Suffering from chronic back pain and not sure why? Feeling stressed about how stressed you are? It might be time to listen to your pelvic floor!
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments and connective tissue that compose the bottom portion of the core. It has four major functions:
- It acts like a hammock between your tailbone and your pelvic bone to support your pelvic floor organs ( bladder, rectum, vagina in women, and the prostate in men )
- It is directly related to sexual function in both men and women
- It allows you to control your bladder and bowel functions
- It is one of the 4 components of the core (along with the abdominals, the multifidus muscles, and the diaphragm), therefore is a major player in stability and strength !
What does stress have to do with the pelvic floor?
Everyone experiences stress, and for the most part, that’s a good thing! Though stress is a component of everyday life, excessive or prolonged amounts of it can be harmful. Stress is our body’s response to changes in our environment. Each individual will respond to specific changes differently. Example: a math problem might be simple for a math student, but stressful for a history student.
When stressed, we tend to take shallow breaths, tense up, and bear down on the pelvic floor. Over time, this accumulation of pressure can weaken the pelvic floor and cause it to tighten up. And since everything in the body is interconnected, this pain can translate into back pain, incontinence, sexual dysfunction, and organ prolapse.
How do I relax my pelvic floor?
There are many ways to relax your pelvic floor, so you can try what works for you ! Here’s a list of the most common strategies:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Meditation or mindfulness exercises
- Yoga or a stretching routine
- Improving your sleep hygiene
- Reducing and/or avoiding things that cause you stress (this can include people!)
- Eating well
- Drinking plenty of water
How do I get help?
The strategies mentioned above can be quite helpful for most. But this is not a one size fits all. If you are suffering from pain, incontinence, sexual dysfunction, or other related issues you can find a pelvic floor physiotherapist.
Pelvic floor physiotherapists are registered practitioners with training and experience addressing pelvic health issues. They will complete a subjective assessment that consists of specific questions regarding your symptoms and how those symptoms are impacting you. Then they will perform an objective assessment that may involve seeing how you move, how you breathe, and how your muscles are working.
Here are some common things pelvic floor physiotherapists treat:
- Prenatal preparation
- Postnatal care
- Sexual dysfunction (including pain during intercourse)
- Urinary incontinence
- Pain with /post urination
- Pelvic pain
- Organ prolapse
Pelvic floor physiotherapists are trained professionals and will cater the treatment to suit your goals and needs. They can provide education, and treatment that is internal or external depending on your comfort level. So don’t be shy to let them know what works for you!