Pelvic Pain esp chronic pelvic pain, can a lot of times lead to anxiety, limited socialization, impaired relationships along with the physical manifestations of symptoms. People with pelvic pain, esp, long standing pain, can have increased sensitivity of their nerves leading to their CNS always being in an alert state (aka the fight or flight mode) which can lead to anxiety, stress and other symptoms. As a pelvic health professional treating people with pelvic pain, it is important for me to help patients break this cycle of pain, anxiety and fear to get to the treatment of physical symptoms and I often use mindfulness based techniques esp in the initial few sessions to achieve a state where the patient is ready mentally and physically to receive the help for their physical symptoms.
With its roots dating back to India in 3000 BCE, meditation has been proven time after time to be an effective method for relieving stress, increasing self-awareness, promoting mental clarity and reducing negative emotions. A study done by Lindsay et al in 2022 on the effects of a brief mindfulness-based intervention on pain perceptions in patients with chronic pelvic pain found that people who completed an 8 week mindfulness based exercise during thor pelvic physical therapy session had significant reduction in their pain catastrophizing score. (Pain catastrophizing is characterized by the tendency to magnify the threat value of a pain stimulus and to feel helpless in the presence of pain, as well as by a relative inability to prevent or inhibit pain-related thoughts in anticipation of, during, or following a painful event)
When your body experiences any type of physical or emotional duress, your sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which controls your “fight or flight” response, is activated. This sets off a chain reaction of bodily changes to improve your chances of survival such as pupil enlargement to improve your vision, increased heart rate to improve your oxygen flow and much more. When your “fight or flight” is activated, tension is created and stored within the body in your spine, hips, abdomen, and you guessed it- your pelvic floor. Meditation can provide you with the tools needed to relieve your body of this built up tension and reduce your pelvic pain.
Types of Meditation that you can use to manage flares or symptoms at home or during a stressful situation
The primary goal of meditation is to help you achieve a relaxed state of being and inner peace while resetting your system from fight or flight response. Keep in mind that while one method may work for you, it may not work for others and vice versa. It is important to experiment with the different methods of meditation and find which method works best for you.
Guided meditation is a sensory experience that involves the imagination or visualization of places or environments that bring you a sense of calmness. For example, if you feel you are most calm at the beach, visualize yourself standing near the water, with your feet in the sand, breathing in the salty air. Guided meditation is usually led by a guide or instructor.
Mantra Meditation is the art of repetition. You will repeat a calming word, affirmation, or phrase to distract you from negative thoughts or emotions. For example, in a situation where you are feeling anxious, you may close your eyes and repeat “I am safe” over and over again until you reach a state of peace.
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of all the elements (both internally and externally) at a given moment in time. This type of meditation can be used for grounding to help increase your awareness and bring you back to the present. When it comes to mindfulness meditation it is important to acknowledge your thoughts and emotions without judgment and let them pass. For example, the next time you go out to dinner at your favorite restaurant, take a step back and identify your surroundings. What does it sound like, look like, taste like, feel like? Are you anxious? Nervous? Content? Neutral? Allowing yourself to be present in the moment is the art of mindfulness.
There is no right or wrong way to meditate. However, finding a few minutes each day to practice meditation is pivotal to healing both your body and mind. Find what works best for you and stick to it and we promise, you will soon reap the benefits!
At Pelvic Elements, we approach pelvic pain in a holistic way and meet patient where they are in their journey rather than forcing treatment.
Cleveland Clinic, “Sympathetic Nervous System,” Cleveland Clinic, 2022 June 6.
Chow, Susan, “Meditation History,” News Medical Life Sciences, 2021 March 18.
Lindsay E. Clark Donat, Jennifer Reynolds, Margaret H. Bublitz, Ellen Flynn, Lauri Friedman, Sarah D. Fox,The effects of a brief mindfulness-based intervention on pain perceptions in patients with chronic pelvic pain: A case series, Case Reports in Women's Health, 2022,Volume 33.
Mayo Clinic Staff, “Meditation: A simple fast way to reduce stress,” Mayo Clinic, 2022 April 29.