Chronic pelvic pain may be one of the most frustrating and elusive types of pain not only to determine the cause, but also to treat or manage.
There are usually two ways traditional medical practitioners approach chronic pelvic pain. (Source)
- Treating chronic pain as a diagnosis in and of itself
- Treating diseases or disorders that may be the cause of or contributor to the pain
The best treatment plans will use a combination of these two approaches, however, as we discussed last week, it is often a long road to identifying a cause. It can be related to several different bodily systems as well as mental health issues. This study review even describes curative treatment as “elusive.”
So today we’ll talk about natural ways to deal with chronic pelvic pain while on the path to diagnosis and treatment.
Conventional Medical Treatment
Let’s learn a little about some solutions you may be offered in a traditional healthcare setting.
One of the most common approaches is to prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that are stronger than over the counter drugs. Muscle relaxers are also sometimes prescribed.
If the doctor thinks the pain is related to a hormonal condition, like endometriosis or PMDD, often hormonal therapy such as oral birth control, progestin, or gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist injections are often recommended.
Side effects of oral birth control are well known and contain things like weight gain, nausea, headaches and decreased libido. (Source)
GnRH agonists, commonly the name brand Lupron is used, have many menopausal-like side effects, since they work by suppressing hormones.
“Side effects are common, and most women will experience at least one or two. The severity of the side effects varies from mild to severe, and some women will find them intolerable.” – Endometriosis.Org
Additionally, surgery could be needed to remove cysts, adhesions, endometrial cells, and in severe cases, hysterectomy if the pain is determined to be sourced from the uterus.
Alternative Chronic Pelvic Pain Management
There are alternative therapies to use to manage chronic pelvic pain, even as complementary to other treatment. Often the best approaches are multidisciplinary.
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy
Evidence for physical therapy in the treatment of chronic pelvic pain is increasing. (Source, Source)
Pelvic floor therapy teaches us how to strengthen, control and even stretch pelvic muscles which is especially beneficial if the pain is caused by pelvic floor muscles being too tight. This causes a condition called myofascial pain. (Source) This can be easily overlooked since most gynecological professionals are trained with a focus on organs.
For myofascial pain, a specially trained physical therapist uses her hands to perform external and internal manipulations of the pelvic floor muscles and will often provide techniques to do at home.
Most of us have heard of Kegel exercises at this point—this is one type of pelvic floor exercise you can do on your own. Simply contract pelvic muscles for 10 seconds, then release them for 10 seconds, and repeat!
Acupuncture is an ancient technique that uses needle-like instruments to stimulate specific points on the body and reduce pain.
The efficacy of acupuncture in treating chronic pelvic pain has been widely studied.
In this example, seventeen randomized controlled trials were examined to compare NSAIDs and acupuncture in preventing or reducing premenstrual cramps. The results showed several acupuncture types including traditional, eye, wrist-ankle, superficial, ear and electroacupuncture were more effective in reducing risk of cramps.
Another study showed that pelvic pain was significantly reduced after 5 sessions of acupuncture, with no recorded side effects.
Ayurvedic Herbs and Natural Supplements
There are several herbs that have been shown to be great alternatives to NSAIDs in the management of CPP.
One to note is ginger. In this clinical trial study comparing Novafen (a combination of ibuprofen, acetaminophen and caffeine) and ginseng as treatments for menstrual pain, both drugs were found to reduce menstrual pain. It concludes that the natural herbal medicine to reduce menstrual pain is recommended.
Another supplement to consider is quercetin. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid, naturally occurring antioxidant compounds found in citrus fruits, berries, tea, apples, broccoli, and raw onions. It stops inflammation before it begins by scavenging free radicals within the body.
Unlike semi-effective medications that come loaded with side effects, quercetin may be an alternative for patients with pelvic pain or urinary symptoms. (Source) Add more quercetin to your diet by eating the foods above, or you can also find supplements at health stores.
Lifestyle and Behavioral Therapy
As with all physical illnesses, mental health is closely tied to CPP.
Studies have shown that lifestyle and behavioral changes such as exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy, and mindfulness have demonstrated significant improvements in pain, function and quality of life in patients with a variety of chronic pain conditions. (Source)
In my practice, I focus upon stress reduction for body, mind and spirit as well as getting to the Root Causes of ill health. Many times I need to think outside of the box to figure out what’s REALLY going on for a client. Then once we have a deeper picture of what’s driving the health concern, we can use complementary modalities such as Functional Nutrition, Frequency Specific Microcurrent, Bemer Mat, Cold Laser, Evox and Scio Biofeedback and Emotional healing techniques and so much more to bring harmony and balance back to your life.
If you are stumped with a particular health concern, feel free to pick up the phone and schedule a free 15 minute chat with me. Sometimes you just need a different perspective to figure things out.
I hope this is a good start to managing chronic pelvic pain, if you’re one of the people unlucky enough to struggle with it. Give yourself permission to take time to de-stress, seek out alternative therapies, and always educate yourself so you can be your own health advocate!