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Emotional Trauma & Pelvic Floor Relationship

How can emotional trauma affect intimacy?


Any type of trauma that we face can have a physical impact on our body. This is because it is our body’s job to protect itself and if our brain senses a threat, it will guard to protect it! Especially if the brain has been conditioned or sensitized to triggers over a prolonged period of time, this can physically impact us. Have you ever heard of Pavlov's theory of classical conditioning?


Over time, with a repeated stimulus, the brain starts to associate a certain action or response based off of the stimulus. An example of this would be the classic example of a dinner bell. When the dinner bell rings, your stomach may start to grumble, but regardless, everyone knows it is time to eat! Remember this principle as we dive into the relationship between pelvic health!


So what does this have to do with the Pelvic Floor?!


The pelvic floor is a group of muscles at the bottom of our pelvic region that control functions of bowel, bladder, sex, and (in some) childbirth. Muscles can hold a lot of tension. For example, think about or neck muscles-when we’re stressed you can feel your neck muscles tighten. This can happen with the pelvic floor muscles as well!


So, if we are conditioned to think all our lives that sex is taboo or experience accumulative emotional trauma and are unknowingly holding tension in the pelvic region- this can all lead to pain with intimacy. Most people are not even aware that they are holding tension in these regions and may be unknowingly walking throughout their day holding tension commonly referred to as "butt clenching."


Relating this back to Pavlov's theory of classical conditioning, if we have had a poor incident with intimacy or experienced some sort of pain over time, then each time our brain recognizes "it is time to be intimate," it switches into "danger or alert" mode. This stimulates our fight or flight system causing our tissues to tighten and guard, and can make penetrative intercourse highly painful and at times, or not possible.


This is typically diagnosed by an MD called Vaginismus. Vaginismus is an involuntary muscle spasm in which the muscles that surround the opening of the vagina, guard and tighten. Remember, the job of muscles is to move our body, but to also guard and protect it! So typically with people who have vaginismus, they cannot insert a tampon, have pain with a medical exam, or unable to tolerate penetrative sex and feels as though the partner is hitting a “wall.”


Vaginismus can occur with anyone who has experienced, sexual or emotional trauma, have a strong religious background, painful vaginal medical condition, or any type of pelvic inflammatory disease or condition.


As daunting as it may seem, vaginismus is treatable! Yet when we talk about the brain and body component, it does take a multidisciplinary approach!

Common people to have on your team:

  • MD- Primary care, OBGYN, or Gynecologist

  • Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist

  • Psychologist or Mental Health specialist

  • Acupuncture

  • Massage therapist

  • Chiropractor

  • Strengthening: Yoga, Pilates, Gym


If you feel that emotional trauma is impacting your pelvic health, it is important to get this addresses! However, it can be a long journey that at times can feel like an emotional roller coaster. It so important for your relationship whether it be self confidence with yourself or in a committed relationship!


Reach out to your MD or pelvic floor physical therapist for help!


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Disclaimer: The information and content here is solely for informational and educational purposes. It is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.


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