By: Lanie Jun
Pelvic pain (or pain in the area of the pelvis, bowel or bladder) can take many forms. It can be severe and constant or it can be a vague pain that comes and goes.
For some people, the pain may manifest as cramping, a dull aching, or pressure. The pain may come during a bowel movement or while urinating, or it may come on at random times.
There may seem to be no rhyme or reason for the pain, making it hard to figure out what is causing it.
For anyone experiencing pelvic pain, it’s important to see a doctor in order to figure out the cause. Pelvic pain can be a symptom of many different conditions, so it’s important to rule out something like endometriosis, Crohn’s Disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
If you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, your doctor may determine that your pelvic pain is a symptom of this disease.
Pelvic Pain and Central Sensitivity Syndromes (CSS)
Chronic pelvic pain in fibromyalgia sufferers may be linked to a family of illnesses that researchers call CSS, or Central Sensitivity Syndromes.
These conditions are a result of something called “central sensitization,” which is a change in the way your central nervous system processes certain signals.
This explains why many fibromyalgia patients experience pain and over-sensitivity in their joints, as well as areas of their skin.
The sensitization happens not only with sensations on the outside of the body, but also with internal organs and structures inside the body—leading to widespread pain in the muscles, head, jaw, and yes—the pelvis.
Medications for Pelvic Pain
Once your doctor has ruled out any other underlying causes of pelvic pain (such as kidney stones or uterine fibroids), he/she may work to treat the pain as a symptom of fibromyalgia-related CSS.
Because so many illnesses that are common to CSS (headaches and joint pain, for instance) overlap in their root cause and nature of symptoms, many of the treatments may overlap, as well. Certain pain medications such as NSAIDs or opiates can work well to calm physical discomfort.
Since there is such an important connection between the mind and escalated levels of pain, SSRI/SNRI antidepressants can be helpful to those who are dealing with CSS-related pelvic pain, as well as other fibromyalgia symptoms.
The Holistic Approach
While medications are extremely helpful, for many people dealing with fibromyalgia symptoms (such as the pelvic pain we discussed above), medications aren’t enough.
Hopefully, your doctor is working with you to develop a holistic program to deal with your symptoms in a multi-faceted way. Here are some suggestions for things that bring many sufferers relief:
Of course, you should talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program. Once you get the go-ahead, however, you’ll find that this is one of the best ways to combat and control your symptoms.
Exercise as a part of an overall treatment program can help reduce pain, improve range of motion and flexibility, as well as reduce stress, anxiety and depression (which can all make pain worse if left uncontrolled).
If you’re unsure of where to start with an exercise program, you might try consulting with an experienced trainer or physical therapist who is familiar with fibromyalgia and its symptoms. Whatever you do, start slowly and gently—if you overwork yourself, the result will be increased pain. Build up gradually and only do what feels comfortable to you.
Many fibromyalgia patients find that gentle yoga or tai chi classes are wonderful forms of exercise.
Because they often combine deep breathing, focus and relaxation, yoga and tai chi are good for the mind, as well as the body. This brings us to the next form of holistic treatment, which is meditation.
Because (as was mentioned above), there is a huge mind-body connection when it comes to pain, meditation can be helpful.
To be clear: a mind-body connection does not mean that the pain is all in your mind. What this means is that stress, anxiety and depression can amplify pain and make it worse.
As the pain worsens, so does your stress and anxiety. Meditation can help break this cycle.
If your idea of meditation is sitting quietly somewhere, mindfulness meditation might be for you. This form of meditation consists of finding a place that’s free of distractions and simply allowing yourself to be in the present moment.
Try to focus on your breath, working on “belly breathing,” or allowing your diaphragm/stomach (rather than your chest) to rise and fall as you breathe in and out.
Breathe in through your nostrils and out through your mouth. If thoughts arise, don’t judge them or push them away, simply notice them and bring your attention back to your breath and the present moment.
If pain or anxiety make it difficult for you to sit still, a walking meditation may be more beneficial. With this form of meditation, you take time to be outside and focus on feeling present and grounded.
You will pay attention to sensations without labeling them as positive or negative. Notice the way the ground feels beneath your feet: do you feel the softness of grass, or do you feel the firm pressure of concrete beneath your shoes? Pay attention to the way your foot moves as you take a step.
Notice the way your feet shift inside your shoes and the way the breeze feels on your face. As with mindfulness meditation, when thoughts arise, allow them to move through your mind, but bring your attention back to the experience of walking.
Figuring Out What Works For You
A successful approach to treating fibromyalgia-related pelvic pain, as well as its other symptoms, often involves a combination of medication, diet, exercise, and stress-relieving techniques. With experience, you will be able to figure out what specific things work best for you.
Improvement often takes time, so whatever treatment plan you choose, be patient and most of all—be compassionate with yourself.