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    This Woman Opened Up About Having "Hourglass Syndrome" — A Disorder That Results From Sucking In Your Stomach Too Much

    "If it isn't the consequences of my mother and grandmother's actions."

    Nikki Garza is a 27-year-old actor and content creator who lives in Atlanta. She's a huge promoter of body positivity, queer visibility, and overall good vibes.

    Nikki recently went viral on TikTok for her reply to a video that asked people to share "a fact so ridiculous, you didn't believe it until you looked it up yourself." In a clip that now has over 6 million views, she opened up about something she learned about her body merely a few months ago. The indents under her boobs are not "under-boob" — they're actually a result of something called stomach gripping, otherwise known as "hourglass syndrome."

    A woman showing her abdomen
    itsnikki.g / Via tiktok.com

    In the video, she explained that she believes the indents under her breasts occurred after years of sucking in her stomach so often as a child. "If it isn't the consequences of my mother and grandmother's actions," she joked at the end.

    The TikToker showing what stomach gripping looks like
    itsnikki.g / Via tiktok.com

    To glean more info on "hourglass syndrome," we reached out to Dr. Alexis Shoope PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS — a physical therapist based out of Houston. "Typically, this occurs when someone is using their upper abs and external obliques a lot. It can be caused because someone is trying to 'suck in' and make their stomach look flatter, or it can occur because their upper abs are much stronger than their lower abdominals (the transversus abdominus)," Dr. Shoope told BuzzFeed. "It can be relatively common in women who may have been told to 'suck in,' or for those who purposefully did it to make their abs seem flatter. It also can be common with people who breathe more shallow breaths, and are not letting their diaphragm expand fully to get a full, deep breath."

    "During a full 360 breath, we want to see the stomach expand forward, the ribs expand to the side, and the back expand backward," she said. "Without this, we place more pressure down on the pelvic floor, or on the back, and that has the potential to lead to other dysfunctions. The core is made up of the abdominal muscles, the diaphragm, the low back muscles, and the pelvic floor. It essentially creates a canister of pressure, and if the pressure is not evenly dispersed, it can place more on one area than another. This has the potential to lead to pelvic floor issues such as leaking, prolapse, diastasis recti, etc."

    A person clutching stomach
    Boonchai Wedmakawand / Getty Images

    "It could also lead to lower back pain, or neck pain. Upper ab gripping is not an automatic cause for this, but can be a factor. Pain is always multifactorial, so we cannot blame it on one thing alone."

    When asked whether there are treatments for this, Dr. Shoope replied, "Yes! It absolutely can be treated through physical therapy. We work on things like breathing in various positions to help with offloading where pressure is more present. We work on exercises that include the breath from there. Meditation has been shown to have great effects for people to relax those muscles and become aware of the gripping throughout the day. Awareness is often half the battle! Additionally, we can work on rib mobility — and mobilizing the ab muscles that are not moving as much as we would like — to allow the breath to expand more and more evenly and disperse the pressure."

    A woman with her eyes closed and clutching her back
    Nitat Termmee / Getty Images

    "You will want to see a pelvic floor physical therapist or someone who has
    additional training in this area," she added. "Some physical therapy schools teach on this, but most do not cover much, so people having additional training through courses, mentors, or residencies would be best!"

    We also spoke to Nikki about her experience with stomach gripping and how she reacted following her realization about it. "It’s always been a part of me, and I didn’t have an explanation for it until maybe, I don't know, like eight months ago," she told BuzzFeed. Nikki saw a 10-second clip about stomach gripping on social media, did some googling, and realized that the description lined up with her own experience. "I get my physicals every year, and my doctor’s never mentioned it to me. My gyno’s never mentioned it to me...I didn’t even think about it even when I went there. It was just like, OK, that sucks, and then I moved on with my life."

    @itsnikki.g

    #stitch with @medievalfilthcauldrons My grandma told me to suck in when I was 8 and I never breathed comfortably again #plussize #bodyimage #bodyconfidence #bopotiktok

    ♬ original sound - Nikki Garza

    Nikki traces the stomach gripping back to some of the comments her mother used to make when she was younger. "Always, growing up it was, 'Suck in your stomach; suck in your stomach; suck in your stomach,'" she said. "You weren’t pretty if you didn’t suck in your stomach, you weren’t feminine enough if you didn’t suck in your stomach. All these little things we tell children, and we have no idea how 10, 20 years later it actually manifests, both mentally and physically."

    The biggest message Nikki wants people to take from her TikTok? "Don’t let whatever your body is to stop you from doing anything you want to do," she said. "Especially growing up as plus size, there were a lot of actual roadblocks, but I also recognize now — in hindsight — that I also put a lot of roadblocks for myself in my own brain. I set those boundaries because I never saw anyone else being able to do it, so in my own brain I was like, 'Oh, I can’t do that because no one else has.' So y’all, just do what you want. All of us are out here having body issues. We all don’t like something about our bodies. But don’t let that hinder you from experiencing or doing what you want."

    For more of Nikki's content, make sure to follow her on TikTok and Instagram!