Stress and Pelvic Pain: How They’re Related and What You Should Do
Stress Influences Pain, Here’s What You Should Know
Stress, anxiety, depression, hormones. We know they all hit hard as the very worst of teams. But it can seem silly to think that our pain is coming from stress. We know it’s true, but it’s hard to understand why.
Your body is one big machine. While some systems and parts seem far apart, they’re all connected. (Sing it with me now – ‘the leg bone’s connected to the hip bone’.) Stress, anxiety, depression -all.the.things- elicit a physiological response that can change how our pelvic floor muscles work. Which can cause and/or contribute to pelvic pain.
What’s to Blame?
Your nerves. Literally. When we’re stressed we upregulate our ‘fight or flight’ (sympathetic nervous system or SNS) reactions. It’s that heart-racing, adrenaline pumping side of life. Your SNS isn’t all bad though! We need our SNS for a lot of life functions like waking up in the morning. It’s balanced by your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS is our ‘rest and digest’ system. If it wasn’t regulated by our SNS we’d all be couch potatoes.
How Does Your Nervous System Relate to Pain?
With long-term stress (relationships, work, kids, pandemics…) our SNS gets overworked. The SNS’ response causes our muscles to hold tension in case we need to throw a punch or run away at any minute (‘fight or flight’). Especially sphincter muscles. Our body knows we don’t want to puke, pee, or poop when we’re protecting our livelihood.
Tight Muscles Can Cause Pain
Prolonged muscular tightness can add up quickly. It’s exhausting to be ‘on’ all the time! Our muscles need balance just like we do. Without ‘off’ time, our muscles can develop what we call functional weakness. That means you’re not weak in a weak vs. strong way, it means your muscles can’t function properly because they’re exhausted. They might be on too much, causing compression of joints and nerves. They might be ‘discoordinated’ or confused about when to turn on, causing decreased pelvic and spinal stability which can contribute to back, SI, SPD, and hip pain.
Easier said than done. There are lots of systems at play. While yoga and spa days help, they may not fully fix the problem. We have to interact on all fronts. Start with breathing – slow deep breaths can calm our body’s ‘fight or flight’ response immediately. Changing our immediate stress response for a ‘let’s breathe and think about this calmly’ response starts to train our bodies. We can remain calm in the face of crazy!
See A Pelvic Health Physical Therapist
We have no idea how and where our body is storing all that stress without assessment. See a Breathe. Pelvic Health PT for a full body assessment. Your PT will let you know where your body is holding stress and tension, what’s contributing to your pain, AND create an individualized plan to calm things down. You don’t have to do all the things yourself. Your PT is there to guide you through. And if you need more support in addition to PT, we’ll refer you to someone we love and trust.
Take Your Pain Away
Do something amazing for yourself. Tackle that pain by working with a Breathe. PT who understands the connection between all the things and your pain. We’ve been there too, we get and we’re here to help.