Frequent Headaches? Pelvic Floor Tension Might Be a Culprit

Photo: Stocksy/ Gabrielle Lutze
Everywhere you turn, it seems like there’s something new to know about the pelvic floor. Whether that’s healthy peeing tips or the fact that not everyone needs to do Kegels, there are often surprises. Fortunately or unfortunately, there’s another thing to add to this list: Pelvic floor tension can contribute to headaches. But don’t worry. This isn’t a pelvic floor riddle for you to untangle on your own. We asked Heather Jeffcoat DPT, pelvic floor physical therapist, author, and owner of FeminaPT to break down the connection.

Let’s start with some basics. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that sit like a hammock in your pelvis, supporting your organs and controlling reflexes like peeing, pooping, and orgasming. The muscle group also works to help stabilize your core and assists with breathing and circulation. That said, pelvic floor tension, weakness, and looseness are fairly common issues, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

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Pelvic floor tension occurs when your muscles are chronically tight, potentially impeding bladder and bowel control and sometimes causing painful sex for people with vaginas, the Cleveland Clinic says. It's complex and it's often hard to pin down the direct cause, but reasons can range from core weakness, improper posture or breathing, trauma like birth, prolapse, or simply inherited disposition, Dr. Jeffcoat says.

How are headaches connected to pelvic floor tension

The most frequent type of headache you might experience is a tension headache, which is a dull, painful headache that often feels like a band tightening around the skull, the Mayo Clinic explains. These headaches have their origin near the neck, in the cervical spine region: Your neck muscles tense and pull on the shorter fascial tissue that connects to your forehead muscles, creating a classic tension headache, the Mayo Clinic explains

Here's the thing: The areas in your cerebral cortex that control the head, neck, shoulders, and trunk (aka your pelvis) are very close to each other in the brain, and there aren’t firm lines dividing these areas. This means tension and straining in the pelvic floor can affect the area of the brain that controls the neck and head, resulting in headaches. And, if you have tension headaches for more than 15 days out of the month for three months, they’re classified as chronic, the Mayo Clinic says.

Beyond tension headaches, there’s a connection between pelvic pain and migraine headaches, which are much more severe instances of head pain typically on one side of the skull with pulsating sensations, according to the Mayo Clinic. A 2011 study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility surveyed 108 women with chronic pelvic pain and measured the instance of reported headaches. Of the women surveyed, 67 percent of participants had frequent migraines.

This is why taking a total body approach to your health is so important, Dr. Jeffcoat says. When you’re looking for headache solutions, mentioning incontinence to your doctor might seem weird, but could very well be important for getting to the bottom of your symptoms.


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