the body needs to be exposed to something new. Typically this can look like:

  • Heavier weights – for example swapping out 3 sets of 10 reps for 5 sets of 6 reps at a heavier weight (or adding in weight training if it hasn’t been part of your routine before)
  • Plyometrics (eg squat jumps, bounding, skipping, box jumps etc) – make sure you have an adequate base of strength/control before adding this in!
  • HIIT style training – moving the focus away from slower or ‘steady-state’ exercise and including some short high intensity efforts on short recovery (total session of ~20 minutes)
  • Some slow/steady-state exercise (eg going for a walk, long cycle or run) certainly still has its place. The higher intensity of exercise needs to be balanced with low intensity, easy days and rest days (otherwise everything just ends up at a medium intensity). These sessions also often serve the purpose of nourishing your soul! However, for best outcomes they shouldn’t make up the majority of exercise in the post-menopausal population

If you are interested in optimising your exercise to match your stage of life or just change your routine, make sure you chat to your physio to make sure the changes are done gradually to minimise the risk of injury.

Breath physio

Breath and stress – from a Physio perspective

Written by: Caitlin Sargent

It goes without saying that the respiratory system is essential for life. However it also has an important interplay with musculoskeletal system and stress regulation. Poor breathing patterns can contribute to pain and dysfunction in a number of areas. Likewise, stress, pain and dysfunction can also contribute to poor breathing mechanics.

Normal breathing pattern

A normal breathing pattern sees the diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles lengthen and drop during inhalation. And naturally elevate and gently contract during exhalation. The movement of the diaphragm also encourages rib movement – the ribs gently lift and rotate outwards during a breathe in. As for all our muscles and joints, the body loves movement. So going through a well co-ordinated, full range of movement breath is great for our body. Taking these deep diaphragmatic breaths is usually not suitable or even necessary for the entire day. But we know our bodies love variability. So combining our normal breathing with occasionally slowing down to focus on our breath can work very nicely. 

What about stress?

When we are stressed, we tend to increase our rate of breathing. This increased rate also results in shorter breaths and a higher heart rate. Which can further contribute to our stressed state! The in breath is associated with our sympathetic nervous system (think ‘fight or flight’). While the out breath is linked to our parasympathetic nervous system (think ‘rest and digest’). When we increase our breathing rate, we usually spend more time inhaling than exhaling. As a result we continue to encourage that “fight or flight” response. If we are in a prolonged state of stress (eg big project at work or ill family member), we may subconsciously find ourselves taking slightly shorter and/or quicker breaths. Over a period of time this can have implications as our muscles and joints don’t go through their usual full range. We might see this play a role in back pain, rib pain, neck pain or pelvic floor dysfunction.

What can I do?

To help decrease our stress and encourage our breathing muscles and joints to move through range, we can focus on deep, slow breathes that particularly emphasise the exhale. For example: try taking a breathe in through your nose. Focus on feeling the air enter your nose and travel down your throat and into your lungs and belly. Then as you slowly exhale, follow the air back up to your throat and out your nose. For more relaxation exercises, see Catherine’s blog here.

If you think your breathing pattern might be playing a role in your pain, give us a call to see how a holistic physio approach might be able to help you.

Breath physio

An Introduction to the Anatomy of Breathing (with a focus on post-partum women)

Written by: Brittany Johnstone

One of the areas I’m very passionate about in Physiotherapy is helping women across the lifespan live their best pain free and happy lifestyle. That is why although this blog helps everyone create a better understanding of their breathing, there will be a particular focus on an introduction into considerations for breathing in post-partum women.  

Breathing is the foundation of our system. When we breathe, our diaphragm and pelvic floor move together. Breathing does much more than help us stay alive (although that is very important). It: helps regulate intra-abdominal pressure (to avoid hernias, prolapse, back pain), changes our stress hormones through the parasympathetic nervous system and promotes healing and tissue repair by increasing oxygen in our system.

When you breathe, muscle recruitment depends on the way you breathe and if you are in a resting breathing state (relaxed) or active breathing state (intense exercise etc).

Muscles of Respiration:

  1. Diaphragm (the primary muscle of inspiration (breathing in)
  2. Serratus Anterior (will activate when you take a big breathe in, but not into your neck and shoulders)
  3. Sternocleidomastoid + Scalene (helps with a shallow breathing pattern, breathing into your neck and shoulders)

Note: If your scalenes are tight from a shallow breathing pattern this can put pressure on your brachial plexus (arm nerves) and contribute to neck pain and nerve irritation, one of the reasons assessing breathing pattern is important.

Expanding our Diaphragm

Correct Diaphragm expansion helps to relax our deep hip flexors, lower back muscles and spinal muscles whilst activating our core and pelvic floor evenly. This helps to decrease neck, lower back and sacroiliac (SI) pain, naturally lengthen and strengthen the pelvic floor and resolve rectus diastasis by lengthening and strengthening the abdominals.

Postpartum women

When assessing postpartum women, the following considerations are needed for the core and diaphragm. During pregnancy the diaphragm gets pushed up and ribs gets pushed out, taking a deep breath in or out completely can be difficulty and the back can tighten to offset baby weight. Therefore the goals for the core and diaphragm post-partum are for the ribs to be back at a 90 degree angle, a regain of abdominal control to provide tension for the diaphragm and relearning how to optimize the diaphragm muscle into a deep breathing pattern. 

Want our help?

If this sounds like something you or someone you know needs help with or if you are experiencing any muscle, joint or possible nerve irritation please contact us. We can determine if it is a musculoskeletal issue before having to see a GP. The clinic is open 5 days a week and a couple Saturdays a month. Please call us at 1300 842 850 or Click here to book an appointment.

Pregnancy physio

Pelvic Floor introduction

Written by: Brittany Johnstone

Physiotherapists will often talk to you about your pelvic floor and its importance to your core. If we think about our core as a cylinder we have the deep abdominal muscles which wrap around the cylinder, our deep back muscles which support from behind, our diaphragm on top and then our pelvic floor muscles which yes are essentially the base.

The role of our pelvic floor muscles are:

  • Urinary and faecal continence: The muscle fibres control the actions which allow controlled passing of faeces and urine.
  • Resistance to increasing intrabdominal pressure during daily activities including coughing or lifting objects.
  • Supporting the pelvic organs ie. bladder and bowel.

The pelvic floor is a ‘sling’ of muscles, a bit like a small muscle hammock that runs between the pubic bone in the front, and the tailbone at the back

Thank you for the Continence Foundation of Australia for the use of this image

Throughout your life you pelvic floor can be faced with different stresses that may cause it to become weaker, unable to relax or too relaxed. Whilst the pelvic floor is significant in women especially pre and postnatal it is also a very important structure of the male anatomy and special attention is needed if there have been any prostate surgeries.

Common cues utilised for teaching control of the pelvic floor:

  • Thinking about stopping the flow of urine mid-stream (this helps to contract the pelvic floor and can be a means for strengthening)
  • Thinking of your pelvic floor as an elevator and you are slowly going down the levels until you reach ground and then basement (a cue for relaxing the muscles)

Your physiotherapist can help you determine if you need to increase your pelvic floor strength with targeted exercises, relaxing or contracting the muscles or if you have the sufficient control required for a healthy pelvic floor. 

If you or anyone you know of is experiencing symptoms of muscle, joint or possible nerve irritation please contact us. We can determine if it is a musculoskeletal issue before having to see a GP. We are open 5 days a week and a couple Saturdays a month. We have early and late appointments available. Please call us at 1300 842 850 or Click here to book an appointment.