Chances are that you or someone you know has persistent pelvic pain. Persistent pelvic pain is long-standing pain that is recognized to be located in the female or male pelvic structures. This pain can be due to persistent pelvic pain syndrome or be related to other known conditions that produce pain, such as endometriosis.
Why might I be experiencing persistent pelvic pain?
Pain is a complex and individualized experience that is influenced by characteristics like the pain source, location, and duration, as well as your thoughts and feelings. These factors influence dimensions of your pain experience such as the severity and the effects it has on your daily life. Persistent pain has a widespread impact and frequently limits life or work activities in 7% of adults.
What is mindfulness practice and how can it help me manage my pain?
Mindfulness is a term used to describe a state of being fully present and consciously aware of one’s present experience without judgement. This state of awareness can be optimized through repeated training, which is known as mindfulness practice. Mindfulness practice is an umbrella term that encompasses many different types of mindfulness activities. Examples of these activities include mindfulness meditation, some forms of yoga, and progressive relaxation.
Mindfulness meditation practice is a cost-effective pain management strategy that can reduce pain by changing how your brain perceives the pain experience. Reductions in pain intensity and experiences of unpleasantness can be seen in as little as one week after practicing mindfulness meditation. Long-term practice can lead to further changes in how the unpleasantness component of self-reported pain is perceived, among other health benefits.
For persistent pelvic pain specifically, early research has supported the use of mindfulness meditation for women. In one study, participants were able to reduce their daily pain, improve their physical and social function, as well as their mental health after an eight-week mindfulness program. These results support the idea that mindfulness practice can be an accessible, affordable, and effective method to improve positive outcomes in women with persistent pelvic pain. Mindfulness practice should be used as another tool in your regular persistent pelvic pain management program.
How do I get started with mindfulness practice?
Mindfulness practice can be self-guided, which means that you can lead yourself through your own practice, or it can be guided. Guided mindfulness is when an instructor guides you through a mindfulness session. This may be appropriate for someone who is a beginner to mindfulness practice. Pain Care for Life is an online Lifemark program that can help you get started with your persistent pelvic pain management. Below is a brief overview of what you can expect during the first 5 steps of this program.
1. Gain knowledge
Persistent pain is related to both changes in your body and changes in how your nervous system functions. This first step consists of educational materials to help you gain a better understanding of persistent pain. In addition, mindful movement is introduced as a way to self-manage your pain.
This next step is a short four-minute guided breathing exercise. This breathing technique has the potential to reduce the sensitivity of your nervous system and can help to reduce your pain with consistent practice.
3. Body awareness
Body awareness is a practice that can assist you in moving your body with ease. In this step, you will be following a guided body awareness video while continuing to do the calm breathing techniques you learned in step two. With consistent body awareness practice, you can expect to see improvements in your body within 3 to 6 weeks.
4. Calm movement challenge
This challenge builds upon the breathing and body awareness steps of this program to help you recover movement despite your persistent pain. In this step, you will ask yourself important questions to self-monitor the appropriate intensity and amount of movement that you can do. Progressing slowly and carefully is the key to creating positive changes in your nervous system and body to work towards minimizing the effects of your persistent pain.
5. Practice pain care for life
The last step is to reflect on what you learned in the first four steps and to implement these changes in your life. Consistent practice of these strategies can help you manage your pain and incorporate better movement into your daily life.
Pelvic floor physiotherapists are trained health care professionals that address and treat pelvic health concerns. These key pelvic care providers can work with you to create an individualized plan in order to manage your pain. For further guidance, check out our locations page to find a clinic near you or book online to schedule an appointment with a pelvic health physiotherapist.
This blog was written by Anna Zheng, a Physiotherapy student from the University of Toronto.