Chronic Pelvic Pain (CPP) is a condition that is affecting an increasing number of people every year. This painful condition is often misunderstood, misdiagnosed and mistreated – yet can have an altering effect on a person’s lifestyle in many ways. Although, women usually experience Chronic Pelvic Pain more often it can also affect men to the same degree. According to a Gallup poll, 1 in 7 women between the ages of 18 to 50 suffer from chronic pelvic pain and it is estimated that every 15 seconds a man in the U.S. is diagnosed with CPP. In addition to many other chronic conditions that are physically connected to the abdominal region, CPP can be hard to treat because of the proximity to reproductive and digestive organs. Along with digestive and reproductive problems, the proverbial Pandora’s Box is usually opened when addressing any issues in the abdomen. For this reason I have become somewhat of an expert in Chronic Pelvic Pain over the years. From my fifteen years as a holistic health practitioner I would like to share what I have found to be the true causes of CPP and steps you can take to empower your health.
To better understand the feelings and affects of CPP - take a belt, long cloth, or rope and cinch it around your pelvis. Pull it tight enough so that it feels uncomfortable, it may be even harder to take a full breath. Take a moment to notice how it makes your whole body feel, the increased awareness it brings you of where you are holding tension. This is exactly how your pelvic diaphragm reacts to stress or trauma. Now imagine slowly tightening more each day with each stress and never unwinding it. How long would it take…minutes, hours, days or years for the pressure to build to the point where it was affecting vital organs and resulting in chronic pelvic pain?
Chronic Pelvic Pain is defined as non-menstrual pelvic pain in the abdomen, hips, perineum, rectum, buttocks, vagina, and thighs that persists for six months or more. This pain not only puts physical limits on daily activities but also can take an emotional toll - especially if it interferes with bladder control or sexual intercourse.
Conventional treatments for CPP can include:
- Over the counter or prescribed muscle relaxants
- Nerve blocking injections
- Physical Therapy
- Counseling for abuse or depression
The following conditions typically precede CPP are generally referred to as causes for CPP: Endometriosis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Interstitial Cystitis, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Post-surgical & Musculoskeletal Pain, Prostatitis, Pelvic Congestion Syndrome, Pudendal Neuralgia, Overactive Bladder and Vulvodynia. I would rather categorize them as symptoms of a much bigger yet overlooked true causal factor – a hypertonic contracted pelvic diaphragm. In addition the lower abdominal and perenial fascia connections that have tightened like belt – thus affecting blood, oxygen and nerve supply to organs and surrounding tissue. Of course the next logical step would be to loosen the fascia belt to get relief. So why is this so hard to accomplish even with years of therapy or surgery. To better understand this we need to look at how the pelvic diaphragm functions.
The pelvic floor is a muscular partition (also known as the pelvic diaphragm) formed by the levatores ani and coccygei, which includes the parietal pelvic fascia of the upper and lower aspects. These muscles not only engage with skeletal actions, but also have a movement that corresponds and synchronizes with our respiratory diaphragm. This means every time we take a breath we are expanding and contracting the pelvic floor and surrounding fascia. Proper abdominal breathing keeps the diaphragms loose, allowing fluid and oxygen pressure levels to normalize within the body. We naturally hold our breath during times of stress or trauma, bracing and protecting for what may come next. The problem occurs when we are repeatedly exposed to adverse experiences, especially as children. Even though presently we may be in a good emotional state, our body may have never felt like it could take a safe and full breath in its formative years. Gradually and unconsciously over time the respiratory diaphragm and pelvic diaphragm continued to tighten with each little bit of stress. The result is increased pressure and pain within the abdomen. The severity of CPP can vary from person to person. The pain can range from constant to intermittent - mild to severe or a dull ache that is characterized by a feeling of heaviness or pressure in the pelvis.
Here are three holistic recommendations for lasting relief of CPP.
1.Maya Abdominal Massage – a Traditional Maya Medicine external massage technique that can effectively reduce the pressure, which causes pain in the pelvis. This technique uncoils bound up fascia; restoring oxygen to vital nerves, increase circulation to organs and remove waste out of tissues. In addition to getting lasting relief for CPP it loosens the respiratory diaphragm at the same time you are treating the pelvic diaphragm. This is to ensure that even pressure is established in the whole body. In my opinion this is the missing link to chasing CPP symptoms and is a great compliment to those who are seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist.
2. Breathe, Feel & Release - Since the abdomen is our biggest storage container for stress, it is inevitable that emotions also lie within the pelvis. The more emotions that are held within = more pressure in the body…and more pressure = more pain…always. We need to remove “old baggage” that has been pushed to the basement “aka” the pelvic floor. Allow yourself to take a deep breath into your pelvic floor – be honest of what you feel and any emotions that arise…this is where fear, shame and guilt hide. This awareness can help free your body and spirit from years of pain.
3. Do the Un-Kegel - First feel what its like to tighten your perineum (doing a kegel.) Next, open your mouth and take a big breath out…now do the kegel, exhale out your mouth while making a sighing sound of “ahhh.” Notice the difference in your pelvic floor – it is virtually impossible to tighten the perineum while deeply breathing out of your mouth at the same time. Throughout your day Un-Kegel: by performing this simple breathing exercise to relax your pelvic diaphragm.
As you loosen your “pelvic belt”, each notch becomes a step toward healing. Chronic Pelvic Pain is removed in layers so be patient with yourself and take time to explore the best modality that fits you.
Alex Jackson LMT, NCTMB is a Holistic Health Practitioner, specializing in Traditional Maya Medicine. He has over a decade of experience in treating chronic and acute health conditions such as chronic pelvic pain, digestive, reproductive, musculoskeletal, and anxiety issues. He is co-owner of Centered Spirit – Cultural & Holistic Center located in Waldo: 8131 Wornall Rd., Kansas City, MO 64114 CenteredSpirit.com 816.225.9393 firstname.lastname@example.org