by Bryn Zolty, PT
Rib flare refers to an altered ribcage position. This means the rib cage is tipped up/forward, flattened and wide, or both. Rib flare has many potential causes. For this article, we will focus on the postpartum individuals.
Ribs Tipped Up Flare
First, let's look at the rib cage position from the side to identify the ribs tipped up flare. Ideally, the rib cage would line up over the pelvis and the curve in your lower back is greatest in your lower back. You can feel the top of your hips and walk your hands around to your back, this is where your lower back curve should be located. See the arrow from her hips to her lower back.
The first picture (left) demonstrates fairly neutral (good) posture. Notice the horizontal arrow from the top of the hip bone to the low back showing the curve. Also, note the vertical line running through the middle of the shoulder, trunk, and hip. The line is fairly centered in these locations. The ribs below her bra line are tucked in the abdomen.
The second picture demonstrates the tipped up rib flare. Notice the curve in the spine compared to the first. The curve in the back is higher. It continues throughout the middle back and her shoulder blades sit further back. The ribs are tipped upwards and stick out further than her abdomen. Also, note the vertical line running through the shoulders, trunk, and hip. The trunk is more forward and not centered as in the first picture.
This rib tipped up position, the second picture, in a postpartum population is common. Later in pregnancy as the baby grows, the ribs tip up to make room. Women may lean back to maintain balance as their weight has increased forward. Next, women carry around a growing baby and continue to lean back. After standing in this position for months, your body begins to recognize this posture as straight.
Postpartum, the front abdominal muscles are stretched and weakened. The muscles in the lower back have been in a shortened position and can become painful and overworked as their counter parts in the front need time to regain strength. However, to do that, we need to restore posture. It is difficult to strengthen abs that are lengthened if the ribs stay tipped up! When this position is maintained for a long period of time, the back muscles can become tight and even maintain the tipped ribs when laying down.
Note in the picture the space between the floor and the back. The left rib cage here is sticking up. This individual will require some release work and stretching in addition to posture modifications.
Infrasternal Rib Flare
Another type of rib flare is seen in a front view. This is the infrasternal angle, the angle formed by the ribs coming together under the breastbone. A normal angle is 90 degrees. Place your thumbs together in this space and see if they form a 90 degree angle. When this angle is greater than 90 degrees, there is a rib flare.
Commonly with a rib flare, the internal oblique muscles tend to be dominant, creating muscle imbalance. The internal oblique muscles flare the ribs wide.
Here is the same individual lying flat looking at the front view to check for infrasternal rib flare. Now you can see the left rib is more pronounced and wider than the right. This angle is greater than 90, and is asymmetrical.
In the picture below, she was asked to start to curl up her shoulders off the ground. Note the ribs pulling wide and as her internal oblique muscles contract strongly demonstrating her muscle imbalance.
Rib flare does not get better on its own and needs individualized care to improve posture and muscle recruitment. So many functions in the body rely on the diaphragm and rib position. Dysfunction can alter digestion, create back pain, increase your sympathetic nervous system, and decrease pelvic floor muscle flexibility. Muscle imbalance can create compensatory patterns and resulting pain and/or weakness. Many women tell us they want their core back and their stomach to look pre-baby. Rib flare can prevent abdominal muscles from contracting well and even push(pooch) out the lower abdomen if muscle imbalances exist.
The key to treating rib flare is improving alignment and muscle balance. And not just muscle imbalance in your back and abdomen, but also shoulders, legs, feet, and pelvis. How you stand, sit, carry your kids, and exercise at the gym can all be part of improving rib flare.
At Connect PT we are happy to help evaluate and treat your posture, muscle coordination, and improve your strength!
