Coughing and Your Core

On page 110 my book, The New Rules of Posture, there’s a sidebar about coughing. I’ll quote it here, to save you the trouble of looking it up. “The relationship between your diaphragm, pelvic floor, and core support is graphically demonstrated in the act of coughing (or laughing for that matter). If you cough with your pelvis rolled back, you’ll feel a tendency to puff out your belly and bear down into your pelvic floor. If you cough while sitting in a slight forward pelvic tilt, you won’t feel the same pressure on your bladder. Excessive pressure into the perineum during forceful exhalations can trigger urinary incontinence. When you sense a cough coming on, engage your perineal muscles to cough “in and up” instead of down into your pelvic floor. I had opportunity to test out that suggestion not long ago. The fires in the mountains north of my home in Los Angeles produced such bad air quality that my immune system, compromised by travel fatigue, couldn’t resist. On the worst day, it seemed that I coughed non-stop, and that my insides were sure to be blasted across the planet. But I practiced what I wrote, and the coming of each cough became a reminder to contract my “front triangle”—what one of my friends has so aptly dubbed, “the clit lift”. I was so sick, there was really nothing else to think about.

Maintaining a neutral curve in my spine was hardest when I had to cough while standing up—to do it I had to bend at the hips and lean on something. Lying flat was difficult too—then I’d have to flex at the hips, draw my knees up and press my tailbone back into the bed.

The reason I’m sharing this goes beyond the caveat about coughing and urinary iincontinence. Another side-effect of coughing is low back pain. My lumbar spine is structurally flat in the lumbar area. Without posture awareness I’d look like the first drawing on page 61. Since I’m not the only person with this postural pattern, I write this in the hope of sharing a tip with others whose spines are flat. When the lumbar spine is flat, those vertebrae are slightly flexed. Coughing flexes the spine. Repeated coughing is like a percussion instrument adjusting the vertebrae in the wrong direction--more flexion. Result: a worsening of posture that impinges on nerves and produces pain.

Gratefully, I’m finished with the cold and once again am moving about with freedom. My body feels perfect. And think of all those Kegels I logged in!

© 2012 Mary Bond