The Emotional Pelvic Floor
Friday, June 5, 2017
Written by: Cora Tomowich
Hi there and welcome to the first article of my new series entitled: “Why Aren’t We Talking About This?”. In this series, I will address some of your questions while offering opinions, suggestions, and clinical information.
Today’s piece was inspired by a woman who asked me why she sometimes feels tension in the pelvic floor, specifically the vaginal area, during moments of elevated stress. “Is this normal?”, she wondered, “because 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 all of our daily experiences. Consider for a moment the last time you were startled, nervous, or cut-off in traffic. Do you 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 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. I often recommend that patients talk about what’s bothering them to a qualified counselor or a loved one. When necessary, I suggest seeking the help of a physiotherapist, massage therapist, etc., to address tissue restriction. Additionally, my blog Alternative Strategies for Managing Chronic Pain speaks about several ways to address pain, which can also help with our daily tension accumulation.
In my experience, when longstanding tissue restriction is released, there is a corresponding release of emotions. Some of my patients have even begun tearing up without ever knowing why. This is absolutely normal – and even encouraged! A good therapist will help you reclaim balance in the body, which naturally means a good balance in coping with emotions and stress.
If you have any questions that you would like to have answered or if you would like to address some of your personal pelvic floor needs, do not hesitate to contact me, I’d love to hear from you!
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