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Why Self-Care is Key to Healing Chronic Pelvic Pain

chronicpain chronicpelvicpain healing nervoussytem neuroscience pelvicfloordysfunction selfcare Aug 15, 2022

I have good news about healing chronic pelvic pain.

People with chronic pelvic pain can achieve significant decrease of symptoms and improved function by doing a self-care, mind/body home program for 3 months while receiving medical treatment. 

Self-care includes:

  • Learning about pain science.
  • Practicing techniques that lowers fear of doing an activity.
  • Doing mental exercises to soothe the hypersensitive nervous and immune systems.  
  • Moving your body

If you've ruled out a major medical cause(s), perhaps tests results are normal, why do you feel ongoing pain or related pelvic distress symptoms?

The reason for ongoing pain is that the nervous and immune systems have become too sensitive and the brain behaves like a hyper-vigilant helicopter parent. Scientists call this ‘central sensitization’. 

Our nervous and immune systems are designed to be more aware of looking out for threats, even those that may be a potential threat to your well-being. They have a direct line of communication with your brain to give information to the brain.  

Threats don't have to be just physical, like sitting too long on hard wooden seat if you have sitting pain. Negative self-talk, stressful social interactions, self-criticism, worry that you can't meet with friends at a cafe, be intimate with a partner or hold a job.  These are interpreted by your nervous and immune systems as danger and their job is to send these danger messages to the brain. 

Remember the scene in Harry Potter when a flurry of letters flew into the uncle's home, through the chimney, pouring through the letter box inviting Harry to Hogwarts? 

When the brain is barraged with threat messages, over time it stops its normal weeding-out process assessing if the message is truly a threat and starts to automatically send protective pain/distress signals to your body.   

Pain is the brain's way of protecting you. 

When you feel pain or pelvic distress, you tend to take action such as scheduling a visit with your doctor.  Along with sending pain signals, the brain also signals the muscles to guard and protect the area from moving. So you lose ease and fluidity of movement as well as optimal pelvic function. 

If you just twisted your ankle in a NYC street pothole, feeling immediate "acute" pain is an excellent response from your brain. If the ankle has healed in the typical 4 months, but you still feel intense ankle pain this is not healthy and is termed  "chronic" pain. 

Your central nervous system (nervous, immune systems and brain) is wired to focus on danger and pay less attention to good things. This is true for all people but has become supercharged for the person in chronic pain. The good news is that this faulty pattern can be dampened and unlearned. We can develop a healthier loop to use instead. 

How?

By learning about pain science and practicing techniques that increases your sense of safety, having less incoming threat signal to your nervous immune system and brain, you unlearn prior faulty patterns and create healthier ones. 

Safe techniques can include:

  • Self-compassion. 
  • Taking a walk in a natural environment (put away the phone).
  • Petting your cat/dog (releases the love hormone oxytocin in both you and your pet). 
  • Accepting a compliment. 
  • Helping a friend.
  • Using your imagination of doing a feared movement in a safe environment (Graded Motor Imagery).
  • Saying Positive Affirmations out loud. 

Whether you've had chronic pain for six months or 25 years, your nervous/immune system and brain can learn a better way to behave. 

It takes your effort to achieve this and about 3 months of practice. 

If you are suffering from chronic pelvic pain or pelvic floor dysfunction, consider doing PelvicSense, your 3-month guide to healing chronic pelvic issues. 

It makes sense.

PelvicSense