Hi there! What if I told you there are some super easy things you could do right now, for free and with minimal effort that would help to at least relieve the discomfort of chronic pelvic pain? Guess what, there are plenty! Some of the tips and tricks below come from my physical therapist. Others I just stumbled upon through my own experiences. The options below are (mostly) free and are things you can do today.
Revel in the following, they seem simple but they work!
- Child’s Pose – relaxing in this yoga pose helps to reduce tension and stretch out the muscles in your pelvic floor, all of which tend to contribute to pain during a flare. Child’s Pose is especially helpful after using the bathroom to help your muscles release. Watch this quick video for tips on how to properly stay in this pose.
- Legs elevated – beneficial for all of the same reasons as Child’s Pose, relaxing with your legs extended against a wall also helps to release the muscles in your lower body. As you can see from this video, it’s also helpful in improving circulation. I think it feels lovely when your lower back hurts too. *Bonus* try after sex to reduce the inevitable pain.
- Progressive Relaxation a.k.a “loosen those muscles” – there are some specific relaxation exercises/sequences you can practice but the main thing here is to be conscious of your entire body and when you are tensing your muscles (especially those pelvic floor muscles!). When I first started doing this, I would set a timer for once an hour and just scan through my body from head to toe, relaxing each major muscle group as I went down. I encourage you to google progressive relaxation and read up on it. SO many benefits to practicing, including stress reduction and less overall pain!
- Meditation/Deep Breathing Exercises – this one is pretty self-explanatory. There are tons of research out there suggesting that incorporating meditation into your lifestyle helps those living with chronic pain improve their quality of life tenfold. Not only does it lighten the pain experience, it brings a sense of calm to your thoughts and your body. Try it, even if it’s only for 30 seconds a day. For example – walking into work in the morning. I never stare at my phone or think about my to-do list, but rather I look up at the trees and notice the sounds of the city. I’m about to spend the next 8.5 hours of my life in front of a screen so might as well take advantage of this 1 minute break! I’ve also tried Happify (free) and Headspace (paid) apps on my phone and have found them to be great.
- Heating pad/DIY heating pad – quite possibly my favorite thing on this list, sitting with a heating pad on your belly, lower back, neck, etc. is so incredibly comforting – especially after a long day or as the weather is getting chillier! The benefits of doing this for IC is to not only relax your body with the whole experience, but also to warm and release the muscles of wherever you choose to place the heating pad. Doing this has stopped a flare dead in it’s tracks for me. Bonus points – it requires zero effort if you can convince someone lovely to heat it up for you in the microwave! (I use one that I purchased from my local grocery store for $15, but in a pinch you can make your own using some household items I bet you already have on hand. Check out the tutorial).
- Toilet Etiquette 🙂 – these tips are a bit awkward to describe. First off, I know I would always tense up when using the bathroom, just waiting for the wave of pain to hit. The first thing I learned in PT is that this is what will cause the pain! So relaxxx, take a deep breath and work on letting your muscles stay loose. I think of it as the opposite of a kegal (please don’t do kegals). I haven’t tried this but there’s also info suggesting that resting your feet on a step-stool, etc. will prevent pain as this is the position God intended us to poop in. Or more “scientifically”, it prevents your intestinal track from contracting at an awkward angle, which can cause pressure and hence, pain!
- WATER!! – this really should be first on this list. One of the biggest mistakes I made with IC was limiting my water intake due to the fear of having to pee. So instead, every time I did pee, it was full of the chemicals and toxins my bladder so desperately hated. You need water to flush out your system and keep your body regular. The less concentrated your urine, the less discomfort you will experience. Any medical professional will tell you this and it is 100% true (for me at least). I actually feel like the more I go to the bathroom, the better I feel. I’ve also tried electrolyte water to help balance by pH levels and have found it to be helpful, esp. during a flare. If it wasn’t so damn expensive I would drink it all the time.
I think the trend here is to pay closer attention to the tension in your body and work to relax both your body and mind. I’ll say it again – there is no known exact cause of interstitial cystitis. However, almost every proposed cause relates to stress: muscle tension, muscle spasms, inflammation, persistent infection, chronic yeast etc. etc.
Concentrating on lowering your overall stress levels (difficult when in pain, I know) will likely result in less overall pain. It is an ugly vicious cycle but practicing some of the ideas in this post even semi-regularly will help get you well on your way to healing.
Let me know what you think, have you tried any of these ideas? Anything I missed? I’d love to hear from you!