In this blog, we will review the impact of stress has in one's body, specifically, the pelvic floor.
Some of you may be wondering why a pelvic floor specialty clinic cares about chronic stress reduction. I have three reasons.
- As holistic healthcare providers, we recognize the toll stress takes on all of us and we understand the tremendous impact it makes on overall health and life enjoyment.
- We are occupational therapists; our roots lie in mental health care. We strive to see the whole person, rather than just parts that make up a whole – chronic stress is a major driving force that influences the way people live and interact in the world.
- Chronic stress has a very real and unforgiving impact on the pelvic floor. Pelvic pain, incontinence and sexual function are all affected by the physical and mental manifestation of carrying chronic stress for too long.
If you are interested in finding out how to gradually re-focus your energy away from chronic stress, you can find my previous blogs on the topic here:
- Chronic Stress
- Chronic Stress Management - Exercise
- Chronic Stress Management - Meditation
- Chronic Stress Management - Habits and Routines
Moving along to the topic at hand, there are four major ways chronic stress can wreak havoc on your pelvic floor.
Impact of stress on the pelvic floor - why it matters
Muscle tightening, shortening and spasming
It’s no secret that stress can make your muscles turn into balls of torture. I get knots in my back and neck all the time; I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar. Headaches, backaches, frozen shoulder…all can be related to stress. When we are in a state of constant “fight or flight,” our muscles are tensed for action. It means our bodies are doing a good job of protecting us, but not so good of a job at relaxing. The same tightness can (and often is) held in the pelvis.
Chronic stress held in the pelvis can have a variety of consequences. Pelvic pain is an obvious answer (knots in your pelvis, perineum, etc. just like knots in your back); however, incontinence can be made worse as well. When your pelvic muscles are too tight, the fibers can’t glide through their full range of motion. When this happens, you have muscle shortening, which means your urethral sphincters can’t fully close as intended. And you end up leaking urine.
Inflammation is a by-product of chronic stress. Again, your body is trying to protect you, but over the long-term there are detrimental effects. Pelvic related issues like some forms of prostatitis and interstitial cystitis are exacerbated by inflammation. Often times anti-inflammatory drugs are recommended by physicians for these conditions and people find lifestyle and diet changes are very beneficial in managing symptoms.
Chronic stress impacts vasodilation and constriction (the expansion and restriction of your blood vessels). When blood pressure is too high or too low, erections can be difficult or impossible to achieve.
I can attest that chronic stress causes a severe disruption in mental and emotional peace. When you are under a consistent state of stress, not only does your body begin to break down, but your social-emotional balance deteriorates as well. This has a huge impact on intimacy with partners. Both initiation of intimacy and satisfaction are shattered. I recently wrote a blog about psychological causes of ED if you would like to learn more.
If you think chronic stress may be causing pelvic floor issues, please contact us for an evaluation using the form below. We look forward to serving you!