Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia causes widespread musculoskeletal aches and tenderness to areas all over the body. While this disorder is enough on its own, it can co-exist with other painful conditions, such as pelvic floor dysfunction. In this article, we explore the connection between pelvic floor dysfunction and fibromyalgia, and how you can cope with overlapping symptoms.
What Are Pelvic Floor Muscles?
Pelvic floor muscles are located in the pelvis and add support to several organs, such as the bladder, bowel and uterus. We use pelvic floor muscles for a variety of activities, including sexual function, supporting a baby during pregnancy and birth, and helping the abdomen support the spine. These muscles are also responsible for wrapping firmly around passages such as the vagina, urethra and anus; they help keep these passages shut when required.
What Is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
Pelvic floor dysfunction is a common condition found more often in women, but it affects men as well. When you experience pelvic floor dysfunction, it means that your pelvic floor muscles are not coordinating properly. Instead of relaxing the muscles to urinate or have a bowel movement, the muscles keep tightening. This created tension may cause a variety of problems, including issues evacuating a bowel movement, not completing a bowel movement, or leaky stool or urine.
How Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Can Be Related to Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia pain can happen all over the body, including the pelvis. Fibromyalgia can affect and lead to pelvic floor dysfunction by creating new issues or making current pain symptoms worse. Patients of both these conditions have tenderness in their muscles caused by central and peripheral sensitization.
Fibromyalgia and pelvic floor dysfunction have a heightened nervous system response to stimuli, which further contributes to muscle pain. Fibromyalgia can contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction due to this intensified reactivity of the muscles; the tightness of the pelvic floor muscles may create additional tension on the supporting organs. When this happens, it may create a domino effect with other conditions, leading to bladder pain, bowel movement pain, and more.
Symptoms of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and Fibromyalgia
Patients with these conditions may experience certain symptoms (which may flare up, or have pain with peaks and valleys):
- Pain and tenderness in different muscle groups (also called diffuse muscle pain)
- Myofascial trigger points
- Bladder pain
- Pain during urination
- Bowel movement issues including pain, constipation, or straining
- Frequently needing to use the washroom
- Lower back pain
- Pain in your pelvic region, genitals, or rectum
What Are the Causes?
These two conditions are quite different, but they can be tied together because of fibromyalgia. There is no known cause of fibromyalgia itself but having fibromyalgia may cause pelvic floor dysfunction in some patients.
For example, some causes of pelvic floor dysfunction may be the result of tender point activation from fibromyalgia. Pelvic floor dysfunction usually happens when the pelvic floor muscles are too weak or too tight; fibromyalgia pain may influence how these muscles operate, causing pelvic floor distress.
Both conditions may be the result of nerve hypersensitivity, where the muscles in the body have an intense response to pain triggers. Lack of mobility may also play a part in the conditions' pain.
Risk Factors to Watch For
Why do some people get pelvic floor dysfunction and fibromyalgia in tandem? Studies indicate that there are a few key factors that may take part:
- Family history/genetics
- Sensitive nervous system
- History of trauma or sexual abuse
- Illness or infection may trigger or worsen fibromyalgia or pelvic floor symptoms
- Gender, as both fibromyalgia and pelvic floor dysfunction-related symptoms are more frequent in women
What Are the Treatment Options?
You need to get treatment for your fibromyalgia pain. If you leave it without medical intervention, symptoms do not go away. Instead, pain and other conditions may develop or worsen. There are some treatment options to consider:
- Trigger point injections: Medication is injected directly into the muscle knot and often sees immediate results.
- Pelvic floor physical therapy: The objective of this therapy is to calm down the central nervous system using various techniques, such as myofascial release, massage, postural re-education and other physical therapies.
- Medications: This may include pain relievers (over the counter or prescription), antidepressants, low doses of muscle relaxants and more. Your doctor will advise which to use depending on the treatment plan they tailor specifically to you.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): A drug-free treatment that helps patients use a variety of therapeutic techniques to help better manage their symptoms and instils a healthy, proactive attitude toward living with pain.
- Lifestyle modifications and self-care: Exercise regularly, eat healthy, get enough sleep to combat fatigue and lower your stress.
There are other devices and therapies available to help relax your pelvic floor, but your doctor will determine if they are a viable option with fibromyalgia pain. These options include biofeedback, electrical stimulation, interferential therapy, ultrasound and cold laser.
Fibromyalgia may lead to pelvic floor dysfunction or amplify existing issues in the pelvic floor. Pick up the phone and call your doctor so they can help design a treatment plan to help you manage your pain so you can feel better.