Taking a deeper look at pelvic pain....no pun intended
Dealing with pelvic pain takes a toll on you physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s no wonder you may find yourself asking, “Will my pelvic pain ever go away?”. In today’s post, we’re going to take a deeper look into pelvic pain with the goal of helping you uncover a piece in healing that you may be missing.
Disclaimer: Pelvic pain can be a sign of a serious medical condition so always consult with your doctor regarding pain. In today’s post, I’m talking about people who have been examined by a medical doctor to ensure that there’s nothing serious causing the pain.
To start to talk about pelvic pain, we need to talk about the pelvic floor muscles.
If you have no idea what the pelvic floor is, you need to learn about these muscles. Here’s a post that will teach you: What is the pelvic floor?
It’s very common that people who have pelvic pain will also have tight pelvic floor muscles. I’m not saying this is always the case, but it’s common enough that I make this statement.
Pelvic pain is honestly a pretty broad term. The pelvic floor muscles make a sling from the pubic bone to the coccyx (tailbone), so they go from front to back and there are THREE different layers of muscle. Based on their location, the area that someone experiences pelvic pain could vary. This means that while pelvic pain commonly causes pain in the genitals, this might not be the case for everyone. Some people experience pain in other areas such as the lower abdomen and the rectum but it’s all still under this umbrella term of “pelvic pain”.
When part of this “sling” of muscles is tight or in a state of tension, it can cause pelvic pain.
It’s also important to know that the pelvic floor muscles are closely related to the hip muscles. There’s one specific hip muscle called the obturator internus (OI) that can be palpated externally as well as internally. The main function of the OI is to externally rotate your hip, meaning it turns your leg out. If you can palpate a hip muscle internally, it must be pretty closely related to the pelvic floor. This is why it’s important to also look at the hips when treating pelvic pain.
Bladder and bowel relationship
Not only do the pelvic floor muscles support your pelvis and relate to your hips, they also support your bladder and your rectum and are responsible for allowing us to excrete urine and stool in a healthy manner. This makes these muscles super important in bladder and bowel health.
This is also why some people with pelvic pain may experience issues related to their bladder or bowel. A common bowel issue associated with pelvic pain is constipation. Some common bladder issues associated with pelvic pain are feeling like you need to urinate all the time, difficulty initiating a urine stream, or a weak urine stream. Always consult with your doctor regarding bowel and bladder issues as they can be caused by a serious issue! I’m talking to people who have talked to their doctor about these issues and that it has been determined that there’s no serious medical cause.
Everything in the body is connected
Everything in the body is connected from a physical, mental, and emotional standpoint. First let’s look at how the pelvis connects to the rest of the physical body.
Throughout our entire body, we have something called fascia. Fascia basically holds everything in our body in place from our organs to our muscles. Fascia is continuous so it’s all connected.
If one part of the fascia is tight or restricted, it can cause an issue at another spot in the body that is further away. Think about if you pulled and bunched up the bottom of a sweater. Not only would there be tension at the part of the sweater you bunched, but other areas of the sweater would change as well, such as the collar of the sweater would start pulling down. This is how fascia works and why it’s so important to look at the entire body. If the pelvic floor muscles are tight, there may be other areas of the body that are also affected and need to be looked at.
I have seen more than one client with a main complaint of pelvic pain experience improved pelvic symptoms by working on issues related to their neck. While I’m not saying this is the norm, I use this example to illustrate how the entire body is connected and why we need to look deeper into pelvic pain.
Pelvic pain and stress
From my experience in working with people with pelvic pain, stress usually is a major trigger. While stress can have a negative impact on many areas of the body in regards to the musculoskeletal system, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen another diagnosis so affected by stress as pelvic pain. Of course this isn’t the case for everyone, but maybe this is resonating with you if you do notice your pain is worse after a stressful day.
I know many people can’t understand why this happens so I have an example to help this make more sense. When we’re stressed, our body goes into a state of tension. A common physical change that happens in someone that’s stressed is their shoulders are shrugged up toward their ears instead of relaxed. This means that they’re holding their upper trap muscles in a state of tension which over time could lead to neck pain. The same thing can happen in the pelvic floor. Just like how some people tighten their upper traps when stressed, some people tighten the pelvic floor. Remember how tight pelvic floor muscles are often associated with pelvic pain? So this is what happens:
Stress –> Tightening of the pelvic muscles –> Pelvic muscles being in a state of tension –> Increased pelvic pain
The reason it’s more difficult to understand in regards to pelvic pain is we can’t actually see a physical change happening when we tighten these muscles. When you tighten your upper traps, you can see that your shoulders are raised. When you tighten the pelvic floor, you can’t see anything physically change as these muscles are internal.
