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image depicting discomfort caused by Abdominal Phrenic Dyssynergia
Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash

What is Abdominal Phrenic Dyssynergia?

Abdominal Phrenic Dyssynergia (APD) is a functional gastrointestinal disorder (FGID). This condition occurs when the brain cannot coordinate the correct movement of the diaphragm in relation to the fullness of the abdomen (abdominal muscles) via the phrenic nerve, causing uncomfortable abdominal distension and bloating.

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that divides the chest and abdomen, our bodies use this muscle to help us breathe. Normally when the stomach is full of food or gas, the diaphragm will relax and release upward, in order to give the organs in the abdomen extra room.

With Abdominal Phrenic Dyssynergia, this coordination is dysfunctional and the diaphragm contracts instead of relaxing when there is abdominal fullness. When the diaphragm contracts the muscle moves downward, taking up space in the abdomen. This action forces the abdominal organs to move down and out, causing abdominal distention and bloating.

Symptoms

  • Abdominal bloating that does not resolve with changes in diet nor exercise
  • Distended belly that does not resolve with changes in diet nor exercise
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation

Often presents with pelvic floor dyssynergia (read more about dyssynergia in my previous blog post)

  • Constipation
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain with sex

How Pelvic Floor Therapy Can Help

A trained pelvic floor therapist will conduct a comprehensive exam of the spine, pelvis, lower extremities, nerve function, viscera (organs) of the abdomen and pelvis, and also assess the tone and function of the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. After the therapist gathers all the pertinent information, they will work with the client to create a treatment plan and goals. Read my previous blog post on what to expect at your first appointment for more information.

Treatment for Abdominal Phrenic Dyssynergia can include:

  • Manual therapy of the structures surrounding the diaphragm, improving movement
  • Manual therapy of the spine and pelvic girdle
  • Nerve Flossing
  • Visceral Manipulation
  • Exercises to improve respiratory diaphragm and abdominal wall function and coordination
  • Pelvic floor manual therapy
  • Mindfulness and breathing exercises
  • Intestinal and abdominal massage
  • Biofeedback
  • Surface EMG biofeedback
  • Neuromuscular re-training of the diaphragm, abdominal wall, and pelvic floor

Our team at Femina PT is specially trained in all these techniques, let us hep you! Give us a call to schedule a visit today.

Resources

Villoria, A., Azpiroz, F., Burri, E., Cisternas, D., Soldevilla, A., & Malagelada, J.-R. (2011). Abdominal Phrenic Dyssynergia in Patients With Abdominal Bloating and Distension. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 106(5), 815–819. doi:10.1038/ajg.2010.408

Malagelada, J. R., Accarino, A., & Azpiroz, F. (2017). Bloating and Abdominal Distension: Old Misconceptions and Current Knowledge. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 112(8), 1221–1231. doi:10.1038/ajg.2017.129

Sanders, L. (2013). Think Like a Doctor: The Gymnast's Big Belly Solved. New York Times Website: https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/think-like-a-doctor-the-gymnasts-big-belly-solved/

 

What Our Patients Have to Say

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Testimonial by R.H.

No one could tell me why I was having pain during sex--sharp pain, not just uncomfortable, pain. I was referred to Heather Jeffcoat after researching several different options. I had seen a specialist who told me physical therapy would not help and my only option was surgery. I really didn't want to go that route, so when we got a referral, I decided to try it--it can't hurt, I thought. I am so glad I did. She diagnosed the problem right away, which was a relief in itself.

To know why I was having pain eased my mind immensely. And to hear that she could fix it without surgery was another relief. She said she could fix the problem in 6 weeks. I think it was actually 4 for me. She was very methodical, and treated me as an intelligent human being capable of participating in my own recovery. I would absolutely recommend her to anyone. She did not try to prolong my session numbers, she worked hard to accommodate my schedule (and the fact that I had to bring a baby to sessions), and she was completely honest the entire time. It is so hard to find someone with these characteristics, much less a professional who is so good at what she does. She has my highest respect.

-- R.H.

Testimonial by P.M.

I was hopeful but frankly skeptical when the doctor treating me for Interstitial Cystitis recommended that I go to Heather for physical therapy. Medication and diet helped control my IC symptoms, but I had never heard of physical therapy being used to treat IC. The education and treatment I received from Heather was a revelation. She explained that the pain I experienced with IC had helped create a cycle of muscle guarding which affected the entire pelvic area. I had no idea of the amount of tension being held there. No wonder my husband and I had not been able to have sexual intercourse for years!

Read more: Testimonial by P.M.

Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

I can’t speak highly enough of the theapists at Femina Physical Therapy and how much they have helped me grow, discover, and love my body. I had had painful sex for my entire life, and didn’t know that there was anything that could be done about it. It was at the point where my husband and I were not having sex for MONTHs, because it was just too frustrating, and I hated feeling like I was the ONLY woman out there who had this problem, especially at my age. I finally brought it up to my doctor because I was turning 40 and my husband and I were barely having enough sex to conceive. And she brought up pelvic floor, PT. I didn’t even know this was a “thing”.

Read more: Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

Testimonial by T.H.

I started seeing Heather in October 2014. For more than two years, I had been suffering from painful urinary tract infection type symptoms after my bartholins gland surgery which included constant burning and urinary frequency sensation that led to more and more painful intercourse. I had made multiple visits to internist, obgyn and urologist's offices, went through a range of treatment with UTI and bladder frequency medication that included antibiotics, vesicare, estrogen cream, but nothing worked.

Read more: Testimonial by T.H.

Testimonial by J.H.

My last appointment with Heather was over 6 years ago but I still think of her every day. I don’t take for granted that I can easily get out of bed, care for my two active and busy young boys, run, play tennis, clean my house, or sit at a desk for several hours at a time. None of these tasks were easy for me before meeting Heather. Eight years ago my car was struck from behind by a tractor trailer that was estimated to have been speeding. I spent 3 years working with different PTs and Drs trying to heal and move on with my life. When I became pregnant and the hormone relaxin that “relaxes” all the joints of the body and the additional weight gain erased all my progress and I was suddenly in a lot of pain again. My OB sent me to Heather for one last try.

Read more: Testimonial by J.H.

Testimonial by A.B.

Before I was referred to Heather Jeffcoat I was living in a nightmare. I had been married to my husband for three years and I was suffering from Vaginismus. That all changed when I visited my OBGYN and she said she knew of someone with a great success rate. To be honest I was hesitant at first because my first doctor had already told me that all I needed to do was order dilators from the internet and I should overcome my problem. She was wrong because I had followed the book on how to use the dilators with absolutely no advancements in my condition. However, that all changed when I went in for my first visit and Heather took the time to explain my condition and how we were going to work together to overcome it.

I remember leaving her office with a glimmer of hope that I could live a normal life. As my sessions continued I began to see immediate results. With only four sessions and a strict dedication to my home programs I was cured of Vaginismus. In the beginning of this process I was made aware that my health insurance company might not cover the costs, which was disappointing but today I can say one hundred percent that it was the best money I ever spent. Now thanks to Heather I am finally enjoying my life to the fullest with my husband. Thank you Heather, I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate all that you have done for me. I will never forget it. Those who are suffering from these types of conditions don’t be afraid because she makes you feel so comfortable and the end result is worth it. Good luck to you all and I hope you experience the success I have.
-- A.B.

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