Thinking about pain, I have a tightening in my chest and lump in my throat. I have a long history with physical pain, emotional pain, and mental pain. As a PT, I have a love-hate relationship with pain, and treating pain.
I love that pelvic floor therapy can provide tools to allow someone to heal from long standing pain. I hate that some of the go-to tools can heal one person, but not work for another. I hate the mental-emotional aspect that unfortunately goes hand-in-hand-with pain. I love that healing from those mental-emotional aspects can assist with healing physical pain. I hate that seeing only one practitioner may not be enough for some. Unfortunately, individuals have to be open to allowing healing from that mental-emotional pain in order to tap into healing the physical pain.
As an athlete for the majority of my life, I was told I was not allowed to feel pain. If I said I was in pain to X,Y, or Z persons I was told I was "being a baby. To suck it up. Be strong." My pain has never been legitimized. So much so that I would cope with it by talking about it to everyone, way too much (I'm sure that was annoying.). I felt like I had to convince them to understand what I was going through. My shoulder pain was so much so that I went from hurting people's hands when I threw in high school, to college senior year, barely being able to make my throws get to home plate. I rarely had my athletic trainer look at my shoulder because I felt like that was not legitimate pain. Now, 5 years post-softball, I can barely throw a softball, carry my son, or even do things I love like working out without consistent shoulder pain. I ignored my pain, because I felt like it was not important enough to be addressed.
I can say the same about a history with pelvic and low back pain. I never told providers about my pelvic pain. I just dealt with it. I tried to ignore it on really bad days and hide it with ibuprofen. My pelvic pain comes from a variety of things. Poor eating habits, which lead to poor gut health, which lead to IBS that I dealt with for years. History of a traumatic high school past that I never mentally or emotionally dealt with, all pent up in my pelvic floor muscles. Painful intercourse as a result of all of this. A "test" would never be able to diagnose this.
TRAUMA AS AN INFLUENCE
To this day, I still have not spoken with anyone (professionally) about my past trauma. I probably should, because it hangs on. I am so thankful that my younger self was able to put it away at the time, because it really did not effect me as a high-schooler and I got to just "be a kid". But, because I didn't deal with it then, I struggle with some things now, years later.
Mental trauma has significant correlation to chronic pain. Are your muscles tense? Are you clenching your jaw? 9 times out of 10 you are also (unknowingly) holding onto this tension in your pelvic floor muscles. Our muscles respond to stress.
I was recently listening to my friend and former teammate, Caitlin Chapin's podcast, Scrubs and Barbells. She was talking about her history with neurological trauma due to repeated concussions from sports that was never legitimized by anyone, and years later she was (thankfully) able to find treatment for this. She also discusses how neurologically, we remember the bad. Our synapses and connections in our brain will literally hold on to negative experiences so we can learn from them in the future. Think about a day where everyone was nice to you and made you feel good. Do you recall this day as well as you recall the day that the elderly woman yelled at you because she thought you couldn't use the phone? (That didn't happen or anything...)
YOU ARE VALIDATED
The point being, is that I believe you. Are you struggling mentally? I believe you. Are you dealing with pain that no one has been able to explain? I believe you. Your pain, your struggle, is real. The difficult part, is that in order to heal, we HAVE to 1. Accept the reality and be validated by SELF and 2. Seek help. I know this is not easy. But your physical struggle may be deeper than just the physical body. Also: Self validation is important. We can not force someone to believe us. We cannot force someone to accept our pain. But we have to be able to accept it ourselves and make the change ourselves to seek help. No one can do it for us.
Some things that have helped me are practices such as prayer (and most importantly my relationship with the Lord). Journaling. Meditation. Being grateful for what I am walking through, whether good or bad. Nourishing my body with healthy food. Movement/exercise. Living in a clean home to reduce chemical influence on hormones.We MUST serve our bodies in order to heal.
This is all so much easier said than done. When you are dealing with something mentally, it can feel impossible, like a mountain. But know, someone out there is there to listen and believe you. If you have physical pain, there is something going on in your body that is causing that, and something that needs to be changed to make it better.
Please reach out to me if you need help finding a good practitioner to help aid you in your healing, whether it is mental, physical, emotional. I will do my best to find someone to walk with you! And remember, you don't know what someone is walking through. Be kind, loving, and gracious.
For local resources to mental health professionals, click here
This content is created in order for individuals to learn more about the pelvic floor. I am in no way giving medical advice or medically assessing the pelvic floor through this blog. If you ever have any health questions or concerns, please consult with your physician or midwife. If you are ever unsure if you are performing exercises correctly, it may be beneficial for you to get a referral from your physician to a pelvic floor therapist for further evaluation. My blog posts are for educational purposes only! I am not liable or responsible for any damages resulting from or related to your use of this information.