Improving your body awareness in regards to these muscles is super helpful, as then you’ll be able to feel when you’re tensing the pelvic floor since there’s no visual sign.
If you notice that your pelvic pain is increased with stress, finding stress management techniques is super important to finding lasting relief from pelvic pain. Stress management can look different for everyone ranging from yoga, meditation, or getting outside, etc. It’s important to take the time to find what works for you.
Pelvic pain and emotions
How we feel emotionally will impact how we feel physically.
Think about a time when you felt really upset. Did your body feel like getting up and going for a run? Probably not, unless running is your therapy, but you get my point.
Now, think about a time when you were having a good time and distracted by friends, Was your pain lessened while you were distracted by happiness?
Obviously healing from pelvic pain is not as simple as being happy more of the time, but it’s just to show you how emotions also play a role in healing. It’s also not realistic to be happy all the time; as humans our emotions naturally fluctuate. But something really powerful for healing is learning to keep yourself in a centered state through the ups and downs. Developing this serene quality can be such a powerful healing tool in all aspects of life, not just related to pelvic pain.
Some people who experience pelvic pain may be more affected by emotions than others, but in general, pelvic pain tends to be more emotional than other musculoskeletal issues and for good reason! Not only are the muscles involved, but also possibly our bowel, bladder, and sexual function. When you experience pain with sex, it’s going to bring up emotions.
Also, if we want to talk about energy, the location of the pelvis is in an energy center called the sacral chakra. The sacral chakra is literally our center for emotions. It’s a very fluid energy center just like our emotions are fluid. I won’t go into too much detail on this energy center here, but I hope this helps you have a deeper understanding of how emotions relate to pelvic pain.
As you can see with this information, there can be a number of factors involved in pelvic pain.
This isn’t to scare you, it’s just to help you see that there may be an avenue regarding healing that you haven’t yet explored.
If you’re only looking at the pelvis, you could be missing something. We are complex beings and healing doesn’t happen on one level. This is also why it’s important to work with someone that looks at you as an ENTIRE being. Working on all aspects of your being such as the physical body, the mind, and your emotions is where true, deep healing happens.
I also want to note that while working with someone knowledgable is important, don’t count yourself out. So often we look for external answers to healing that we forgot how much power we have within ourselves. Doing self work is often a missing piece in long lasting healing.
When you feel like you've tried everything
Ok, so you’ve been to the doctor and they don’t see anything wrong. There’s a good chance that you may have been told that you have tight pelvic floor muscles. So you go to a pelvic physical therapist and maybe you get some relief, but it doesn’t seem to be having the major healing effect you want. While maybe you need to try a new doctor or a new physical therapist, maybe you actually need a new healing approach.
If you feel like this is you, you’re not alone. I’ve found many people in this type of scenario which is why I do what I do today! While some people get to take the easy road where medical intervention and/or physical therapy gets rid of their pain, this is not the case for everyone. Some people really need to go deeper to heal.
I use yoga to help people heal at a deeper level. Yoga works on ALL aspects of your being including the physical body, your mindset, your energy, and your emotions and it’s really such a powerful tool in healing.
Lastly, try your best to stop asking, "Will my pelvic pain ever go away?"
When you keep thinking this question, it keeps bringing your awareness to your pelvic pain which creates fear and over time this wires your brain to keep sending pain signals to the pelvic region. The mind is extremely powerful, so try to change the narrative.
If you wake up every morning and think, “Is my pain still there?”, this keeps bringing your brain’s attention to it. I have a post on chronic pain and the brain that goes into detail on this which you can find here: Chronic pain and the brain.
I know it’s not easy to just stop asking yourself this question and I’m not saying to ignore your pain by any means, but working to change your thoughts and self talk can help you on your healing journey.
If you’re dealing with pelvic pain, know that you’re not alone. There are many other women and men out there who are dealing with something similar and there are people out there to help you!
Thank you for reading guys and I hope this post helped you understand more about pelvic pain.
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