What Is Hourglass Syndrome?
Hourglass syndrome also as known as stomach gripping is a disorder that involves people sucking in their abdomen habitually. Hourglass syndrome can be an underlying factor in many pain syndromes. It occurs due to too much tension in the upper abdominals and dysfunction of the diaphragm (the muscle that sits under your lungs).
The pervasiveness of this habit can largely be attributed to a common approach to fitness that’s overly focused on the abdominal muscles, as well as societal beauty standards that emphasize a flat stomach, but the habit can have physical and mental consequences over time.
How is Hourglass Syndrome (stomach gripping) done?
You can think about the diaphragm as an umbrella that sits under the lungs at the bottom of the ribcage. Normally, the diaphragm will contract towards its outer margins, which are attached to the lower ribcage at the front + sides and to the spine at the back. This pulls the center of the diaphragm (or the spike in the umbrella) down, inflating the lungs and stabilizing the spine.
However, with the hourglass syndrome, the diaphragm contracts in the opposite direction, towards the center (the spike in the middle of the umbrella) which pulls the lower ribs in. This gives rise to the typical narrow-waisted or hourglass appearance. Other clues of the hourglass syndrome include a ‘turned up’ belly button or a horizontal crease either at the level or just above the belly button. ‘Turning up’ of the belly button is a sign of muscle imbalance of the abdominals; with the upper section working much harder than the lower abdominals and pulling the belly button upwards.
Why do people practice the Hourglass syndrome (stomach gripping)?
If you’re always sucking in your stomach, it could be due to one of the following reasons:
- Aesthetics or poor habits. Nearly everyone wants a flat stomach so they practice “effective” trends that force the upper section of their stomachs to work hard. If you keep sucking in your stomach for a prolonged period, your brain rewires from your normal stabilization patterns to this new version. This results in a bad habit.
- Non-ideal development. In some cases, the muscle activation program doesn’t function well from the start. Some babies develop stomach gripping to compensate for the improper muscle activation, causing them to carry this habit to adulthood.
- Protective patterns. Some people grip their stomachs to cope with a painful injury. However, once the injury is gone, they tend to still practice stomach gripping.
Can Hourglass syndrome cause any harm?
Beyond potentially affecting the pelvic floor muscles, which are involved in posture, urination, bowel movements, and sex, sucking in your gut all the time “could alter the mechanics of your abdomen; it could alter its ability to respond to demands in the environment. It could also change your breathing patterns.
Habitually contracting your oblique abdominal muscles can also exert force down on the pelvic floor muscles and potentially cause the pelvic floor to become overwhelmed, which could have consequences such as incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. It’s also possible, to consistently overwork your transverse abdomen muscle, which creates a “co-contraction” in the pelvic floor muscles and could result in a loss of flexibility in those muscles over time.
Home remedies for Hourglass Syndrome (stomach gripping) relief
There are ways you can get immediate relief or treatment from Hourglass Syndrome (stomach gripping) at home. Some at-home treatments will treat the underlying cause of Hourglass Syndrome (stomach gripping), while others relax the stomach muscles so that they stop spasming.
If you’re having stomach spasms in pregnancy, talk to your doctor before trying any home remedies. Some home treatments may not be safe during pregnancy.
Antacids: Stomach acid can cause gastritis, which in turn can cause stomach spasms. In these cases, antacids or OTC proton pump inhibitors can help your Hourglass Syndrome (stomach gripping) by reducing stomach acid.
Chamomile tea: Chamomile can be used to calm an upset stomach and could help manage Hourglass Syndrome (stomach gripping). It’s also considered a home remedy for gas. Find a great selection of chamomile tea here.
Electrolytes: If your stomach Hourglass Syndrome (stomach gripping)is caused by dehydration, replenishing your electrolytes may help. Try drinking a sports drink like Gatorade or eating a banana. Use caution, however, if you have a history of kidney failure, because some electrolytes, particularly potassium, can rise to dangerous levels with supplements.
Heat: Heat can help to relax your stomach muscles. This is particularly helpful if muscle strain or overuse is causing your Hourglass Syndrome (stomach gripping).
Massage: Massaging your stomach muscles can help to relax them and prevent Hourglass Syndrome (stomach gripping).
Pain relievers: If your Hourglass Syndrome (stomach gripping) is painful, an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help. You must be cautious with OTC pain medications. Ibuprofen and similar drugs can cause gastric ulcers and kidney damage if taken in excessive amounts. Acetaminophen in large amounts can cause liver damage and even liver failure. If you feel that you need to take more of these medications than the recommended dosage on the bottle, you should consult with a doctor.
Rest: If your Hourglass Syndrome (stomach gripping) are caused by muscle strain, cutting back on exercise and resting your stomach muscles will help stop the spasming.