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 Part 1 of this blog series, we talked about all the factors that affect pelvic pain and that can make your alarm system overprotective. So what does it mean when this alarm system keeps going off when it’s not supposed to?
Here are some examples of DIMs (Danger In Me’s) and SIMs (Safety in Me’s):
1. Warning signals from your tissues (what we used to call “pain signals”): Pain isn’t just about the tissues but the tissues can be important too. For example, if you have endometriosis, scarring from a recent birth or surgery, poor tissue oxygenation from being too sedentary or from muscles constantly tensing up, inflammation.
2. Stress: Our brain doesn’t know the difference between physical stressors and non-physical stressors. The stress response is the same whether it’s from a bear chasing you or having to balance working from home with virtual schooling for your kids. Both are DIMs.
3. Things you think/believe: “my pelvis is out of alignment” might be more of a DIM whereas “my pelvis is resilient” would be more of a SIM (side note: your pelvis is actually super stable and pain is often more related to sensitivity of the area rather than stability).
4. How you’re feeling emotionally: anxious from COVID? Feeling down because you’re not seeing your friends/family as much? These non-physical stressors contribute to this sense of “threat” in your pelvis.
5. Things you do: are you doing things that are important to you and that bring you joy/fulfillment even if pain changes how you do it? Are you taking time to fit physical activity into your day? How’s your diet? How do you manage your stress? How’s your sleep?
6. Places we go: are there certain places you find more calming, where you feel safe? Are there other places where you feel you get your guard up?
7. What we see, hear, smell, taste, touch: looking at your genitals, gentle massage, smell of lavender or freshly baked cookies.
8. People in your life: Friends who understand you, nosy neighbours, colleagues who question your pain.
Of course, all these factors can affect each other as well. For example, stress increases inflammation, which can then increase the warning signals, and potentially lead to more stress if there is more pain. Hence, pain is complex!
The good news is that because there so many factors that affect pelvic pain, there are many things you can do about it!
Stay tuned for part 3 to find out what those things are!