If you read my previous blog “Why my pelvic floor spasms with sex, PAP’s and tampons,” I talked about a study from 2001 that revealed women tense their muscles in response to a threat, even if just watching a video. When women feel stressed or threatened, they sub-consciously contract their muscles as a defense response. Sustained stress and tense muscles can lead to pain. The stress can be emotional, mental or physical.
Many old traditions of healing treat people from a holistic perspective, because they understand the mind-body connection. These traditions, such as Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and Native Indigenous medicine understand that thoughts, emotions and spiritual connection/purpose impacts physical health(1). The mind-body connection approach that is missing in western medicine but is slowly changing as we have mounting scientific studies showing that our thoughts and emotions do in fact impact our nervous, immune and endocrine systems as well as our pain pathways and the level of tension we carry in our bodies (1).
One of the challenges physiotherapists face when using a mind-body connection model of care is that not all healthcare providers have adopted this model and as such other providers may not be educating their patients this way. Another challenge is when patients themselves cannot see the connection between mind, body and spirit.
There is a lot of cultural and societal stigma surrounding mental and emotional health because people don’t understand it. Spirituality is an overused concept that is subjective, misunderstood and often times seen as in conflict with religion.
If you ever feel dismissed, hopeless, frustrated or blamed whether by yourself or others, do not give up. Do not feel ashamed and know that it is not your fault. Find therapists that understand and value a holistic approach.
A resource I like to start with for education on the stress-relaxation response.
There is a fantastic documentary called “The Connection” which explores the stress and relaxation response on the body while following the lives of seven people. You can access it at theconnection.tv(2).
There are five components for reducing stress.
- Diet: What we eat impacts the function of our cells. Ever heard the saying, “you are what you eat?” We need a healthy diet consisting of whole foods, protein, veggies, fruit and healthy carbs. How can our bodies heal when our cells don’t get the fuel they need?
- Exercise: Walking to increase our heart rate (even better if done out in nature) for 30 minutes has profound effects on our bodies. Do not overlook the importance of exercise, it has been shown that exercise affects us not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well.
- Evoking the Relaxation Response: Whether yoga, meditation, tai chi, body connection/body awareness movements, it also impacts stress on our body. We workout but how much do we work “in”, connecting with ourselves.
- Social interaction: Humans are social beings and we need to interact with others in meaningful ways, healthy ways. Being social allows us to see different perspectives, feel heard, appreciated and cared for. People can impact our moods and help keep us hopeful.
- Believing we can be well: It’s totally okay to have doubts and be skeptical. This is why you need other people and healthcare providers to help you build belief in yourself. The belief you can be well impacts self-efficacy, which means the belief you will succeed.
I highly recommend watching the documentary as it will help you understand the science behind the mind/body approach.
The Pelvic Health Lady
- Faehndrich, Lorraine. 2018. “Is there a connection between Stress and Pelvic Pain?”. Accessed on June 14, 2018 from https://radiantlifedesign.com/is-there-a-connection-between-stress-and-pelvic-pain/
- The Connection Documentary. www.theconnection.tv