by Dr. Eric Winder (as published in the March 2018 issue of Natural Awakenings, Sarasota/Manatee/Charlotte edition)
Pelvic pain can result from either weak or tightened pelvic floor muscles—or from a combination of both problems. This is called pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD). Affecting both women and men, PFD causes a range of symptoms that include bladder irritation, frequent or painful urination, pain in the pelvis, hips or low back, constipation or pain during bowel movements, and painful intercourse. While PFD can be difficult to treat, at our office, we find that it often responds well to fascial therapies.
The pelvic floor is made of muscles and connective tissue that support the abdominal organs. Tension or weakness in these muscles can be triggered by many causes including:
- Retention: “holding it in” too long when you need to urinate or have a bowel movement, especially if done habitually
- Physical trauma: hard falls, sports injuries or other impacts to the pelvis
- Postural stresses or muscular imbalances that affect the pelvis
- Chronic constipation or straining at bowel movements
In addition to the above problems, the pelvic floor can also be affected by other areas of the body. The diaphragm muscle that we use for breathing works in sync with the pelvic floor. If the diaphragm is chronically tight, it tends to trigger tension in the pelvic floor. Abnormal muscle tension or mechanical stress of the abdominal muscles, low back, thighs, lower legs, ankles or feet can also affect the pelvic floor by impairing the alignment of pelvic posture.
Another Source of Pelvic Pain
No matter where the problem starts, the muscle imbalances that trigger pelvic pain tend to be driven by restrictions in the fascia which is a kind of fibrous connective tissue. Fascia surrounds and runs through all muscles, so when it is restricted, this causes muscle tension or weakness, or both. This is probably due to the nerve endings in fascia which give us proprioception—or position sense. Restrictions in fascia that are distorting position sense can trigger muscle dysfunction. Fascial release therapies that gently remove these restrictions can greatly relieve PFD.
A recent patient who I’ll call Jill is a prime example of this. She had been suffering two months of pelvic pain, frequent urination and bladder discomfort that started after implementing a new exercise routine. She had tried muscle relaxers and stretching with no relief. Examination at our office revealed fascial restrictions in her right lower abdominal muscles, gluteal muscles, upper lumbar spine area and right outer thigh near the knee.
After only two treatments, her pain was reduced by 80%, and she no longer felt the need to urinate every twenty minutes. Jill also benefited from simple, gentle core exercises to help improve muscular balance in her pelvic floor. Other therapies that can help PFD include learning new breathing patterns and using Active Isolated Stretching to lengthen specific muscles.
Fascial treatment for pelvic pain (or PFD) has several advantages. It is gentle and can be done non-invasively with light pressure while still being effective. Also, these treatments tend to be lasting in their effects. I recommend considering fascial therapies as a conservative method to address pelvic pain and PFD.