Managing Intra-Abdominal Pressure

Managing Intra-Abdominal Pressure in the Neurological Patient

Fun fact: our bodies have a pressure management system in our abdominal cavities, and this pressure is extremely tightly controlled. This pressure is extremely important to normal bodily function, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’re really good at keeping this pressure tightly regulated. The key muscles that maintain and manipulate this pressure include the diaphragm, the abdominals, the pelvic floor, and the spinal stabilisers. These muscles work together to keep pressure neutral, but when needed can generate pressure to help you cough, sneeze, maintain posture, or go to the bathroom (just to name a few). 

But what happens when you lose control over one of these muscle groups? While our bodies are wonderful machines of adaptation, a decreased ability to control the pressure in your abdominal cavity (aka your intra-abdominal pressure) can have some really challenging consequences. This shows up particularly in the neurologic patient. 

Losing the partial or full ability to control your intra-abdominal pressure can lead to incontinence, difficulty passing stool or urine, pelvic organ prolapse, and changes in postural control. What does this look like? Pelvic organ prolapse can be painful in a sitting position if the posture puts all the weight on the organ in question. Some patients may have difficulty changing position because every time they do, they are incontinent. If your loved one has difficulty passing stool, this can lead to a lot of discomfort if they go days without a bowel movement. This can lead to apprehension or reluctance to do activity, which is so key to treating and managing neurological conditions. 

A key part of managing this is working with a physiotherapist that understands the role of pelvic health in the neurological patient. Better managing the intra-abdominal pressure can lead to more comfort and an increase in quality of life.

Louise Fonteyne, PT

Book with Louise at ALPHA Midtown or ALPHA East!

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