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Why Balloons?

We received a request recently on a course evaluation survey that is perhaps a shared request by other course attendees. The therapist is looking for a more thorough understanding and appreciation for the use of balloons. Two Postural Restoration Certified (PRC) Therapists had offered insight on the subject a couple years ago and their comments are currently in our Advanced Integration course manual and are provided here…

The balloon blow facilitates MUSCLE ACTIVATION of abdominals which are flexors of the spine/trunk. Therefore it helps to facilitate MUSCLE INHIBITION of paraspinals. (Several of my patients say it helps shut off their back muscles which decreases back pain from hypertonic paraspinals.) The abdominal activation helps to oppose the diaphragm for efficient breathing and abdominals in general oppose all dysfunctional patterns (i.e. L AIC, R BC, PEC, R TMCC) so most people benefit from muscle activation of abdominals. The balloon provides a slowing down of the exhalation phase of respiration which is helpful for decreasing SOB and many other conditions (refer to basic physiology text books for the formulas on respiratory breathing rates) and it facilitates depression of ribs (which is good for ribs that are too elevated/externally rotated and lumbar spines that are excessively lordotic) which therefore increases the ZOA which is necessary for increased exercise tolerance, efficient respiration etc. The resisted exhalation also helps to increase the INTRA ABDOMINAL PRESSURE (IAP). This is needed for core/spinal stability. If a patient clamps off the balloon with any strategy, they essentially are augmenting the IAP that is required to be able to inhale again without loss of air in the balloon. If they don’t clamp it off, the increase in IAP is required of the ABDOMINALS and diaphragm via position/ZOA which is what we are after.
by Kyndall Boyle, PT, PhD, OCS

When you have the person create a seal using their tongue instead of pinching the balloon you:
1. encourage “up”/resting position of the tongue
2. encourage activation of left lateral pterygoid
3. create a negative space to restore the dome position of the soft palate (restoring ZOA in the cranium)
4. encourage obliques to stay activated during the pause at the end of the exhalation phase. 
If they pinch the balloon they will lose the zone, whereas if they don’t pinch the only way the balloon will not deflate is if they stay in the zone.
by Jeanna Viramontes, MPT, PRC

Posted January 18, 2010 at 10:37PM

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