Everyone knows about stress, but is stress related to pelvic floor dysfunction? The answer may surprise you.

Most people are no stranger to stress. This can relate to everyday worries, a demanding job, overwhelming emotions, or periods of increased concern due to financial hardship, family obligations, or unusually busy schedules. Stress happens, and with so much on our plates it can be difficult to manage.

Stress, while “in your head”, does not solely affect one’s mental wellbeing. It’s not just about being exhausted. Stress can increase the risk of developing anxiety or depression, and stress can cause some very real physical symptoms. Those suffering from stress-related symptoms may not realize that there is a connection between their mental and physical woes.

So what does stress feel like?

Stress can manifest themselves physically in a number of ways. These can include muscle tightness in the neck, shoulders, or other locations. Also common are headache or dizziness, exhaustion and/or trouble sleeping, teeth grinding, and more. Digestive habits may change, sexual dysfunction may develop, and even high blood pressure may be noted. The immune system can also be weakened by excessive stress also. Stress individuals may find that they are getting colds more often than they used to.

Stress and the pelvic floor

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles in the lower abdominal area. They sit like a hammock between the pubic bone and tailbone, and support organs like the bladder and bowel, among others. The pelvic floor serves to support the trunk, as well as ensuring that excretory and sexual functions are performing as they should. A too weak or too tense pelvic floor can result in complaints including incontinence, loss of sensation, and pelvic pain. 

Learn more about conditions of the pelvic floor here.

Stress is known to affect the muscles, leading to aches and pains that can appear throughout the body. The pelvic floor is made of muscles, so it’s no surprise that stress can lead to a tense and uncomfortable pelvic floor. This in turn may lead to other painful and unwanted symptoms.

How does stress affect the pelvic and related areas?

When a person is stressed, they may hold their breath and tense their muscles. This sends signals throughout the body to bear down and tighten up. This can result in habitually restricted muscles causing discomfort in the jaw, shoulders and neck, legs, back, and yes, the pelvic floor.

Certain conditions can be made worse by stress. These include endometriosis, scar tissue from abdominal surgeries, and injuries from accidents or exercise which have caused existing inflammation or dysfunction of the pelvis and related area.

Treating pelvic dysfunction caused by stress

In order to treat the symptoms, it is important to identify the root. Speaking with a medical professional can help diagnose both a tense pelvic floor, and the underlying issue causing it.

Treatment may include mindfulness techniques for stress management including breathing exercises or meditation. Exercises and stretches can both address how stress is processed by the body and treat trouble areas.

Pelvic floor physical therapy is also very useful in treating pelvic floor dysfunction, whether caused or exacerbated by stress. Working with a trained pelvic floor physical therapist, you will receive treatment tailored to your situation, needs, and comfort. You may not be able to avoid stress. You can address the painful conditions it can lead to (and may learn strategies for reducing how your body holds onto stress along the way).

To learn more about pelvic floor physical therapy, contact Body Restoration Physical Therapy.  Our office is conveniently located in Roslyn Heights, Long Island. We specialize in treating pelvic floor dysfunction, whether due to stress or any other reason.