Pelvic pain affects up to 20% of adults in North America, impacting an individual's ability to control their bodily functions, sleep properly and engage in exercise. Here, our Stittsville physiotherapists explain this condition's symptoms and how we can help.
Pelvic pain can range from a small annoyance every so often to completely debilitating. It can also come with uncomfortable or embarrassing symptoms like incontinence, severe urinary frequency and urgency, and prolapses. Not only this, but the pelvic pain itself is a symptom of an underlying condition or injury, so the source of your discomfort may actually be relatively difficult to narrow down.
The causes of pelvic pain can range from gastrointestinal and gynecological to psychiatric and musculoskeletal. And in every case, social and societal factors may come into play and worsen the condition.
Physiotherapy for Chronic Pelvic Pain
Despite how difficult it can be to narrow down the precise cause of your chronic pelvic pain, our physiotherapists are able to offer physical therapy treatments to help address aspects of the health issues you are experiencing and that are contributing to your discomfort.
Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation
There is increasing evidence that dysfunction in the pelvic floor is directly related to chronic pelvic pain. Additionally, myofascial pain has been shown to be closely associated with a number of different kinds of chronic pain in the pelvis. These can be treated through a number of different methods and treatments in the course of pelvic physiotherapy.
Some of the treatments offered at a physiotherapy center for pelvic pain can include:
- Electrical stimulation
- Specific stretches
- Relaxation techniques
- Manual therapy of the pelvic floor muscles
- Myofascial release of trigger points on the pelvic floor
- Exercises targeted at the pelvic floor muscles
While individuals experiencing chronic pelvic pain may be recommended or prescribed analgesics to help manage their pain levels, our physical therapists can also offer up a number of different services, targeted exercises and fitness plans to help you alleviate your pelvic pain and start down the road to recovery without having to rely entirely on painkillers.
First, it's important a physiotherapist walks you through some of the social and psychological elements that may be involved in triggering a pain flare-up, especially when in tandem with sexual activity. One of the first steps to take in managing your pain and discomfort is to identify harmful behaviors like negative self-talk, catastrophizing, and pain-related anxieties. We may also recommend professional help if you are experiencing any of these kinds of feelings.
After that, exercise planning is often the name of the game when it comes to helping to manage flare-ups of pain in patients suffering from chronic pelvic pain. Often, these flare-ups are either caused by overactivity and extended periods of inactivity, so our physical therapists will work with you to identify the right level of activity for your condition and create a plan for consistently being able to meet that level of activity.
What About Kegels?
When one thinks of pelvic floor exercises, kegels are what are most often brought up. Guides and posts about how to perform them abound on the internet. If you have chronic pelvic pain, you may be tempted to get started by looking up guides online to begin these exercises on your own. But in many cases, exercises like kegels can actually be harmful to your condition.
There actually isn't much clear evidence that kegel exercises, when done on their own, can affect chronic pelvic pain. They should instead be done in tandem with a number of other stretches, exercises and therapies. Part of this stems from the fact that not all pelvic floor pain is caused by weakness in the associated muscles (this is what kegels can help to address).
In fact, some chronic pelvic pain is associated with a tightness of the pelvic floor muscles, meaning that kegels may actually cause injury—just like if you tried to workout a tight muscle elsewhere in your body. The key in these cases is exercises that promote relaxation of the tight muscles to alleviate pain and avoid injury.
In all cases, you should consult with your physiotherapist before you start engaging in any long-term exercise while suffering from chronic pelvic pain. They will be able to help you to plan your workouts to work best for you, regardless of what part of your body you will be exercising.