We loved reading about all the dog-walking, trail hiking, and playing with kids and grandkids that helped to keep people moving this past year. Here are more ideas from the community board:
As the spring weather allows, we encourage you to grab a friend, get outside, and soak up some vitamin D!
by Becca Ironside, PT
Here is how it works: The patient lies on their side and the PT inserts a deflated lubricated balloon into the rectum. The PT then begins to pump small amounts of air into the balloon to inflate it. This mimics the sensation of having a full bowel and “needing to go” for the patient. Small sensors which line the bowel walls are being trained with the presence of the expanding balloon that it is time to void; this unique sensation is historically ignored or suppressed by the brains of people with chronic constipation. Yet with the use of rectal balloon training, such people are afforded the opportunity to show their colons who is truly in charge of having healthy, soft and regular bowel movements (their own brains are!).
The use of rectal balloons might sound weird and like the stuff of science fiction. But once patients experience this treatment in the relaxing and supportive environment of a pelvic floor clinic, they often discover how they might have been contributing to their own unconscious tension which leads to a lifetime of constipation. Rectal balloon therapy has also proven to be effective for the management of people with chronic diarrhea and poor stool quality. In short, it is a wonderful adjunct to a balanced pelvic floor treatment plan aimed at improving bowel health. If you have bowel concerns, please ask us at Connect PT about rectal balloon training.
Barthelemy, Anne1; Shifferd, Jennifer1; Erickson, Kim1 Balloon Training for Bowel Dysfunctions, Journal of Women's Health Physical Therapy: Spring 2009 - Volume 33 - Issue 1 - p 18
If you are experiencing chronic pain, stiffness or discomfort, what is your body trying to tell you? Here is a short, fun practice to begin dialogue and partnership with your body.
This may seem awkward or strange at first; it may seem silly or even uncomfortable, but if you do this more and more, you shall receive the answers and your body begins to trust you and you begin to trust your body, thereby creating a partnership for health. Through practicing this over and over you may notice that the pain begins to subside and may eventually be gone.
You may choose to combine this with a very clear intention that it is your intention to 100% enjoy your body fully, and that your body enjoys you inside of it fully and completely. This supports your collaboration with your body for a maximum amount of enjoyment.
Although the pain may not leave immediately, recognize that the physical form takes longer to change, but the change starts once you make a connection and change your thoughts. It is new energy; it is new consciousness; it is new awareness. Your job now is to stay in a mode of receiving and know that you have started the process of feeling better, and while it might not be an overnight healing, it will be steadfast and continuous, and with ease and grace. We want this with ease and grace in the most gentle way for you.
According to Dr. John Sarno, in his book, Healing Back Pain, for a condition like chronic back pain, once you call out the emotion that your body is repressing, there is no longer any need for the pain and the body will no longer need to generate tension. (2)
All of us here at Connect Physical Therapy are here to support you to feel your best.
by Bryn Zolty, PT
I hear this constantly. “Check my muscles, are they on?” The struggle is real. I’ve been there postpartum. Women feel hopeless at times trying to reconnect with muscles that have stretched or torn. The deep core muscles, including the transversus abdominis (TA) is one of them.
The TA muscle is part of the deep core muscles. It wraps around your trunk like a girdle. If a girdle sounds supportive to you, you are right. One of the main functions of this muscle is trunk and pelvic stability.
The TA was a big part of my postpartum rehabilitation and I would like to share some of that journey in case any part of it could help another woman find her way. My daughter was born via c-section. I knew at that time my abdomen felt weak and the middle of my muscles felt different. I waited for physician clearance and began exercising, slowly building strength and intensity. I noticed my side abdominal muscles, the obliques, looked chiseled! I was proud. However, I realized after having my c-section that a muscle tore in that area and soon found out that it had led to an inguinal hernia. I needed another open abdominal surgery. I again waited for clearance and started back up exercise and had the same results.
I noticed that I had very little strength or tension in the middle of my abdomen again. This time the separation (diastasis) was more obvious. Like many of my patients, I was guided to start trying to “find my TA.” This made me very sympathetic to my patients trying to tension their TA. It took me forever to activate it despite being a physical therapist. Two open abdominal surgeries left me with poor ability to connect to the lower deep abdominal muscles.
