How Meditation Can Help Relieve Chronic Pelvic Pain
By Sarah Elspeth
Psychotherapist, Nutrition and Health Coach, Yoga Instructor
Pelvic pain is debilitating and relentless, often dramatically affecting one’s quality of life.
Treatment of this challenging illness is complicated, and health professionals’ understanding is limited. Interestingly, it can often be linked to other pain disorders including but not limited to IBS, PCOS or Fibromyalgia. It can also occur due to a significant emotional or physical trauma. When considering treatment options, it is vital to take a multi-faceted approach, addressing your health issues as a whole. This usually encompasses both the physical and mental aspects of an individual. When considering this healing philosophy, meditation can be seen as a potentially powerful method to incorporate into your pain management toolbox.
The Chronic Pain, Anxiety and Depression Connection
When looking at chronic pelvic pain, you need to address the body and the mind. There is strong evidence to suggest that a person with a history of anxiety and depression is more vulnerable to developing chronic pain conditions such as pelvic pain. People with mental health disorders experience higher pain levels and are at risk for disability due to their illness. This has to do with anxiety and depression sharing the exact biological mechanisms as pain.
Reduce Anxiety and Depression, Decrease Chronic Pain
In understanding this, one of the most effective ways you can decrease overall pain levels is by reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, many choose to take medication for these issues and experience severe side effects. Luckily, there are many holistic approaches to tackling depression and anxiety. One of the most powerful and proven methods for decreasing these symptoms is mindfulness meditation.
The Brain Changer
Depression and anxiety are often triggered by stress, trauma, and significant life events. This alters our thought process and creates an environment of maladaptive response to our environment along with faulty coping mechanisms. Meditation trains the brain to focus on something other than our thoughts (the breath). Over time we learn the ability to bring our attention away from negative thoughts, emotions, and sensations and instead anchor ourselves back to the breath. Meditation changes both the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala.
Prefrontal Cortex: The “Me” center where you worry about your future or reflect on the past
Amygdala: The “Fear” center in charge of your flight or fight response
Together, they feed off each other causing depression and anxiety. Research demonstrates that meditation severs the link between these separate brain regions.
How Does it Work?
There is a strong association between anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. As a result of dysregulation in the nervous system, your pain response also becomes impaired. When you are in constant emotional distress, the body responds by creating a protective response. It does this by alerting the body to “danger” even if there is nothing threatening present. This manifests as physical pain because the body perceives everything as a threat. As a result, a perfect environment is created for your mind and body to feed off each other. By reducing anxiety and stress and bringing the body out of the fixed state of hypervigilance, it begins to feel safe and can then again regulate a normal pain response.
Start Now, Feel the Change
You may feel that meditation is an elusive and complicated practice you need to master before starting. The truth is that meditation is a simple ritual that can be added to your daily routine. Start by finding a comfortable seated position on the floor. You want to be relaxed and yet alert. Once you have found a spot to sit, gently close your eyes. Begin to bring your awareness to your breath. Noticing the feeling of the inhale and the exhale. Spend a few minutes observing how it feels to follow your breath. Continue to follow your breath, and when you find your mind wandering back to your thoughts, watch this and gently bring your focus back to your breath. Stay here for 10-20 minutes to begin and build on this timeframe each week. You can practice this beginner’s mediation every day for tremendous results.
You Can Heal
Chronic pelvic pain can be a devastating diagnosis to contend with. Additionally, many find it frustrating and disheartening to receive proper medical care. If you’re struggling, you must educate yourself to feel empowered on your healing journey. Many valuable methods can potentially decrease pelvic pain and increase your quality of life. Meditation is a tool that can relieve the mental aspects of the chronic pain cycle and reduce pain over time. If you’re experiencing chronic pelvic pain, meditation may be one of your secret weapons in overcoming this burdensome condition.
Sarah Elspeth Is a Ph.D. Student, Registered Counselor, Health Coach, and Yoga & Meditation Teacher. She loves helping women heal from various health issues including chronic pain, anxiety, and autoimmune conditions. She addresses underlying issues and teaches life-changing tools so you can connect to joy, balance, and optimal health.