The statistics about pelvic pain are startling. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 11 men will experience pelvic pain in their lifetime.
Navigating pelvic pain can be like navigating the labyrinth—there can be a lot of twists and turns on your way to your center of relief. In addition to traditional medical interventions like injections, medications, physical therapy, what can you do to help yourself feel better?
Here are eight strategies you may find helpful to relieve pelvic pain.
1. Use your breath
The breath and nervous system
Conscious breathwork, or pranayama, has been shown to decrease heart rate and decrease blood pressure.
Because pain is an output of the nervous system, retraining the brain is crucial. The use of pranayama, or breath work, is particularly helpful for this reason. Working with your breath asks the nervous system to shift the balance of fight or flight (sympathetic nervous system) to rest and digest (parasympathetic nervous system).
We can think of the two arms of the autonomic nervous system as the gas and the break. If we are in a lot of pain, our sympathetic nervous system, as the gas, adds more cortisol into our bloodstream.
When we apply the break, or parasympathetic nervous system, we decrease the stress response. This is one reason why pranayama is beneficial for people experiencing persistent pain.
The mechanics of breathing
Another reason why breathing is helpful for people experiencing pelvic pain is the relationship between the diaphragm and the pelvic floor.
When you inhale, both your diaphragm and pelvic floor descend toward your feet. When you exhale, they ascend toward your head. This helps provide a piston-like motion to the system. Each breath cycle offers range of motion of your pelvic floor and support to your low back and pelvis.
Often when you’re stressed, there’s a tendency to breathe more shallow. Shallow breaths means your belly doesn’t expand as much and the ribs don’t glide outwards away from the midline of your body during inhalation. This means you won’t get the full benefit of the diaphragm and pelvic floor descending and ascending.
Read more about different types of pranayama, like Dirgha and Nadi Shodhana.
2. Nourish your nervous system
While we are on the topic of the nervous system, you can be creative with finding ways to nourish it, like with sipping warm tea, using aromatherapy, or other ideas you’ll discover in this blog on 10 ways to nourish your nervous system. Support your parasympathetic nervous system so it can help you decrease and manage pain.