I tried feeling for the muscle. I tried laying on my back, side, and cat/cow. I tried using sheets, taping and bracing. I used all the breathing techniques. I also knew that a c-section doesn’t mean you can’t have pelvic organ prolapse (pelvic laxity). I was relying heavily on other muscles to compensate for my abdominal muscle weakness and it was becoming painful in my hips and tailbone. I finally found it! It took a long time. But I had motivation, not just for how the abdomen looks. I wanted to be strong.
I share this story because now there are more tools to help our patients and postpartum women learn how to start using those deep core muscles. Ultrasound imaging makes it easier for women and men to connect to the deeper muscles. We use this at Connect PT as a type of biofeedback for turning on muscles and coordinating functional movement. Being able to see the muscles while you try different breathing patterns of movement can help you see what works for you!
Below is an ultrasound of my abdomen during a sit up/curl up. The TA should turn on for this movement. But there is no widening, nothing like the image above. The internal oblique, D2, does start to widen. The obliques help with side bending and rotating; the next picture on the right shows me doing those movements. My obliques are really widening and working now!
Finally, in this last image below, I exhale and gently start the TA turning on and do a sit up. I let my body start to take over with how much intensity is needed. I provide a gentle reminder to my deep core to turn on. D1, the TA, is widening and turning downwards.
There are many online postpartum and mommy fitness programs now. Many of them are great, but for some women, you need help knowing you are doing the techniques correctly. Are you doing a TA workout and not actually turning on the TA? Are you bearing down when supposed to be pulling up/in? I recommend a visit to a pelvic physical therapist, even if it’s just a few times to make sure you are on the right track. We want you back to running, back to lifting weights, and back to the activities that make you feel good. Let us help you get your confidence back.
Beat those winter blues by getting up to stretch with Marzena Bard, PTA. When you can't get to the gym, these easy stretches are great to begin and end the day or to break up sitting all day at the computer.
Watch the video tutorial below.
Get a glimpse of Connect PT's rehabilitative ultrasound with Bryn Zolty, PT. We can use the ultrasound to teach proper pelvic muscle coordination and help conditions like functional constipation.
Watch the overview video below.
Every pregnant woman has an abdominal diastasis, or diastasis recti, at the end of their pregnancy. It's a massive stretch on the abdominal wall that makes the connective tissue at the center very thin. Some heal in the first six weeks postpartum, but many need more time. We're here to help women that need help strengthening their belly after baby.
Watch Bryn Zolty, PT demonstrate the criss-cross method with kinesiotape to support the diastasis and help activate your abdominal muscles correctly.
By Bryn Zolty, PT
Planks are one of the most well-known core exercises. Doing a plank incorporates many muscles to make us strong and support our joints. Typically an individual starting off with planks would try a modified plank and build up to a full plank. A modified plank means less difficulty when you are starting out so you can maintain a nice neutral spine, avoid holding your breath, and build strength. Two common modifications would be starting on your knees or placing your elbows on a higher surface than your feet as seen below in the Common Progression. After this position becomes easier, you can hold longer or perform more repetitions. Next you could try a full plank. Planks can continue to be progressed to have your feet above your elbows, your elbows on exercise balls, use exercise bands and more.
Now let's add prolapse to the situation. Pelvic organ prolapse can feel like heaviness in the vagina and even progress to the organs (bladder, uterus, vagina, rectum) coming out of the body. These symptoms increase with gravity. The more upright you are, the more symptoms you may have. So with a prolapse, we may consider reversing the progression. We may start with your body inverted - check out the picture with the feet on a chair and elbows on the ground in step 1 of the Prolapse Progression. We also encourage you to monitor your breathing. Holding your breath can increase symptoms. Consider what happens when you breathe in and fill your system with air, and then hold your breath and strain in a position. This can push these organs down. In addition, you could consider adding a kegel, or pelvic floor squeeze, to help support the organs. Your progression might look like the reverse of the Common Progression! As you gain better control of the pelvic muscles and breathing, you may be able to progress to being more upright with less symptoms. Good Luck! Contact us if you need help modifying your exercises, breathing, or help with pelvic muscle strengthening so you can exercise with confidence.
By Karen Bruno, PT
Can self-compassion really help when you are in pain?
