By Cora Tomowich, MSc PT Hons BKin
Today a patient asked me why she sometimes feels tension in the pelvic floor, specifically the vaginal area, during moments of elevated stress. “Is this normal?” she asked. “No one seems to understand or relate to my experience at all.” Truth is, this is very normal and it happens to a lot of us! So, why aren’t we talking about it?
More and more, I have come to realize that the pelvic floor is a very emotional muscle group that responds to our daily experiences, both physical and emotional. Consider for a moment the last time you were startled, nervous, or cut-off in traffic. Do remember where your body became responsively tight? Perhaps your neck twitched or your shoulders jumped; and I’d be willing to bet that the muscles of the pelvic floor were also involved.
Now, you may be wondering why the pelvic floor would respond to nervousness or being startled. Well, it’s because when we experience emotions, either positive, negative, sudden, or sustained, certain chemicals are released into the body. These chemicals can then directly or indirectly affect muscle activity, along with other tissues of the body. Since the pelvic floor behaves just like any other muscle group, it is also going to respond to the changing chemicals caused by emotions. The response may be a sudden twitch or a sustained contraction; and the degree to which the pelvic floor responds is unique to each individual.
When I explain the concept of an ‘emotional pelvic floor’ to patients, I liken it to more familiar areas of the body. The neck, for example, is where many of us will ‘carry stress and tension’ or experience excessive muscular tightness. Well, even though we may not realize it, the same thing happens to the pelvic floor. Our bodies are forever responding to our physical and emotional experiences which can accumulate over time. With repeated exposure to stress and tension, the pelvic floor, like any other muscle, can become overactive, inflexible, and sore.
So the next time you feel startled or worried, pay attention to where your muscles become tight. The trick to managing the tightness is in learning how to let it go. Some of my top three recommendations for letting go are:
Research shows that mindfulness meditation can decrease pain, relieve muscle tension, improve body awareness, and boost overall well-being. If you would like to better your mindfulness skills, check out the links below.
- Guided meditation: healthjourneys.com
- Relaxation apps: Headspace; Stop Breathe Think; Calm
- Muse headband to train yourself how to meditate
- Chanting and Audio Meditation: Chanting meditation from and Audio meditation by Kirtan Kriya
If you would like additional support, learn more about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness at Darou Wellness.
Studies show that laughter has incredibly powerful effects on our physical, emotional, and mental health. It can decrease pain, increase blood flow and circulation, relieve muscle tension, promote tissue healing, and improve the immune system response. I suggest building laughter into every day of your life; and below, to get you started, is one of my favourite videos.
Manual Therapy at Darou Wellness
Whether it is physiotherapy, osteopathy, massage therapy, or Arvigo therapy, manual techniques can significantly reduce tension build-up in muscular tissue. Feel free to stop by our clinic and speak with any of our practitioners if you have questions regarding your specific needs.
Pelvic Health Physiotherapy
Cora Tomowich, MScPT, HON.BKIN
Arvigo Therapy and Acupuncture
Barbara Poczyniak, R.Ac.
Massage Therapy & Mercier Technique
Patti MacGregor, RMT
Massage Therapy & Graston Technique
Nicole McMurray, B.Sc, RMT
Sandy Antunes, M.OMSc.
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