IBS and the Pelvic Floor

male pelvic pain

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects between 25 and 45 million people in the United States (Source: AboutIBS.org). Many people are not aware that the health of the pelvic floor can contribute to or exacerbate symptoms of IBS.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

IBS is characterized by abdominal pain coupled with a change in your defecation habits. This can be either constipation or diarrhea or both. There is no particular cause behind it. This would fall under the category of IBS.  

IBS is very uncomfortable and can disturb your quality of life and cause stress and anxiety. IBS symptoms can range from very mild to not wanting to leave your house due to the severity of the symptoms.

Pelvic floor and IBS: what’s the connection?

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that line your pelvis. The pelvic floor muscles have to relax in order for stool to come out as well as contract so that stool can stay in. If you have problems with the pelvic floor, it can contribute to IBS or be the result of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

The pelvic floor is “neighbors” with the organs in the intestinal cavity. This neighborly connection between the organs means that if one organ in irritated, either through infection or chronic issue, then the neighboring organ can also become irritated and not function as well.

These organs are sitting on top of the muscles of the pelvic floor. If those organs are all unhappy, then these muscles are going to become unhappy. When muscles are unhappy, they contract, which means there is poor blood flow to that area. Poor blood flow creates an environment doesn’t allow good nutrients or oxygen in those muscles, which is called ischemia.

This environment causes those muscles to become tight, painful and even refer pain elsewhere. Referred pain can add to that neighborly unhappiness by then causing further issues into some of those organs.

The Feedback Loop of IBS and the Pelvic Floor

IBS can create pelvic floor tension, but then pelvic floor tension can feedback up through the intestines leading to further IBS symptoms. This is how they can play on each other.

For some people the opposite can happen – you might have tension in your pelvic floor for a many different reasons, including postural changes, stress or previous injuries. When the pelvic floor is tight, that can make the surrounding organs unhappy and be one of the factors that triggers IBS.

Other conditions associated with IBS

Usually, people suffering from IBS have other conditions in the pelvic area. These can include:

Managing IBS Symptoms with Pelvic Floor PT

If you start making the pelvic floor happier, IBS can significantly resolve or be one of the pieces that helps IBS to resolve. An integrative pelvic floor physical therapist can help you resolve your symptoms.

Experiencing IBS symptoms? Click here to schedule a complimentary phone consultation to discuss your symptoms with one of our therapists. 


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