In the midst of a pandemic, mostly everyone’s stress levels are higher. You may be working from home, or at home, with the kids around, and although you may have good intentions of exercising, it just may not be happening. With all of these things combined and the state of the world, it’s a lot of weight on your shoulders and that increase in stress can also lead to an increase in pelvic floor symptoms.
Maybe you’ve noticed that you are leaking with a cough or you are noticing heaviness in your vagina that you normally don’t feel. Or maybe you are experiencing pelvic pain with movement or with intercourse.
Whatever it is, just know that it is common for an increase in symptoms to occur during stressful events and there are things you can do to help (all while still practicing social distancing).
Why can symptoms increase with stress?
When we are stressed, we tend to hold that stress in the form of tension-somewhere in our body (like gripping your jaw, keeping your shoulders tight and elevated, squeezing your glutes, etc.).
Also, when we are in a time of high stress, our bodies might “overreact” in an attempt to protect us from the stress, thus causing more tension.
So if you are holding that tension and stress in your pelvic floor muscles, it can lead to an increase in symptoms.
Help manage symptoms RIGHT NOW
Because going in and seeing your pelvic floor physiotherapist likely isn’t an option right now, we want to be able to do things in the comfort of your own home that can actually be very beneficial to you and the management of your pain and/or symptoms.
Manual muscle release-massaging your pelvic floor muscles with your hand/fingers, sitting on a rolled up towel, or by sitting on a small ball (like a tennis ball) just inside your sit bones and rocking back and forth on it. You can also massage (using your hand or a lacrosse/tennis ball) and stretch your adductor muscles (the muscles of your inner thighs) to help release tension there.
Deep breathing-taking time to meditate or just bring awareness to and slow down your breathing can help you manage stress throughout your whole body and can help your core and pelvic floor muscles relax a bit. Also, moving in and out of different positions (seated, standing, lying supine or prone, in a quadruped position, etc.) may help you find some areas that are able to relax even more.
I often have my clients begin and/or end their sessions with some breathing work in different positions and movements to not only get them warmed up but to feel a connection throughout their whole body.
Considerations with workouts
Many people are hopping in on all of the free workouts that are being put out right now. You may be pushing a lot and doing a lot of strengthening/work under tension, but then not as much (or any) of your time is spent allowing you to relax and release more of that tension.
We want to try to counter some of that tension and built up stress by spending at least a little bit of time relaxing and elongating those muscles.
One of my favorite ways to end a workout is with legs up the wall with my hips elevated (by rolling up a towel or placing a pillow under my hips. This allows gravity to help out and gives me time to fully relax and just focus on my breathing.