My struggle with
Levator Ani Syndrome
Written by Mike from the USA.
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Levator Ani Syndrome I guess I'd like to preface my contributions by saying that I think people should understand that some of the things that have helped me might not help someone else, and vice versa.
I don't want anyone to get offended or think that I see myself as an expert. I don't. And I'm certainly not a doctor. I know beyond any doubt that my IBS was caused (and still persists, although it is much better than before) due to stress and anxiety.
Some readers may be experiencing symptoms that they believe were derived from something other than psychological issues and I won't argue with them.
But I do believe that, when attacking any problem, we should be willing to consider all possibilities. I don't consider myself an expert, but what I can share is my own experiences and hopefully people can benefit from that.
Years ago, when a doctor told me that this was caused by my mind, I became very angry. I thought he was dismissing my problem. He wasn't---he was just trying to tell me that my body was having a very bad reaction to my emotions.
Even that was hard to swallow at the time. It sounded ridiculous. I did not believe that symptoms that sever could originate from my emotions.
Years later, I realize it is in our best interest to consider just how connected our mind is to our body. When we get really nervous, we sweat, we shake. Some people (myself included) have even been known to pass out.
Naturally, there are plenty of physical maladies that originated in the joint or the bone or the organ they are afflicting. But we have long underestimated the ill effects our mental state can produce.
Along with IBS, I have another ailment that came from my trouble with stress and anxiety. I have a condition called Levator Ani Syndrome, a condition which makes my struggle with IBS even worse.
What is Levator Ani Syndrome?
Basically, the muscles in our lower pelvic area need to be taut enough to keep us from being incontinent. There is enough tension there so that our body can hold in a bowel movement or urine. My muscles are too tight.
This causes two problems:
the muscle around the neck of my bladder is tight to a degree that it gives me the sensation that I need to urinate, even when there is really not that much fluid.
My rectal muscles are also too tight, and this becomes especially troublesome with IBS because of the frequency of loose stools.
In the average healthy person, the rectal muscles do tighten up somewhat during a bout with diarrhea. Therefore, in my case, the stool only has to have a loose or mushy quality and I experience a lot of problems.
Levator Ani Syndrome and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
As you know, with IBS, a person can experience a lot of loose movements. When the average person gets diarrhea, they feel the awful cramps and they go to the bathroom and relieve themselves.
I'm not saying that isn't miserable for the average person: it IS. But, in my case, it is worse because while my colon is convulsing and trying to push out the bowel movement, the rectal muscles are tensing up so much that the matter is not allowed to pass---meaning the pain could be pretty profound.
I would just have to sit there and experience the cramps which would have otherwise left my body. As much as I still struggle with this now, it is far better than it used to be.
Levator Ani Syndrome is not life threatening
Once I realized that this was not some fatal disease, my symptoms started improving. I'm not yet where I want to be, but I am better.
Even after I finally realized that this was caused by my stress and anxiety, I still didn't realize just HOW big a part those problems played. I thought it was some illness made worse by my mental state.
Once I truly started paying attention, I started noticing how my body would react whenever I would think of things that made me nervous or anxious.
I started noticing how my stomach would cramp when I would think of going to crowded places, especially if I thought about possibly needing to use the restroom while I was there.
I made a mental list of all the places that had large public bathrooms, or if they had them at all. There is a mall not far from my house that has the largest public restroom I have ever seen. There are probably nearly 30 toilets there. That is hugely comforting to a person with IBS. I cannot stand the thought of being in a bathroom and someone else possibly needing in there at the same time.
My feelings on Levator Ani Syndrome
I won't lie; having this condition has made me very angry. People show very little compassion. When I read about Sian's experience with her co-workers, I was dumbfounded. How disgusting that people would treat an ill person that way.
I feel that many people simply think: "He just has to go to the bathroom more than the average person; it's not that big of a deal." It's a very big deal.
Anyone who thinks this is not a serious illness should take a piece of paper and make a list of all the tings that a person cannot do while they are in the bathroom.
You can't work while you're in the bathroom. Or watch a movie. Or clean the house. Feed your baby. Eat dinner. Exercise. You can't go on a job interview while you're in the bathroom. Or drive to work or help your child with their math. It certainly doesn't make college fun. There have been several times when I have almost been late for class thanks to this curse.
Help for Levator Ani Syndrome sufferers
I think part of the reason that doctors have not come very far in treating this condition is because they also underestimate how damaging it is to one's life.
Like anyone else, they view going to the bathroom as one of life's inconveniences that we all have to put up with.
If everyone on this planet had to visit the bathroom as often---and for as long---as folks with IBS, it would have a significant impact on society.
As I said before, I think people should be open to all sorts of answers. There may be those of you have IBS but feel that you do not suffer from unusual anxiety or stress.
For me, there is no doubt in my mind that these problems were caused by my psychological troubles. But, even if you feel this is not the case with you, I think we should all be willing to try whatever we can to combat this.
The library has books and video tapes on meditation. There is hypnosis, talk-therapy, biofeedback. You'd be surprised how much better you can feel just by venting your emotions into a journal.
If you are seeing a physician, DO NOT let them blow you off. This condition is not life-threatening, but that does not mean that you should be expected to accept a lower quality of life.
As I said before: I may not be cured, but my symptoms are much better than they used to be.
I have no problem talking about Levator Ani Syndrome and anyone who wants to ask questions can contact me by submitting a query via the
page marked for my attention.
Mike has recently added some update's to his article, located here and here
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