Let’s explore this. First, what is self-compassion? Self-compassion is giving yourself kindness, forgiveness and understanding when confronted with personal failures or discomfort. Basically, it means giving yourself the care and gentleness that you would give to a beloved friend or a child who is in need of support. In the words of Dr. Kristen Neff, a self -compassion expert and teacher, "Instead of mercilessly judging yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?" (1) It is an acceptance of your humanness even when things don’t go your way.
So, what does self- compassion have to do with chronic pain? Recent research suggests that self-compassion is associated with better outcomes, such as lower levels of depression, pain-anxiety, physical and psychosocial disability, and higher levels of pain acceptance. Higher levels of self-compassion supports engagement in meaningful activities and use of pain coping strategies. (2)
What does that mean for you?
Self-compassion has been found to be beneficial in situations related to the ineffective way we respond to things, how we talk to ourselves and the behaviors we engage in. So, when you notice yourself worrying, thinking or talking negatively, isolating yourself, or beating yourself up, choose to use a better approach of treating yourself with care, gentleness and kindness. (3)
What can you do?
This PDF download summarizes the relationship between self-compassion and pain.
Self-care is also an integral component of self-compassion.
We have heard it before from the airlines, "“put your own mask on first, then help someone else." Remember that you are your own best advocate and as you care for yourself, you model for others how to care for themselves, you teach others how you want to be treated, and you harness the resources to be of service to others. Just do it! You are worth it.
"Life is full of disappointments, failures and setbacks. None of those things can permanently stop you. You have the power within you to overcome anything that life throws at you. There is nothing more powerful than a made up mind. Surround yourself with people who remind you that you matter, and support you in ways that matter most to you. No person, situation or circumstance can define who you are. Don't give up, cave in or stop believing that it's possible. It's not over until you win."
In our last newsletter, we asked you to share how you are managing stress during this new norm.
"Exercise" and "meditation/prayer" tied for first!
We get a ton of questions every day about breathing and spend a lot of time teaching different breathing techniques, which can help with both exercise and meditation/prayer.
Learn about what we usually see and also what we're looking for, as we breathe with Marzena Bard, PTA, CYT.
We love teaching this exercise to release tight pectoral muscles at the front of the chest. These muscles can be tightened by leaning forward over a computer, taking care of small kids, hunching forward to type on a smartphone, or just not being mindful about posture. A simple way to start loosening these muscles is by using a foam roller or rolling up a beach towel vertically.
by Michelle Dela Rosa, PT, DPT, PRPC
Kids and phone calls, cooking, and homeschooling...so where is the space to work from home? For some people, creating a proper work station at home has been challenging.
At Connect PT, we're seeing all kinds of issues from wrist pain to neck pain to low back pain and tailbone pain after making this transition. We cannot assume the table that we eat at is set up properly for zoom calls or studying. If you're still working from home, we want to help make the transition easier. Let's break it down:
by Karen Bruno, PT, DPT
Restrictions, social isolation, financial concerns and disruption to our “normal” have impacted everyone. Here is a short process to assist you in connecting inwardly and connecting with others to boost your spirit, lift your confidence, support your immune system and build resilience. Through connecting to our heart’s intelligence and guidance, we can practice caring and assisting one another to uplift, inspire and support ourselves and others.
Here is my intention for you: may you take good care of yourself; may you be happy; may you be full of love; may you be blessed with health and vitality; may you live a life of peace and harmony; may you experience true joy and fulfillment; may you be free from suffering of every kind; may you live your life with ease and grace; may you live your life to the fullest extent and may you share that with all others.
The following process is from the Heartmath Institute Global Coherence Initiative.
*Karen leads our individualized meditation program, which can be done in person or via telehealth.
April through May 2020
Marzena Bard, PTA, CYT brought yoga to our homes over Zoom twice a week, offering Chair Yoga and Relieve Stress & Rebuild Strength Yoga to help the community stay active and connected despite sheltering at home.
By Marzena Bard, PTA
If you have a tight obturator internus, here are two go-to exercises for a release of that sneaky muscle.