Intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) is defined as the pressure within the abdominal cavity. When is comes to the musculoskeletal system and low back pain, IAP is extremely important is creating a stiffness to stabilize the spine and reduce the risk of injury.
Intra-abdominal Pressure and Your Low Back
The best way to envision how intra-abdominal pressure creates stiffness to protect the low back is to think of a balloon. In this example your abdominal cavity is the balloon. A fully inflated balloon is stiff and allows little movement when pressed (creating stability). This protects anything inside the balloon (in this example your spine and intervertebral discs). The less inflated a balloon the less stiffness and less stability, increasing the risk of injury.
Creating Intra-abdominal Pressure
The easiest way to create intra-abdominal pressure is through diaphragmatic breathing. As we take a deep breath in we fill our lungs which (when trained properly) lowers the diaphragm. As the diaphragm lowers we reduce the volume in the abdominal cavity and create a higher IAP which equates to more stiffness and better stability
Have you noticed how powerlifters take a deep (sometimes explosive) breath and hold it before attempting to lift a heavy weight? This is them creating a stiff and strong abdominal cavity to protect the low back as they perform.
See the following video to see how to train diaphragmatic breathing (vs. chest breathing) to improve your IAP in everyday life and protect your low back.
The Take Away
The body has an amazing ability to heal itself. However, it's unrealistic to expect a full recovery is continue to provoke the area. Creating intra-abdominal pressure protects the low back by creating a stiffness that takes pressure off our spine and intervertebral discs. Practicing diaphragmatic breathing in low back recovery and improved functional performance.