Let’s face it, pain sucks. Especially ongoing pain in an area that many people are uncomfortable talking about. As humans, we’re generally wired to avoid pain and to do whatever we can to make it go away when it does come along. After all, pain is like an alarm system - It’s supposed to protect our bodies and motivate us to fix whatever it is that’s causing the pain.
What happens though, if that alarm system gets too good at protecting us? If it gets so sensitive that it goes off just when you’re thinking about pain?
In this post, we’ll talk about all the factors that affect pelvic pain and that can make your alarm system overprotective. Stay tuned for Part 2: What Can I Do About It?
The term pelvic pain is all inclusive and can include pain in your vagina, vulva, lower abdomen, anus, rectum, penis, scrotum, bones/joints in and around your pelvis, buttocks, pain before/during/after sex, pain while urinating, pain while having a bowel movement, etc.
There are also other pelvic health-related symptoms you may experience, such as getting strong urges to urinate or have a bowel movement, having to urinate frequently, constipation, difficulty starting a urine stream, erectile dysfunction, and incomplete emptying.
First off, let’s clarify: your pelvic pain is 100% real.
Second, pelvic pain does not mean you are damaged, weak, or broken. For the past 300+ years, Western society had been taught to think about pain a certain way: when you damage something, “pain signals” travel to your brain to alert you of that pain. Unfortunately, some people may have been made to feel that it’s “all in their head” because no “tissue problems” can be found. What the most up-to-date research in the past 20-30 years have told us is that there are no pain signals and that pain is much more complex than this. Pain is not just about tissue damage. How else would you explain phantom limb pain – when people feel pain in a limb that is literally no longer there?
So, what does pelvic pain mean? Find out in Part 2!
1DIMs and SIMs concept from the Explain Pain Handbook, written by Pain Scientists Lorimer Moseley and David Butler
If you’d like to learn more about pelvic pain in the mean time, check out this short, wonderfully written book on why pelvic pain hurts and what you can do about it:
This 5-minute video is especially helpful if you are dealing with persistent pain: