My pelvic pain symptoms vary and differ from those of others. Can your program help?
By: Dr. Brianne Grogan, PT, DPT
First, I want to assure you that pelvic floor dysfunction can manifest in many different ways, even though the root cause is typically the same: chronic pelvic muscle tension due to a cycle that looks something like this -- pain → tension → more pain, emotional stress, and inflammation → more tension → more pain, emotional stress, and inflammation → more tension... and the cycle continues.
People experience pelvic pain differently and in different situations (i.e. with walking, when sitting, when urinating, during or after sex, etc.).
This comes down to bio-individuality, and also due to the fact that
our brain makes pain based on sensors scattered throughout the body (in the muscles, joints, ligaments, etc). These sensors detect changes in your body (i.e. hot and cold, stress, stretch, movement) and send electrical impulses up to the brain. This is happening constantly, in all humans. Some of these sensors only respond when things are getting to be "too much" (i.e. too hot, too cold, too much stretch, too much movement), and they send warning signals up to the brain. The brain "listens" to these danger messages/warning signals, interprets them and weighs them based on the context of your situation and based on other things going on in your life (i.e. levels of emotional stress, etc), and from that point your brain may or may not make pain. It can also respond by making different levels of pain. Pain then causes your body to react by
protecting itself in different ways (usually this manifests as muscular tension).
Pain is a powerful protective system, and when you've experienced pain for a long period of time,
especially in such a sensitive and important area as the pelvic floor, it can make your nervous system be on "high alert." In short, your brain is quicker to respond to these danger messages/warning signals by making pain more rapidly than it did BEFORE you started experiencing your pelvic floor dysfunction.
This is one reason that -- right now -- short bouts of walking don't cause you pain, but if you walk for longer periods your brain says "whoa!" and forces you to stop (via the danger signal of the experience of pain, and resultant increase in pelvic tension).
The solution here is to
decrease the "danger" signals in your body, and
increase the "safety" signals in your body to recalibrate your system and make living a pain free life possible again.
One way to do this is to decrease danger signals by VERY SLOWLY, very incrementally, and very gradually building up your walking. If you know that 10 minutes of walking causes you suffering, then start with just 1-2 minutes at a time and VERY GRADUALLY work up from there. Be consistent and increase slowly, with no sudden jumps in intensity. If you do experience some soreness/pain with this type of gradual progression, just remind yourself that you are "sore but safe." Movement is good for you, and this type of gradual progression is not hurting the muscles and tissues in your body... in fact, it's good for your body.
You can also increase safety signals in your body by listening to your favorite calming music when doing these short (gradually progressive) walks, or by walking with a trusted friend, or out in nature in an area you love. Also, be sure to do some deep breathing and stretching after your short walks, to further increase a feeling of safety in your body (and decrease those "danger" signals that you're starting to tame).
In conclusion, you want to:
- Keep breathing
- Keep stretching
- Keep releasing your pelvic floor via "pelvic drops"
- Keep reducing inflammation
- Keep moving your body every day, but in a very gradually progressive way (no massive jumps in intensity)
- Keep a positive mindset
Ultimately, this is everything that the Overcome program teaches.