Stomach gripping (or clinically known as ‘the hourglass syndrome’) is a common dysfunction which deserve to be an underlying element in many type of pain syndromes. It occurs because of too a lot anxiety in the top abdominals and also dysattribute of the diaphragm (the muscle that sits under your lungs).

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The diaphragm: even more than simply a breapoint muscle


You deserve to think about the diaphragm favor an umbrella that sits under the lungs at the bottom of the ribcage. Typically the diaphragm will contract in the direction of its outer margins, which are attached to the reduced ribcage at the front + sides and also to the spine at the ago. This pulls the centre of the diaphragm (or the spike in the umbrella) dvery own, inflating the lungs and also stabilising the spine.


However, via the hourglass syndrome the diaphragm contracts in the oppowebsite direction, in the direction of the centre (the spike in the middle of the umbrella) which pulls the reduced ribs in. This provides climb to the typical narrowhead waisted or hourglass appearance. Other ideas of the hourglass syndrome include a ‘turned up’ belly button or a horizontal crease either at the level of, or simply over the belly switch. ‘Turning up’ of the belly button is a sign of muscle imbalance of the abdominals; with the upper area working a lot harder than the lower abdominals and also pulling the belly button upwards.

So you might be wondering what’s the problem? A tight stomach and also a narrow waist – doesn’t sound so bad to me! However before, this changed pattern of muscle activation have the right to have actually some much getting to impacts.


Stomach Gripping and Pain

Low Back Pain

The diaphragm is a crucial stabiliser of the low back, so when it isn’t functioning appropriately the low ago is left fragile. This additionally means other muscles need to work-related harder to compensate for dysfunction of the diaphragm, specifically the extensors of the lowback. In the picture opposite you deserve to see the considerable ‘sausaging’ of extensors (thick red arrows) as these muscles work-related overtime in an attempt to assistance this patients back as he lifts his head. Ideally we would certainly check out more balanced task of these muscles and much less ‘sausaging’. This consistent overworking of these muscles deserve to result in constant tightness and pain.


Neck Pain

If the diaphragm doesn’t descfinish effectively not only will certainly stabilisation be influenced however also breathing. This have the right to area a huge strain on the neck. As described above, the centre of the diaphragm should descend downwards widening the abdoguys (belly breath) and inflating the lungs. In the hourglass syndrome this normal pattern of activity doesn’t occur and, in many instances, once breapoint in, the chest and also shoulders elevate rather to compensate. This puts most anxiety on the muscles of the neck and also is a widespread element in headaches and also neck pain.

Acid Reflux

Alengthy via its breathing and stabilising functions, the diaphragm likewise attributes as a sphincter – helping to prevent the stomach contents traveling back up right into the oesophagus. It has actually freshly been discovered that people via GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) have decreased diaphragmatic attribute and also boosting diaphragm function may have a function in GERD treatment <1> <2>

Why Stomach Gripping occurs

There are 3 main causes to why this hourglass syndrome occurs:

1. Poor habits/ aesthetics

Everybody wants a level stomach but actively holding the stomach tends to cause an unbalanced activation of the stomach (with the top area functioning a lot too hard). If this is done for expanded durations this your brain deserve to ‘rewire’ from your normal pattern of stabilisation to this transformed version. A little bit prefer a virus corrupting a computer system regimen.

2. Non-appropriate Development

Sometimes the ‘program’ of muscle activation isn’t fairly ideal from the begin. This is thought to be the instance in around 30% of babies <3>. Abdominal gripping is a common compensation strategy that babies might develop as a result and also which have the right to persist into adulthood. Click right here to check out more on this topic.

3. Protective patterns

Stomach gripping can construct as component of muscle guarding via a painful injury and might remain lengthy after the pain has disappeared. “After an injury tissues heal, but muscles learn. They conveniently develop actions of guarding that outlast the injury.” Janet Travell, M.D. White House Physician for John F Kennedy.


What you have the right to do

The first action is to learn to relax your top abdominal muscles. This deserve to be incredibly tough initially in seated a standing positions, specifically if you have actually been doing it for a long duration of time.

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The position on all fours (displayed opposite) is typically a good place to begin. Adopt this place and also relax the stomach. Think about dropping your stomach to the floor. Next, take a tranquil breath in, expanding the stomach and sides of your ribs. You have to feel you stomach move right into your thighs but you shouldn’t feel the shoulders lifting. Breathe out, aget focus on relaxing the stomach. Repeat this breathing cycle for 3-5 minutes 3-5 times per day. Once mastered you have the right to combine this pattern right into your daily postures and also movements – sitting, driving, standing, and walking before advancing to more progressed exercises.

Are you an abdominal gripper? Do you suffer through neck pain, earlier pain or GERD? Let us know in the comments area listed below.

Images redeveloped from :

Kolar, P. (2014). Clinical Rehabilitation. Alena KobesováLiebenchild. C., Journal of Bodyjob-related and Movement Therapies

References:, A. (2010). Can a Motor Advancement of Riskies Infants Be predicted by Testing postural Reflexes According to Vojta Method?. Materia Socio Medica, 22(3), 127-131