By: Katie Burnham, DPT
Yoga For Pelvic Pain - Specific to Sexual Health
Pelvic pain can be a result of a pelvic floor dysfunction. It can sometimes be accompanied by other symptoms. Things to watch for are urinary leakage, constipation, frequent urination and a really strong urge to urinate when you do feel the need. Pelvic pain can refer to actual discomfort in or around the pelvis. It may occur occasionally or constantly. Certain activities or positions can also cause painful symptoms to become worse, or even reduce in severity.
Let’s talk a bit more about pelvic pain and get specific! Women may experience pain during intercourse, during penetration of a tampon for example, or even with finger insertion. Sometimes pain can be elicited prior to actual penetration into the vagina, by merely touch around the opening. There may be different causes to these symptoms. So what can be contributing? Going back to the first sentence of this blog, a pelvic floor dysfunction may be to blame.
At times the muscles within the pelvis can “misbehave”. They can become overactive (constantly in overdrive or very tense) and as a result alignment of the pelvic bones can be impacted, trigger points may develop, muscle spasm can occur. When this happens you can perceive pain! Depending on the type of dysfunction going on, you may experience pain in your low back or perhaps around the pubic bone, even pain your butt, literally!
So how can yoga help with pelvic pain?
The principles of yoga include integrating breath work to bring awareness to the body and mind. I love this and find it incredibly effective when treating patients with pelvic pain and symptoms of an overactive pelvic floor! There are a couple things going on here. First, we can use our breath to make a connection to these muscles within the pelvis. It can be challenging to do this as we can’t really see what’s going on when they contract or relax; not as easily as our biceps muscle for example. Part of the practice can be getting personal with yourself and finding a mirror. If we can get a better view of the area we may be more successful.
Here is what you should try…Practice coordinating your inhalation with a big belly breath. You should visualize sending the breath as deep as possible, all the way down to your bottom. Our lungs clearly don’t extend this far however we can use this visual to help relax and break tension in the tissues. Try this sitting up at first and use the tactile cues from the seat under your bottom to help make the connection. You should feel your bottom dropping towards your seat when you inhale. Now try lifting your bottom up and away from your seat; time this with your exhale. Once you get the hang of INHALE-fill belly-relax/drop pelvic floor and EXHALE-breathe out-lift pelvic floor up, you can try this with a mirror. Lay back and remove your clothing to you can visualize the perineum and region surrounding. You should see movement with your breath.
Once you have this technique down, you are ready to integrate it into your yoga poses! Yoga is all about synchronizing your movement to your breath. This brings more awareness to the task. Oftentimes I find this piece of the puzzle is missing for my ladies with overactive or “hypertonic” pelvic floors. So the next time you warm up through cat-cow, find a big inhalation during cow and send the breath into the pelvic floor (allow it to relax), then exhale (as you normally would) in cat pose while finding a connection to the pelvic floor through lifting up as if sucking into the body.
There may be several reasons for your pelvic pain. Unless you have a thorough evaluation by a pelvic physical therapist, the root cause of your symptoms may not be determined. My goal is to do just that! If you experience pain during intercourse or experience any of the symptoms listed above, seek out the expertise of a pelvic physical therapist to find your “why”.
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