Task specific differences in respiration-related activation of the deep and superficial pelvic floor muscles

Rafeef Aljuraifani, Ryan E. Stafford, Leanne M. Hall, Wolbert van den Hoorn, Paul W. Hodges
2019 Journal of applied physiology  
The female pelvic floor muscles (PFM) are arranged in distinct superficial and deep layers that function to support the pelvic/abdominal organs and maintain continence, but with some potential differences in function. Although general recordings of PFM activity show amplitude modulation in conjunction with fluctuation in intra-abdominal pressure such as that associated with respiration, it is unclear whether the activities of the two PFM layers modulate in a similar manner. This study aimed to
more » ... his study aimed to investigate the activation of the deep and superficial PFM during a range of respiratory tasks in different postures. Twelve women without pelvic floor dysfunction participated. A custom-built surface electromyography (EMG) electrode was used to record the activation of the superficial and deep PFM during quiet breathing, breathing with increased dead space, coughing, and maximal and submaximal inspiratory and expiratory efforts. As breathing demand increased, the deep PFM layer EMG had greater coherence with respiratory airflow at the frequency of respiration than the superficial PFM (P = 0.038). During cough, the superficial PFM activated earlier than the deep PFM in the sitting position (P = 0.043). In contrast, during maximal and submaximal inspiratory and expiratory efforts, the superficial PFM EMG was greater than that for the deep PFM (P = 0.011). These data show that both layers of PFM are activated during both inspiration and expiration, but with a bias to greater activation in expiratory tasks/phases. Activation of the deep and superficial PFM layers differed in most of the respiratory tasks, but there was no consistent bias to one muscle layer. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Although pelvic floor muscles are generally considered as a single entity, deep and superficial layers have different anatomies and biomechanics. Here we show task-specific differences in recruitment between layers during respiratory tasks in women. The deep layer was more tightly modulated with respiration than the superficial layer, but activation of the superficial layer was greater during maximal/submaximal occluded respiratory efforts and earlier during cough. These data highlight tightly coordinated recruitment of discrete pelvic floor muscles for respiration.
doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00704.2018 pmid:30870081 fatcat:w6mrbt4ohzdada2zejlkwjl2yi