What is rib flare? And why does it matter?

Your challenge today is to investigate your ribs….

We regularly talk about the importance of your diaphragm (your dome shaped breathing muscle which sits at the bottom of your rib cage) when it comes to core function and I’m regularly cueing you to keep your ribs down when we’re working out. This is because having your ribcage stacked over your pelvis allows your diaphragm and pelvic floor to better interact with each other and move through their full range of motion.

There are two ways in which the ribcage can flare…the first is posturally (so think boob/rib thrusting with an arched lower back OR a tired mom swayed back posture with hips shifted forwards, sagging in the middle). The second relates to the actual angle between the two sides of your rib cage.

Pregnancy regularly results in the rib cage moving up and out (so creating a wider rib angle that resembles permanent inhalation) to allow room for the growing baby. (Think about how you likely needed a wider bra fitting in pregnancy.) And like many things, this doesn’t always correct itself afterwards. Interestingly, pelvic floor tension can also create a similar effect as it can stop the diaphragm from descending down as it ideally should.

This wider rib angle also puts pressure on the abdominal wall, so it’s very common to see women with flared ribs suffering from diastasis recti. 

If any of this is resonating with you…

(1) next time I cue ribs down, neutral spine or anything else posture related, put some real focus on moving towards a more aligned posture with your ribcage over your pelvis wherever possible. This will invariably take time and require body awareness, regular readjustment, releasing muscles that feel tight and strengthening muscles that are weak. 

(2) practice breathing better. And what I mean by that is:

  • taking slower, deeper breaths (shallow breaths don’t allow the diaphragm to move effectively)
  • with good expansion as you inhale at the front, sides AND back of your ribs. If you’re really stiff through your mid back you may struggle with this initially, so releases for the thoracic back are going to be key
  • coordinating that breathing with appropriate pelvic floor movement – so letting the pelvic floor release as you breathe in and a gentle contraction as you exhale. (Unless you have a pelvic floor with too much tension in that is, in which case just focus on the release)

(3) And if you have a wide infrasternal angle (so more than 90 degrees between the two sides of your ribs where they meet in the middle of your chest), have a go at putting your hands on your ribs when practicing this better breathing and gently compressing them down towards your midline as you exhale to encourage that movement downwards.

If you’re an existing client, check out the “mobility to breath better” video in the library to help you with this. Let me know how you get on!

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