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30 million women in the United States are suffering from chronic pelvic pain. Which means that 30 million women are suffering from debilitating and embarrassing symptoms such as urine leaking, painful sex, weak or non-existent orgasms and pelvic organ prolapse. (1-3) This is the silent female health epidemic that no one is talking about
I often wonder why is it that women are continuously relegated to the sidelines and many times ignored and mistreated by doctors. Is it gender bias stereotypes? Is it ignorance? Is it the "not in my back yard syndrome" or is it simply conditioning that needs to be shattered?
Regardless of the reasons, women who suffer from chronic pelvic pain find themselves isolated and depressed. A substantial number of these women report low quality of life and secondary symptoms such as depression, anxiety, low libido and difficulties in their sexual relationships. (4-6)
Who wouldn't be depressed, if every time they coughed, sneezed, jumped or laughed they leaked urine, or if every attempt at love making made them cringe at the thought of the pain, or if little things like lifting your kids or carrying groceries increased pressure so much inside your privates that you held back from an active life and doing the things that bring you joy.
The medical community, pharmaceutical and the media have sold women a bill of goods. There's a belief that the only way to fix our "lady parts" problems is through surgeries, medications or pills, and it's not our fault that we have been conditioned to think this way. After 14,704 pelvic healings, I see women who've received experimental drugs, Botox injections to their vaginal walls, and mesh surgeries that failed. Frankly, the side effects of these drugs and surgeries are many times worse than the symptoms the women were originally feeling. (7)
In fact, most doctors don't understand how to treat chronic pelvic pain naturally and are still putting a band-aide on women's pain and pelvic health by recommending opioids, surgeries and vaginal Botox injections, all of which have vey little evidence as to their efficacy and carry high risk associated with them. (8) In my NYC healing center, women report to me that their doctors have downplayed their symptoms and some doctors have actually told them "your pain is in your head," or "go home, relax and have a glass of wine."
There's confusion among doctors because typically the lady parts in women who suffer from chronic pelvic pain look normal. In actuality, 40% of all gynecologic laparoscopies surgeries are performed to determine the cause of chronic pelvic pain and up to 15% of women of all women go to their doctors because of chronic pelvic issues. So women are doing their best to find answers to their female problems, but the medical industry is falling short. Doctors are rarely taught about the pelvic floor in medical school, so they so often lack the education and expertise to help these women naturally. They resort to what they know, pills, surgeries and injections. (9) Most of the pelvic surgeries in my opinion are unnecessary. Even the most astute doctors overlook the real culprit of women's pelvic pain, leaking, prolapse and abdominal pain… "the pelvic floor muscles."
Our pelvic floor muscles or vaginal muscles are highly innervated, vascularized, and complex, and are susceptible to injuries. The pelvic floor muscles are involved in what I call the 5 functions of life. They support our organs, close off our urinary sphincters, enhance sexual function, stabilize our hips and spine and act as a sump pump for the pelvis. The pelvic floor muscles or the vaginal muscles are also the deep connectors to the upper and lower extremities and when there's an issue with them, such as scaring from births, episiotomies, spasms, trigger points or they are too weak or too tight, they can contribute to symptoms such as urinary and fecal incontinence, sexual pain, pelvic organ prolapse and low to non-existent orgasms.(10)
Research has shown that very few doctors, during routine gynecological exams, perform a digital exam of the pelvic floor muscles, the area where the women are experiencing most of their pain and symptoms. (11)
Here's the truth - your lady's parts can be healed through integrative and holistic practices that include massages, exercises, yoga, and meditation and mindfulness training.(12,13) As a matter of fact, The Center For Disease Control and National Institutes of Health have recommended natural therapies such as pelvic floor muscle training as the fist line of defense in resolving symptoms related to leaking and pain.(14,15) As a woman who suffered from chronic pelvic pain and leaking after the birth of my daughter, and as a woman whom the medical community failed, I knew I had to change the conversation around pelvic healing. I scoured the earth, educated myself and read hundreds of research papers and books. I had to go deep into my own pelvic floor healing to find natural ways to heal and cure myself from my own debilitating condition. You might be thinking how did she do it? I did it through natural and integrative therapies such as pelvic massages, exercises, breath work, yoga, meditation, bodywork, and mindfulness. We all know the value of eastern medicine and also know that traditional physical therapy works for many ailments. These therapies such as yoga, mindfulness, massage and acupuncture can also be applied to lady parts with tremendous success.(16) The great news is that with the proper guidance you can learn how to do the massages, exercises and techniques on your own and conquer your pelvic condition naturally, and become the most vibrant and pain-free version of yourself.
1. Harlow BL, Kunitz CG, Nguyen RHN, et al. Prevalence of symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of vulvodynia: population-based estimates from 2 geographic regions. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2014;210:40.
2. Mathias SD1, Kuppermann M, Liberman RF, et al. Chronic pelvic pain: prevalence, health-related quality of life, and economic correlates. Obstet Gynecol. 1996;87(3):321-327.
3. Reed BD, Harlow SD, Sen A, et al. Prevalence and demographic characteristics of vulvodynia in a population-based sample. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2012;206:170.1-9.
4. Arnold LD, Bachmann GA, Rosen R, et al. Vulvodynia: characteristics and associations with comorbidities and quality of life. Obstet Gynecol. 2006;107:617-624.
5. Nickel JC, Tripp D, Teal V, et al. Sexual function is a determinant of poor quality of life for women with treatment refractory interstitial cystitis. J Urol. 2007;177(5):1832-1836.
6. Gerrits MM, van Oppen P, van Marijk HW,et al. Pain and the onset of depressive and anxiety disorders. Pain. 2014;155:53-59
7. Pacik PT, Understanding and Treating Vaginismus: A Multiimodal Approach. Int Urogynecol J. 2014 Dec;25(12):1613-20. doi: 10.1007/s00192-014-2421-y. Epub 2014 Jun 4.
8. Paulozzi LJ, Mack KA, Hockenberry JM. Vital signs: variation among states in prescribing of opioid pain relievers and benzodiazepines--United States, 2012. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2014;63:563-8. PubMed
9. Paulson JD, Delgado M. Chronic pelvic pain: The occurrence of interstitial cystitis in a gynecological population. Journal of the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons. 2005;9(4):426-430.Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3015651/?tool=pubmed.
10. Gray's Anatomy: The Anatomical Basis of Clinical Practice, 41e by Susan Standring PhD
11. Kavvadias T, Baessler K, Schuessler B. Pelvic pain in urogynaecology. Part I: evaluation, definitions and diagnoses. International Urogynecology Journal. 2011;22(4):385-393. doi: 10.1007/s00192-010-1218-x. PubMed
12. Crisp CD, Hastings-Tolsma M, Jonscher KR. Mindfulness-based stress reduction for military women with chronic pelvic pain: a feasibility study. Mil Med. 2016;181(9):982-989. doi:10.7205/MILMED-D-15-00354
13. van der Kolk BA, Stone L, West J, et al. Yoga as an adjunctive treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder: a randomized controlled trial. J Clin Psychiatry. 2014; 75(6):e559-65. doi:10.4088/JCP.13m08561
14. CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain -- United States, 2016 Recommendations and Reports / March 18, 2016 / 65(1);1-49
15. NIH State-of-the-Science Conference: Prevention of Fecal and Urinary
Incontinence in Adults December 10-12, 2007 Bethesda, Maryland
16. Goldfinger C, Pukall CF, Thibault-Gagnon S, et al. Effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy and physical therapy for provoked vestibulodynia: a randomized pilot study. J Sex Med. 2016; 13(1):88-94. doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2015.12.003