Why stress can be the culprit in a re-occurrence of pelvic floor symptoms.
How do you know you're stressed?
Is it the headache?
The pain in your jaw?
When they experience stress, many women hold that stress in the form of tension in their muscles. This tension can cause discomfort or pain but it can also cause something else: pelvic floor symptoms.
Just like any other muscle, having constant tension or pressure in your core or pelvic floor isn't usually helpful. Imagine I tell you that I'm going to throw you a ball. Squeeze your hand into a fist and imagine the ball coming towards you. Keep squeezing. Can you catch the ball? Your hand isn't able to open and do it's job because it's too busy squeezing.
This is what happens to your pelvic floor when it's under constant tension. Your pelvic floor is supposed to be able to move and respond. If you have a hypertonic, or too tight, pelvic floor, the muscles of your pelvic floor are so tight that they are unable to perform their job. This same principle applies to the other muscle groups that support your pelvis, for example your adductors (inner thighs.) This is why bodies under stress often experience a re-occurrence of pain or symptoms. Just what you need, ammiright?!
Now, when symptoms re-occur, the first thought is usually something along the lines of how you've been slipping in your kegel practice. However, kegels are actually the opposite of what you want to do right now. Kegels are a form of contracting the pelvic floor. We want to release and relax the pelvic floor, which is called pelvic floor down-training. Doing more kegels at this time will likely have the opposite effect!
If you're experiencing a re-occurrence of pain or symptoms, try this:
- Lie on your back and prop your legs up on your couch, bending at the knees.
- Taking a deep inhale, expand your ribs all the way around.
- As you're inhaling, relax the pelvic floor. Imagine it dropping down. Imagine your vagina and anus are flowers that are opening (sounds wild, I know, but it's a cue that works for many.)
- Don't intentionally contract the pelvic floor during this exercise.
Make time to do this when symptoms occur or even twice a day, upon waking up and getting into bed and see if you notice a change in your symptoms.
Combating the stress itself and finding an outlet can also be helpful, as well as manual release (foam roller, stretching, etc.) of the pelvic floor and surrounding musculature.
It can be frustrating to have pain and symptoms come back but worrying and obsessing about it can add to your stress. Pain and symptoms can come and go. Take it as feedback. Check-in with your body and life, use your strategies, and make the adjustments you need to continue to feel free in your body.
Do you need help navigating pain and symptoms in exercise and life? Book a free strategy call (no pressure, ever) or an assessment and let's get you back to living life on your terms.