A common complaint among women of childbearing age is having a toned upper abdominal area, but a bulging lower abdomen. Not only can this be frustrating cosmetically for women, but it can also be related to stress urinary incontinence. Stress urinary incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine during physical exertion, commonly running and jumping activities.
The dreaded lower belly bulge may indicate poor core stability. The core must be strong enough to meet the demands of life; walking, lifting, carrying, caring for children, and participating in a sport. Proper core stability is necessary to keep our bodies working efficiently. If we don’t have proper core strength, we can be harm our joints, muscles, and even our internal organs!
The bulging lower abdominal problem commonly occurs in women after childbirth, but may also effect men and women who haven’t experienced pregnancy. It’s a result of weakened transverse abdominus and overactive external oblique muscles. The transverse abdominus is a deep abdominal muscle that runs circumferentially around the trunk, much like a girdle. It is an important stabilizer of the spine and lower abdominal area. The external oblique muscles attach to the ribcage, and can compress it downward. During pregnancy, the transverse abdominus is stretched to accommodate the growing fetus, and becomes weak. After the mother gives birth, she may develop overactive external oblique muscles to compensate. This isn’t how our bodies are meant to work.
Lower belly bulging happens over time, as the abdominal contents are pushed downward. The image of your abdomen being a tube of toothpaste can be helpful in visualizing how this could happen. Imagine your abdomen being a tube of toothpaste, in which the base is at the rib cage and the opening of the tube, is at your pelvis between your legs. The external oblique muscles squeeze the top of the tube pushing the contents down toward the opening. When this happens, the lower abdominals bulge and the internal organs including the bladder are pushed downward. Over time, this downward pressure on the bladder can lead to urine leakage with physical activity.
The good news is that with the proper help and training, this problem can be fixed! It is important for women to practice deep breathing that will stretch and expand the lower rib cage and oblique’s. In addition, regularly practicing transverse abdominus strengthening exercises will change your core into a healthy one! Visit one of our pelvic specialists at Freedom Physical Therapy Services to learn more about how to avoid or fix the bulge!