If the pandemic has shown us anything in these past few years, it is that our society remains under constant stress. A stress, when it ceases to be a punctual response and becomes a chronic condition, has many consequences. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress, if left untreated, can lead to anxiety, insomnia, muscle aches and a weakened immune system. It may also contribute to the development of serious diseases such as heart disease, depression and obesity.” Although many people are unaware that stress can also affect our pelvic floor. And that is, due to various investigations. This is because the pelvic floor muscles actively contract in response to physical or mental stress.
Why Emotional Tension Moves to the Genital Area
“It is normal that we tend to tighten the gluteal muscles when we feel tense or nervous. Although this is a normal reaction, when it is caused by chronic stress, it can lead to all kinds of pelvic floor disorders. “It is,” explains Rachel Gelman, a Pelvic Floor Specialized Physiotherapist and Intimina associate. As such, there can be various consequences ranging from “pain during intercourse, pelvic organ prolapse or lower back pain to bladder dysfunction and constipation”. Something we would never have added.
Carolyn Correa, director of Fisiofit Mujer, provides more information. “When we’re stressed, we alter our posture and breathing patterns, which lead to changes in the musculature of the diaphragm.” In particular, it is usually more tense, which leads to an increase in intra-abdominal pressure and a downward thrust of the abdominal viscera. In this way, the pelvic floor muscles are forced to contract to counter the increased pressure and ensure urinary continuity. Over time this whole process of pelvic floor contraction will create trigger points, which are basically pain points. “Most of the time they cause pain during intercourse, back problems, leg pain or discomfort during periods. In addition to these problems, frequent contractions of the pelvic muscles can lead to muscle fatigue, which leads to the appearance of dire urinary incontinence. is in favor of”, explains a specialist physiotherapist in the pelvic floor.
In case of pain during intercourse, it can also become a vicious cycle. According to a study by rebro University (Sweden), only about 20% of women under the age of 30 report recurrent sexual pain. This pain, moreover, creates a fear of sexual relations and, therefore, the avoidance of them. As such, according to this work, “women with pain reported higher levels of fear avoidance and catastrophic pain, as well as depression and anxiety.” A condition that does nothing but maintain the root cause of tension and pain.
Recognize the connection between tension and the pelvic floor
The first step is to recognize that the symptoms may be caused by a stressful situation and not by another problem. Something that is not easy at first. The key is to rule out other possible causes. As Correra exemplifies, “A very similar case is that of chronic constipation. There are many women who eat the right diet, drink enough water and exercise regularly, but still suffer from constipation.” . The answer would be the level of stress.”
In the case of the pelvic floor, it would be necessary to rule out that the pain is due to a physical cause. For example, going through childbirth or having suffered some sort of injury or infection in the area, as Gelman recalls. If we can’t find any other obvious cause and we know we’re going through a prolonged phase of stress, perhaps we should try to work on that first. Physical therapists insist on “obvious things like going outside, doing gentle exercises like yoga and dance, writing, spending time with friends, masturbating or going to therapy.”
On the other hand, there are also specific exercises to relieve stress on a more physical level. Carolyn Correa recommends mindful breathing for at least a minute. “Something so simple helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for reducing stress levels.” It should be remembered that there is a relationship between respiration and postural function with the pelvic floor. According to some studies, functional improvements in breathing patterns and pelvic stability may indirectly affect the changes produced in the pelvic floor, even in the case of symptoms such as urinary incontinence. In addition, some stretching on the side of the diaphragmatic muscle connection may also be useful. “Like stretching that favors hip opening, psoas stretching and quadratus lumborum,” Correra says.
Pelvic floor exercises when stress overwhelms us
While working on the stress, which is the underlying cause, is important, if we are already suffering from pelvic floor pain, there are certain exercises that can help relieve it.
In this regard, Rachel Gelman proposes these three ideas:
- Happy Baby: “Lie on your back and gently draw your knees in toward your chest, but keep them pointing to the side. Place your hands behind your thighs or knees. Hold for about thirty to sixty seconds and take a deep breath. If this puts too much pressure on your knees or hips, you can elevate your ankles and feet on a chair and while lying on your back let your knees slowly come to the side.”
- Child’s Pose: “Start on all fours and slowly lower your hips to the top of your feet. You can place a pillow or something like that between the heels and pelvis. Then extend your arms or place them against your head. Keep bending down. Stay in this posture for thirty to sixty seconds and breathe slowly.”
- Supported Deep Squats: “Lean against a wall and slowly slide down into squat position. Lower back should remain against wall. If your hip or knee hurts or you have difficulty sitting , then you can use pillows or a stool under your hips. Hold the squat for 30 to 60 seconds and take a deep breath.”
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