Saturday, January 18, 2014

Swaddling Mama...

Earlier in my career as a PT, I worked in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) with little bitty preemies.  When babies are born too early, their little bodies do not have enough motor control and they can be a little floppy and limp.  Often their nervous system is completely overwhelmed by the amount of external stimuli and their own inability to respond to it well.  When you see these little ones, they are often exhausted, can't make eye contact and struggle to breath, suck and simply live.  The very first thing we do to help these little guys is swaddle them.  We pull their little bodies together, snugly and give them some stability (so they are not flopping all over the place), give them some pressure (so they can feel themselves) and some security (so they feel safe, instead of out of control). After we do this, we work on the sucking reflex by holding pacifier in their mouth and stimulating the suck.  The ability to suck is one of the first reflexes to form (essential for survival for these little guys so it makes sense) and when babies suck it begins to organize their nervous system.  It basically settles the system down, so they can focus on the few little things they need to do at this little phase of their existence, like eat and breath.  At this stage, with the little baby snugly swaddled and starting to suck- they will sigh and make eye contact.  Their vitals stabilize, their breathing stabilizes, their temperature stabilizes and they are no longer fighting to survive so they can continue begin to thrive and to develop what did not finish developing in the womb.

Our bodies require a balance between stability and mobility.  However, stability is required first to even allow the slightest amount of mobility.  We are not jelly fish.  There is a system of order and control within our body.  Our nervous system is constantly evaluating and responding to our environment, our feelings, our sensations, our movements, our emotions, our body chemistry... basically everything at a molecular level to a global/outside our body environmental level.  If we just look physically (which is not reality since you cannot separate the physical from the emotional and spiritual), but if we just look physically, if our body is in a constant state of instability (weak muscles, deflated core after delivery, constantly moving surfaces, etc) then most of our nervous system is focused on that input. Similar to those preemies, our nervous system becomes overstimulated by external stimuli and all other movement and activity becomes difficult.

When we work with clients at The Tummy Team, we evaluate a lot of different things going on.  Part of this evaluation includes determining the level of the stability the internal core muscles are providing the body.  In the initial eval, we always use our hands to wrap around the corset and draw the muscles together snugly to give the client the sensation of what their transverse is supposed to be doing.  Every time we do this, every time, the client responds.  Their eyes light up, they sigh, they verbally respond with a "wow" or an "ahh" and we can easily see something "click" within them.  It is very similar to my NICU babies response to being swaddled.

Of course we cannot walk around with our hands around them facilitating what they are missing, but we can help them rebuild that muscle and reclaim that stability.  They can tell this is what has been missing.  They can tell their body craves that support, that security, and that stability. 

We begin retraining and rehabilitating their internal core and while they are doing that we provide them with a "temporary transverse" in their abdominal splint.  When our clients can feel that muscle and essentially feel themselves again, a lot of things start to look different. 

Imagine your body feeling completely out of control and unstable. For many this is not hard but if you cannot think of how this might feel, recall those first few hours and days immediately after delivery if you have had a baby.  Your "guts" feel like jello and it is very difficult to even get out of bed, walk, or sit up much less begin caring 24/7 for a newborn infant.  It is very common to feel overwhelmed, emotional (there are some hormones here as well obviously), and a bit out of control and exhausted.  Imagine now how it might feel to be swaddled at that moment.  Snugly pulled together and supported with stability and security. 

We see it all the time.  If we have a mom that comes in to our office obviously emotionally and physically unstable, we splint them quickly.  Within 10 min there is a change in their complete body language.  Hostility is gone, lack of concentration is improved, communication becomes more calm and clear.  It is almost as if we can see their nervous system beginning to organize and the over stimulation dissipate right before our eyes.

This is one of many benefits of abdominal splinting.  But the splint is temporary.  Just like when we swaddle our babies, they eventually don't need the swaddle to be calm, to breath, to suck, to make eye contact.  They still sleep better that way for a long time but eventually that is not even needed.  Why?  Because their body gradually develops the ability to provide that stability internally.

This is what happens with our clients.  We are consistently and systematically retraining the internal stability system to hold them together so the splint becomes less and less necessary and their internal stability builds and is being used by their body.

Stability and mobility are married.  When the body has a solid foundation of stability than mobility can happen without injury and without pain.  As you challenge the mobility (with walking, carrying kids, climbing stairs and fitness) you will continue to also further challenge the stability system.  It requires more stability to walk than to sit and more stability to lift a 20lb toddler than a 8lb infant. 

If your body has been asked to function within instability for an ongoing amount of time, months or even years, there is a tax on your system.  Without the needed security and stability, your body can be spending a lot of energy just trying to hold you together.  There is a lot less energy to think, to handle stress, to communicate, to listen, to learn, and to simply feel yourself.  This can lead to so many less than optimal situations.  When the body is spending all its energy in surviving there is little to nothing left to allow you to thrive.

The Tummy Team wants to help you thrive in your life not simply survive.

Core Rehabilitation is more than just physically pulling two sides of the muscle together to heal a diastasis.  It is more than getting into those skinny jeans. It is more than simply feeling better.  It is living better.  It is giving your body what it needs so you can thrive and grow and develop.  It is about reclaiming your true self.  It is about being the woman, man, wife, husband, mother, father you were intended to be.

Do you feel weak and disconnected?  Do you feel unstable and overwhelmed?  Do you feel numb and just going through the motions. Maybe your body is asking to be swaddled? You will absolutely benefit from The Tummy Team.

We have more information at  The Tummy Team is located in Camas WA but we also have online programs that meet the core rehab needs of clients all over the world.  And if you want to not only heal your core but help others heal too, check out our Comprehensive Core 1 Workshop in the continuing education section.

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