Have you been experiencing pelvic pain lately? It may be due to stress! Pelvic Floor certified physical therapist Emma Codman, PT, DPT, wrote this informative post to help you identify triggers and treatment options:
Pelvic pain is a common condition affecting men and women. Pelvic pain can present itself in many ways, including but not limited to:
· Urinary– pain or burning in the bladder and pelvic region with urination
· Gastrointestinal– abdominal bloating, constipation, IBS
· Sexual– pain with intercourse
· Orthopedic– back or hip pain stemming from pelvic floor or hip muscle tension
Many different factors can impact prevalence and intensity of pain including stress. The body’s nervous system has 2 responses: rest and digest, which allows your body to perform life maintaining activities such as digestion, sleep, and using the bathroom, and fight or flight in response to stress which inhibits all “unnecessary” functions including digestion and urinary/bowel movements.
Skeletal muscles including pelvic floor muscles also respond to these cues from the nervous system by becoming tense with stress and relaxed with rest. This fight or flight state was once productive for our protection and survival in early years of evolution, however, in modern times with new stressors presenting themselves more often, the body can be in a state of fight or flight for a prolonged period of time. In this case, muscles might not be able to relax fully which can contribute to pelvic pain.
A pelvic floor physical therapist can perform an evaluation of the pelvic floor muscles and help release and stretch tight muscles to improve pain and muscle tension. They will also create a tailored stretching, mindfulness, and mobility program to help maintain and facilitate pelvic floor relaxation.
Techniques for calming the nervous system and relaxing the pelvic floor on your own:
3, 4, 5 Breaths
- Breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 5 seconds
- This type of breathing helps calm the nervous system and improve overall stress over time.
There’s an app for that: try the Breathe app which uses music and sound to cue the breath for varying periods of time.
- Focus on breathing in and out of the abdomen. When you inhale the belly should grow and when you exhale the belly will fall.
- When you inhale into your belly, the air helps push the pelvic floor out and away from you which facilitates relaxation. When you exhale, your pelvic floor will passively retract into a neutral position.
- Guided meditation involving paying attention to sensations throughout the body in a gradual sequence from head to toe. This facilitates total body awareness.
- Our favorite smartphone apps: Headspace, calm, insight timer
Cat/cow: Come onto you hands and knees. Arch and hunch your back slowly, continuing to breathe throughout the movement.
Happy baby pose: Lay on your back. Grab onto the inside of your feet or behind the knees and bring the knees toward your chest and out and away from your body.
Pigeon pose: bring one knee bent in front of you and the other straight behind you. Use your hands to adjust the intensity of the stretch. You can fold forward onto your elbows if it is comfortable.
These stretches should feel gentle. Try not to push to the point of increased pain to avoid reflexive tension on the muscles. Continue to breathe throughout the stretches to facilitate relaxation.
If you are experiencing pelvic pain or are interested in learning more about treatment options, come see a pelvic floor physical therapist at SPEAR today. You can also learn more about how pelvic floor physical therapy can help you here!