Mind-Body-Spirit connections: body and mind

Last month I wrote about the mind-body connection. How our thoughts and emotions can have a very real physical impact and how our bodies communicate with us through physical ailments such as chronic pelvic pain. Fortunately our bodies can also communicate with our minds in more subtle ways. However, most of us don’t actually take the time or know how to listen. This has certainly been true for most of my life and, honestly, is still true for me most days. Taking time to be still without any distractions is a direct contradiction to the culture around us. Yet there is a treasure waiting for us when we do, and we don’t have to look any further than within ourselves.

mind-body - when sex hurts there is hopeAs I progress down my own healing journey I am slowly learning how to listen to my body. Continue reading

Mind-Body-Spirit connections: mind and body

I shared last month that the more recent years in my healing journey have been about exploring the mind-body-spirit connections.  The first of these connections that I started to recognize in myself is that of mind and body.  This started first by acknowledging that my body is not just a machine with my mind at the controls.  My body is a separate part of me.  It works in connection with my mind (and spirit), but it can respond to thoughts in a myriad of ways. It can also communicate quite directly to my consciousness, if I will only listen to it.

mind-body - when sex hurts there is hopeThis is not to say that addressing the “mechanics” of my body is not an important aspect of healing. I have specific physical injuries that need physical treatment.  The hypertonic muscles of my pelvic floor required physical therapy to heal.  Just as the atrophied and enflamed tissues of my vestibule required hormone treatment to recover.  For some people, these physical treatments are enough to bring them back to good health.  But for me, my physical pains are connected to more than just their physical triggers.  I have been going to physical therapy for seven years now and, while I acknowledge there are more “mechanical” aspects to healing from chronic pain, I believe full healing will only come when I address the broken connections between my mind, body and spirit. Continue reading

Mind-Body-Spirit connections: a preview

mind-body-spirit - when sex hurts there is hopeAs I walk through my healing journey I have found that I never stop learning and discovering. In recent years, much of my learning has been around the idea of a mind-body-spirit connection.  I am learning that I am mind, body, and spirit (or soul) and each is distinct yet entirely one at the same time.  All three aspects of myself can connect and communicate uniquely with each other.

This concept has been more than a little difficult to understand as I am a very logical, mind-based individual.  But, as I am opening up to these ideas I find that I am healing on new levels.  Continue reading

Traveling with pelvic pain

traveling with pelvic pain - when sex hurts there is hope

Sitting in an airport waiting for my flight home, I got to thinking about how differently I travel these days.  Traveling with pelvic pain can be difficult which leads some pelvic pain sufferers choosing not to travel at all.  I am certainly more selective about my travel plans and have learned some ways to help reduce the pain that typically comes with traveling.

1. Pack the essentials

Travel light, or be prepared to ask for help.  Continue reading

Did you know that birth control pills can cause pelvic pain?

Most women have no idea that taking birth control pills can cause pelvic pain and painful sex.  There has been some controversy on the subject, but I am not here to argue a point. Instead, I want to share about my own experience.  I know for a fact that oral contraceptives were one of the primary causes for my pain.

There is a detailed article by Dr. Andrew Goldstein on the IPPS blog which I will be referring to throughout this post.  (The Dr. Oz blog also provides a good summary of the same article if you’re interested in checking it out.)  What prompted this article last year was a genetic study that Dr. Goldstein and others completed which identified why some women are more susceptible to the damaging effects of birth control pills.

How birth control pills can cause pelvic pain:

Oral contraceptives signal your body (specifically your pituitary gland) to stop producing normal levels of specific hormones which support ovulation.  This reduction also signals your body to reduce other hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, which are important for your sexual health.  “But don’t birth control pills contain estrogen and progesterone?” you may be thinking.  That’s true, but they are synthetic versions which means they don’t match your body’s natural hormones perfectly.

Compounding this lack of natural estrogen, progesterone, and other important hormones called androgens is the increase in Sex Hormone Binding Globulin, or SHBG.  When the synthetic hormones in birth control pills are processed through your body (your liver, specifically), they cause an increase in your body’s production of SHBG.  This is bad because SHBG attaches itself to sex hormones and makes those hormones inactive.  Thus, even if you had sufficient amounts of sex hormones in your body, they are no longer working to keep you sexually healthy.

Birth control pills affected my own sexual health in a couple of ways.  The first and most obvious way was by reducing my libido.  I had a lot of other factors going on that made me not very interested in sex (namely the fact that it was painful).  But, at a biological level I didn’t have a healthy amount of hormones to set any desire in motion.  The second way was less obvious to me at the time, but had the most significant impact.  The reduction in fully functioning hormones left my vestibule red, atrophied, and painful to the touch.  Think about what happens to a flower petal that is no longer connected to its life-giving source of water—it wilts and shrinks, the soft surface becomes dry and fragile, andbirth control pills can cause pelvic pain - when sex hurts there is hope the vibrant color begins to fade.  Similarly, the very part of me that was created for sexual pleasure was causing me great pain because it didn’t have the life-giving source of hormones it required to be healthy.  I didn’t recognize these symptoms at the time, and neither did my doctors.  It wasn’t until I saw a sexual health specialist that I learned about the importance of hormones and just how big an impact taking birth control pills had made on my sexual health. Continue reading

Open up those hips

pose to relieve hip tension - when sex hurts there is hopeI can think of many good reasons to open up those hips. But, if you are like me that’s easier said than done. I have a tendency to sit too much, which contributes to tension in my hips (among other things). I have learned how to reduce this tension with massage and stretching through yoga. There are so many yoga poses that are great for relieving tension in your hips, but here are just two of my favorites which are good beginner stretches.

Butterfly pose to relieve hip tension

Begin by sitting on the floor with your knees bent outward and the soles of your feet pressed together. This is similar to a cross-legged position, but instead of folding your ankles over each other your feet are pressed together Continue reading

Skin rolling is not as scary as it sounds

There are many techniques performed in physical therapy that can be incorporated into your own self-treatment regimen. Skin rolling is one of easiest because there isn’t necessarily a wrong way to do it (or at least none that I have discovered). For those of you who think I am referring to some type of ancient form of torture, let me assure you that skin rolling is not as scary as it sounds.

Skin rolling is a type of myofascial release. You can find a lot of information just by typing “myofascial” into your favorite search engine, but here’s my abbreviated skin rolling - when sex hurts there is hopedefinition. The “myo” means muscle and “fascial” is pertaining to the fascia or connective tissue that surrounds every muscle, bone, ligament, and organ in our bodies. Thus, myofascial release is simply a way of releasing tension or constriction in the connective tissue around our muscles. I find skin rolling a pretty interesting technique because it so clearly demonstrates the presence of constricted fascia and muscles (I’ll get into this further after I describe the technique).

Step 1: Show some skin!

Continue reading