Women’s CD: Pelvic Floor Muscle Relaxation for Chronic Pelvic Pain
Disclaimer: this CD is intended for use by people with chronic pelvic pain who have undergone assessment by a gynecologist or urologist to eliminate causes of pain such as infection, inflammation or cancer, which require specific medical treatment.
The relaxation exercises on these CDs offer hope and help for women with pelvic pain due to increased tension in the internal pelvic muscles – the “pelvic floor”.
The focus is on learning the skills of “progressive muscular relaxation” for the whole body and for the pelvic floor muscles inside the pelvis. The pelvic floor muscles are out of sight inside the pelvis and most people are unaware of them until something goes wrong. The internal pelvic muscles can become tense and tight and cause intense, often stabbing, pain.
For women, this can mean that the muscles tighten around the vagina and make intercourse very painful or impossible. Pain from tight pelvic floor muscles may persist for hours or days after sexual activity.
Other symptoms for women may include pain when emptying the bowels or when urinating. Tight and non-relaxing pelvic floor muscles may be a cause of difficulty emptying both the bladder and the bowel.
Pelvic floor muscle tension is often overlooked as a cause of pelvic pain. When tests show that there is ‘nothing wrong’, ie there is no infection or inflammation in the pelvis, pelvic floor muscle tension may be the source of this pain, which can be confirmed by a skilled clinician performing an internal pelvic examination.
“Kegels” (another name for pelvic floor exercises) are often practiced by people who have weak muscles, for example by women after childbirth. But when the pelvic floor muscles are painful, strengthening exercises should be avoided as they can make the pain worse. “Strengthening the core” is popular as a treatment for back pain or simply to get a flat abdominal wall. But the pelvic floor muscles are tightened whenever the ‘core’ muscles are exercised. In some people this ‘core’ work will contribute to tight and painful pelvic floor muscles. No muscles are meant to be held tight all the time. This applies to the pelvic floor as well. Learning to relax the pelvic floor muscles may relieve tension-related pelvic pain.
Possible benefits to be gained by practicing the skills on the Pelvic Floor Muscle Relaxation CD:
a realization that there are muscles inside the pelvis possibly contributing to pain
a greater awareness of where these muscles are and how they may affect different structures inside the pelvis such as the bladder and the bowel, as well as the vagina or the penis and testicles.
an ability to sense changes in pelvic floor muscle tension
an ability to control and release muscle tension inside and outside the pelvis
control over muscle tension that builds with anxiety
an ability to calm the nervous system, which becomes sensitised with chronic pain, using deep breathing techniques
There are 3 tracks on the CD:
Track 1: Whole body and pelvic floor muscle relaxation: we recommend practicing this daily for the first week at least, then once a week or as agreed with your health practitioner (30 minutes)
Track 2: Short relaxation: once you are very familiar with the 30-minute relaxation, this short form is good for regular daily practice. (10 minutes)
Track 3: The relaxation music on its own (20 minutes)
Ideally the exercises should be performed with the guidance of a pelvic floor physical therapist, who can provide individual help. But for people without access to such help, the exercises on the CD and the information in the accompanying instruction booklet can be a good way to start. For women, the instruction booklet details how the exercises can be used to train vaginal relaxation for painfree intercourse.