Dr. Susie Gronski


3 Ways To Keep Your Cool During A Flare-Up of Pelvic Pain

Just when you start to feel like things are lookin’ up, wham! A painful flare-up hits you out of nowhere.

The hardest thing about pelvic pain is the cyclical, recurring nature of the beast. You can feel better one day, then the next day your groin is in agony again.

So what gives?

Honestly, I don’t think anyone can confidently explain the cause of flare-ups. There are many theories, but no definitive answers. And there are no particular patterns to flare-ups, as you probably know from first-hand experience.

Commonly taking the blame as a trigger is stress. Physiological responses to stress are protective and necessary for survival. It’s part of the human experience.

But stress doesn’t have to be such a bad thing. It’s how you relate to it that matters most.

According to Dr. Kelly McGonigal, health psychologist and author of The Upside of Stress, “When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.”

In other words, your beliefs about stress can impact the effects of stress on your health, and this can work for you or against you. The same can be said for your response to flare-ups.

Our natural instinct is to guard, tense up and avoid discomfort at all costs. Being sick, in pain or riddled with poison ivy (yup, dealing with as I write this post) can feel unbearable at times. Trust me, you don’t want to over-scratch an itch.

So what if I told you that being okay with discomfort and accepting the current situation would help you overcome that flare-up faster?

I’ll be the first to tell you that this is no easy task, but it’s definitely doable. When was the last time you learned something new and mastered it after the first try? You are what you practice, and changing your pain story will take persistence, courage and time.

Here are 3 ways you can keep you cool during a flare-up:

Knowledge is analgesic [ref]

Learning about the biology of pain and how it applies to your body is a powerful and cost-effective way to reduce your pain.

First step? Take this quiz to test your pain knowledge. (Resist the urge to peek at the answers until you’re finished). If you didn’t do so well, don’t be bummed. This is not common knowledge.

Let me start by dropping a wisdom bomb on ya. (The following nugget is inspired by pain scientists Drs David Butler and Lorimer Moseley from their book Explain Pain Supercharged). “Sensors are like butterflies.” There are thousands of sensors running along your nerve cells. These sensors respond to all sorts of messages like temperature, stretch, pressure, stress chemicals, immune molecules and vibration, just to name a few. They sense the world for you and report any suspicious activity to the boss, your brain.

But sensors are like butterflies: they only last a few days. So if you’re feeling sensitive right now, don’t panic. Sensors change and adapt quickly. 

Photo by  Ian Parker  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ian Parker on Unsplash

You can help yourself by disarming the alarm. To do this requires some ‘working in’, by which I mean paying attention to what makes you feel good and at ease, as well as to what makes you feel tense and guarded (both physically and mentally).

It’s easy to get caught up in what makes us feel bad, so I encourage you to make an effort in seeking out your safeties. Practice pleasure and not pain.

Nourish your nerves

During a flare, you may tend to avoid activities that feel like they could ‘make things worse’, but there’s enough evidence to show that fear-avoidant behavior worsens pain. [ref] [ref]
No special exercise or fancy protocol necessary. Any combination of breathing, movement and/or touch can change your brain’s interpretation of the threat lingering in your loins.
To supercharge nourishing neurochemicals, incorporate activities that you actually enjoy doing. Doing something you like will make you feel better, quicker.

(yup, that’s me swinging from a tree)

(yup, that’s me swinging from a tree)

Pace, don’t race

Gritting your teeth and pushing through pain doesn’t make it go away, although even this statement depends on context. Pain is an output of the brain that grabs your attention, asking you to take action.

Sometimes modifying your lifestyle and daily activities is necessary to return balance to your body and calm to an overly sensitive nervous system.

The goal is to ‘calm shit down and build shit up’ (courtesy of Greg Lehman). Pay attention to your ‘edges’ (limits). Move towards them and back away. This can be applied with almost everything you do.

Challenge yourself a little each day. All the smaller efforts add up and create resilience for more challenging situations.

If you’re having trouble navigating your road map to recovery, you’re not alone. Reach out so we can figure it out together. Schedule your consultation here.