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stop sucking in your stomach
Image courtesy of iStock
When writing this latest article in the Washington Post about the ill effects of sucking in your stomach all the time, Allyson Chiu reached out to me for some insights. Here is a brief synopsis of the article, along with a link to the full article below.

Heather Jeffcoat, DPT

Sucking in your stomach all the time could be bad for your health

Sucking in your stomach and keeping your abdominal muscles too tense as you go about your day may seem innocuous, but experts say it’s a pervasive habit that can have physical and mental consequences over time.

Heather Jeffcoat is a keen observer of people.

I notice people,” said Jeffcoat, who ascribes her perceptive eye to her nearly two-decade career as a physical therapist. “I notice how people walk. I notice how people stand. I’ll just be like, ‘Oh, that person’s gripping their gluteal muscles, or that person looks like they’re gripping their abs.’ ”

The latter observation — a behavior some experts call “stomach gripping,” or what’s more widely known as sucking in your stomach — is one that Jeffcoat said she often sees among the patrons at her usual Starbucks, which is next to a spin studio in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles.

They’ll be dressed in their spin clothes, basically a crop top or a sports bra and capris, and I’ve noticed it,” she said. Then, her physical therapist’s brain starts whirling: “I wonder if they have back pain. I wonder if they have pelvic floor dysfunction.”

A key initial step is recognizing that you are gripping your abdominal muscles when you don’t need to, Wiebe said. While you should engage those muscles if you’re lifting a barbell, you shouldn’t be tensing them at full strength when you’re standing in line at the grocery store. “Awareness is half the battle,” she said.

Jeffcoat agreed.

Many people, she said, go around life holding it in because they think they’re supposed to” for postural or aesthetic reasons. “The problem is you shouldn’t have to be consciously gripping it,” she said. “It shouldn’t be that you’re constantly going 80 to 100 [percent of your maximal tension]. It should be closer to 20 to 30 percent.”

Pay attention to any symptoms related to the pelvic floor, such as abnormal bladder and bowel function or painful sex, experts said. Other signs of gripping may be more visual. For example, Wiebe said, consistently sucking in your stomach could alter the appearance of your abdomen, including a protrusion of the lower abdomen and a flaring of the rib cage.

To begin retraining your muscles, experts recommend consciously trying to relax and let your stomach out. For people who are having a hard time relaxing in a seated or standing position, getting on all fours and “letting your belly relax down to the floor” may help, Hwang said. “Sometimes having the help from gravity can make a difference.”

Jeffcoat said other strategies include a combination of flexibility and breath work, such as “belly breathing,” as well as abdominal massage. When you’re practicing breathing, Wiebe suggests doing inhalations with an emphasis on easing the stomach and pairing that with meaningful movements, such as descending into a squat. Combining inhalation with movement can teach the body to use the trunk muscles in a different way, Wiebe said, so you’re no longer relying only on your abdominals. For additional help, or if you have any symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, it’s important to seek care from a professional.

For the full expose on the dangers of sucking in your stomach all the time, continue to the full article at the Washington Post here.

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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 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.

Testimonial by A.M.

Months after giving birth, it was difficult for me to go from a sitting or lying position up to a full standing position without feeling that I had to remain hunched over until a bit of time had passed to get fully upright. However, after taking Heather’s course, I learned exercises to get my body back to normal. She also showed me correct ways to lift and carry my son as well as put him in/take him out of the carseat and stroller. This class was really beneficial and Heather is a wonderful teacher who made me feel very comfortable.

-- A.M.

Testimonial by Ann V.

I wish i could give this place 10 stars!! 
I have been suffering from vaginismus for 5 years and never found the cure to it. I had seen an ob/gyn and he diagnosed me with vaginismus and told me i needed a surgery to cure my condition, which i refused to do. He also referred me to a PT that he works with, i had given them multiple calls and they never responded back to me, so i started searching yelp for another PT. I am SO HAPPY I found Heather's office! I was working with Laureen, and with her guidance and techniques i was able to be cured from vaginismus in only 2 1/2 short months!!! I couldn't believe how quickly their program worked for me! I am forever grateful and thankful from Heather, and Laureen! They are the absolute best at what they do!

Read more: Testimonial by Ann V.

Testimonial by Ann V.

I wish i could give this place 10 stars!! 
I have been suffering from vaginismus for 5 years and never found the cure to it. I had seen an ob/gyn and he diagnosed me with vaginismus and told me i needed a surgery to cure my condition, which i refused to do. He also referred me to a PT that he works with, i had given them multiple calls and they never responded back to me, so i started searching yelp for another PT. I am SO HAPPY I found Heather's office! I was working with Laureen, and with her guidance and techniques i was able to be cured from vaginismus in only 2 1/2 short months!!! I couldn't believe how quickly their program worked for me! I am forever grateful and thankful from Heather, and Laureen! They are the absolute best at what they do!

Read more: Testimonial by Ann V.

Testimonial by A.W., age 32

I wanted to let you know that my pelvic floor held strong and gave me no trouble whatsoever in my trail race this morning (12 miles)! In a way, I felt like I ran better than ever because my core feels so rock solid from all the exercises you have me doing. That was especially valuable on the technical downhill - I just flew down the trail because I had confidence in my balance and form. Thank you for helping me get back to doing what I love.

-- A.W., age 32
(completed Post-partum Renewal Program using the InTone biofeedback/stim unit)

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