Life is stressful and chronic stress can cause long-term damage to your body. The human body has a natural reaction to combat stress by activating the sympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) to release certain chemicals and hormones into the bloodstream. Did you know that stress can affect your pelvic floor?
When our ancestors were faced with danger they could either fight or run. The fight or flight response prepares your body to react to the danger. During stressful times, you may feel increased heart rate and respiration. Although you may not notice it your blood pressure and blood sugar levels rise as well to maintain energy to the extremities to enable you to run away from the stressor.
When your stress is not managed well or it is constant, your body becomes distressed. A distressed body is no longer able to effectively negate the effects of stress. When you are distressed your body begins to show the signs and symptoms of stress.
What are some possible symptoms of stress?
Stress can affect any system throughout your body. Some of the symptoms of chronic stress are: increased fatigue, decreased energy, and overall feelings of uneasiness. Many people report feelings of anxiety and difficulty concentrating. Stress has been shown to have a negative impact on health and can be manifested by abdominal issues, headaches, lack of sleep, constant worry and muscle pain, and tightness.
The connection between stress affect your pelvic floor?
Your pelvic floor will react to stress just like any other region in the body. What is your pelvic floor? There are muscles, ligaments, and fascia that support the organs of the pelvis and help to maintain the integrity and function of the bowel, bladder, and sexual response. Under stress, your muscles naturally tense throughout so it is necessary to actively focus to release this muscle tension. Chronic or constant stress, fear, or anxiety can cause the muscles of the pelvic floor to remain in a tight or hypertonic state. This is a real problem.
What are possible signs that you might have a tight pelvic floor?
There are several symptoms that you can experience from pelvic floor muscle tightness. The following list is not all-inclusive but an example of some that you may experience.
- Urinary incontinence
- Fecal incontinence
- Pelvic pain
- Painful intercourse
- Abdominal pain
What can I do to release a tight pelvic floor?
Remember, pelvic floor muscles will respond to relaxation activities just as any other muscle. One of the most effective means of relaxation is through your breath. Abdominal breathing exercises can be one of the first activities to perform to release the pelvic muscles. During diaphragmatic breathing one should focus on the pelvic region, actively focusing on releasing this muscle group.
Daily diaphragmatic breathing has many positive physiological benefits which include lowering heart rate and blood pressure. It can also evoke a feeling of overall calm, helping to reduce muscle tension.
Exercise, primarily stretching, can help reduce hypertonic muscles. There are yoga poses that are effective in pelvic floor relaxation. can help to
Three yoga poses that reduce muscle tension, especially when combined with deep breathing:
- Childs pose
- Happy baby pose
- Knee to chest
Don’t ignore your pelvic floor. Are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above? Have you experienced regular stress or even have a stressful lifestyle? Then consider adding deep breathing and stretching exercises targeting the pelvic region to help your symptoms. Of course, if your symptoms persist, are severe, or bothersome, consult your healthcare professional for advice. You don’t need to suffer from the symptoms of a tight pelvic floor. Connect with me here to discuss your symptoms.
Shelia Craig Whiteman, DPT
Dr. Shelia Craig Whiteman DPT, CLT is a doctor of physical therapy and a health coach. While practicing physical therapy, she specialized in pelvic health, lymphedema and oncology. As a health coach Dr. Shelia is particularly passionate about helping women to reduce and stop bladder leaks.
She is the best-selling author of “To Pee or Not To Pee?” The Guide for Reducing and Eliminating Urinary Incontinence. Her second book, Stop Worrying About Bladder Leaks, further explains how and why bladder leaks can happen. As an advocate for health and wellness, she participates in several educational presentations and volunteer activities in her community. Dr. Shelia is a certified fitness instructor and has taught fitness and pilates classes over the past 20 years. She lives with her family in Mitchellville, Maryland.