For those with chronic pelvic pain…here are the top six ways I manage my pain condition and deal with flare-ups when they occur:
1. Myofascial release techniques to affected areas in physical therapy and on my own.
2. Meditative activities that focus on the body such as diaphragmatic breathing, progressive relaxation meditation and yoga.
3. Reiki/ energy work: Treatment from therapists and on my own every day.
4. Introspection: Acknowledging my stress and looking within to determine thoughts/behaviors/emotions that may be contributing to a ramp up of my nervous system.
5. Singing (without restraint): This activity releases emotion and diaphragmatic breathing relaxes the pelvic floor muscles.
6. Activities that bring joy. For me this is visiting with friends, sitting at the ocean, and petting the neighborhood cat.
A big thank you to the International Pelvic Pain Society for inviting me to write a guest blog post on their site. I hope my post, “Neurological Considerations and Direct Experiences of the Mind/Body Connection”, helps foster communication about these issues within the traditional health-care community.
Artwork by: Alana Alley
It has been a long time since I’ve been flared up… but here I am. With some help, I am now clear on the situation and the thoughts/emotions that are creating my stress. But beyond this detail… at a root level this stress is really fear.
This animal part of me wants to be safe and survive, and my body alarms are going off. For some of us sensitive souls and especially those of us who have experienced quite a bit of trauma in our lives, these alarms get triggered easily. Perhaps they even stay on at a low level just to make sure we are going to be okay.
At times, this fear has been out of proportion to the danger at hand and it has created stress, inflammation and pain in my body.
There is a part of me that understands that when I turn my thoughts from fear to love- both my body and mind can settle in a peaceful place. But when I’m really stressed another part of me shouts, “How can you talk about love? It feels like I’m running from a tiger!”
Then the peaceful voice chimes in again, “Look again. Sometimes that tiger has been created by your mind. Take a breath. You are safe.”
IC/PBS can create pain and inflammation in the bladder, and stress can be a big factor in creating this inflammation.
The human body reacts to stress by pumping adrenaline and then cortisol into the bloodstream to focus the mind and body for immediate action. This amazing response has ensured our survival throughout the ages.
Cortisol in small doses is very helpful, and it turns off the inflammatory response. But when the stress is prolonged and the cells are exposed to a relentless stream of cortisol, they can become desensitized to the hormone. This can create excessive inflammation in the body.
Consider these ways to break the link between stress, inflammation and pain:
- Eat wholesome, anti-inflammatory foods and consider adding fish-oil and supplements to your diet.
- When it possible, limit your exposure to situations and people that ramp up your stress.
- Look within and consider what thought patterns and emotions might be increasing your stress and try to change them in a positive direction.
- Release stress through exercise. When you are hurting, consider low impact activities such as swimming and walking.
- Find ways to turn on the parasympathetic/relaxed mode of your nervous system. Consider some of these activities that have been supported by research: meditation, creativity, massage, yoga, tai chi, friends, work you love, laughing, exercising, and playing with animals.
Photo by: Jacqueline Meltcher Baker
This Navy Seal and I did not know that the body had an innate capability to spontaneous release in this way until we experienced it ourselves. This physical response can also be accompanied by a release of emotion or recollections of past experiences/traumas. My CranioSacral therapist, Karen Axelrod CMT, D-CST, sent me this link and told me that the movements demonstrated in this video mimicked how my body moved during our treatment sessions. These spontaneous movements are often called “unwinding” and they can take many different forms. When my pain condition ramps up- moving in this way calms my nervous system, relaxes the muscles throughout my pelvic area and legs, and decreases my pain.