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A disciplined, daily focus for helping to resolve pelvic pain including conditions diagnosed as prostatitis, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, CPPS, pelvic floor dysfunction, levator ani syndrome, pudendal neuralgia, perineal pain among others

Why a disciplined, focused daily program is necessary to have a chance of recovering from pelvic pain (including prostatitis, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, CPPS, pelvic floor dysfunction, levator ani syndrome, pudendal neuralgia, perineal pain among others)
We tell people who do our program that it takes time and diligent practice to have the best chance of a reliable reduction or resolution of pelvic floor related symptoms? Let me summarize what this means. Unflagging daily program over time of myofascial trigger point release and relaxation is the key to helping heal a sore pelvis. If you have pelvic pain, healing pelvic pain needs to be the top priority of everything you are doing using tools that work and a method that cooperates with what the pelvic floor needs in order for it to heal.
In some people, pelvic floor related pain spontaneously and mysteriously goes away with no treatment. Sometimes, it’s a one-time or two-time occurrence, and that’s it. It’s also not uncommon for pelvic pain to reappear later. More often than not, however, pelvic pain becomes chronic and occurs on a daily basis.
Having chronic pelvic pain is typically a very distressing, frustrating, and scary experience. I suffered from pelvic pain for over twenty years. Those were very difficult years. I first developed the method we now use through my experimentation to help myself when I was in a desperate way.
Later, I met with Dr. Rodney Anderson in the Urology department at Stanford University Medical Center with whom I spent eight years. The result of our collaboration was the development of a private immersion clinic that our group has been holding regularly now for twenty years. And significantly, when the normal scheduling of our immersion clinic was curtailed by Covid,-19, a home program was developed not requiring people to come to see us in person. Gratefully we continue to do our in-person clinic 8 times a year.

It’s important to understand that there has never been an effective treatment for muscle-based pelvic floor pain in the history of medicine. In my experience few doctors have an interest in this problem, really understand what it is and what is needed to resolve it. You can’t see pelvic pain like you can a broken bone which includes conditions named prostatitis, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, CPPS, pelvic floor dysfunction, levator ani syndrome, pudendal neuralgia, perineal pain among others)

No visualizing technology like an X-ray, CT scan, MRI, or sonogram can detect it. No blood, urine, or other fluid tests will pick it up. So, pelvic pain is essentially invisible to the doctor. If you are a doctor and a patient complains of pelvic pain and a variety of peculiar symptoms, which you yourself have never experienced, but you can’t detect the problem with your eyes or regular tests, then you have to project a concept of what’s wrong with the patient. If the concept you project is wrong, the solution won’t work. In our book A Headache in the Pelvis we say that open-heart surgery on someone with heartburn isn’t a good idea – you need a correct understanding of the problem to effectively treat it. And if you’ve never suffered from pelvic pain, it is very difficult to understand what it is. Our view of pelvic pain comes from my decades long first-hand experience and of my recovery from it.
Pelvic-floor pain has no conventional recognizable pathology associated with it other than the obvious misery of that the sufferer complains of. It has been clear to me for many years that pelvic floor pain is a stress-related disorder that tends to occur to sensitive, ambitious, successful, conscientious, deeply felt, people who inadvertently and repeatedly tighten their pelvic muscles over years when they get anxious. Over time, this anxiety-driven tightening causes the pelvic muscles to shorten, form painful trigger points, become irritated and remain in a chronically painful and tightened state.
In our program, patients learn to physically release these chronically tightened pelvic muscles themselves by inserting our FDA certified/approved Internal Trigger Point Wand internally and actually press on the painful trigger points in the pelvic floor in order to release them. Our patients use our FDA certified Trigger Point Genie to do external trigger point release of the external muscles that are connected to the painful pelvis. This goal of this treatment is to repeatedly physically restore pelvic muscles to a normal ease and tone. When the pelvic muscles are not chronically tightened, trigger pointed and sore, they don’t hurt.
But the physical untightening, I know from personal experience and the observation of many patients I’ve seen over the past 30 years, is not enough to restore the normal tone and ease of the pelvis. In addition to physically working in the pelvis floor and related muscles, in is generally necessary for most patients to daily reduce the arousal of their nervous system. To this end we teach them a method called Extended Paradoxical Relaxation. Extended Paradoxical Relaxation borrows from my teacher Edmund Jacobson, developer of Progressive Relaxation and who is considered the father of relaxation therapy in the United States.

We originally thought of calling our book TMJ of the Pelvis instead of A Headache in the Pelvis. It is helpful to understand the need for ceasing the anxiety driven clenching of the pelvic floor by seeing that even if you are able to release the shortened contracted muscles of the jaw when you have TMJ, unless you stop clenching your teeth, all of the work of loosening the muscles of the jaw won’t stop the jaw pain.
I suffered with pelvic pain for over twenty years – bumbling through a series of incorrect diagnoses and treatments. From what I learned, I want to discuss the nature of pelvic pain and what I believe are the requirements to resolve it. It has been my experience that it is necessary to have the discipline of doing a daily program to release the painfully tightened and trigger-pointed muscles in and around the pelvic floor alongside a daily program providing significant daily time of significantly reduced or no anxiety if you want to have a chance of resolving the vexing problem of pelvic-floor pain and dysfunction. As it is with stopping teeth grinding/clenching in TMJ to stop jaw pain, so one must stop the ‘grinding’ of the pelvic muscles along with the releasing of the pelvic trigger points in order to stop pelvic pain. This is not a small thing to do. But it is possible.
Said very simply, pelvic floor pain is a condition in which the center of the body chronically, what has been called the ‘core’ of the body, physically tightens and ultimately isn’t able to relax. Again, this is all driven by anxiety. At a certain point, often triggered by intense or prolonged stress, this chronic tightening doesn’t untighten and becomes a chronic painful normal state. This is a different paradigm than is conventionally held of conditions with the names including prostatitis, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, CPPS, pelvic floor dysfunction, levator ani syndrome, pudendal neuralgia, perineal pain among other diagnostic terms.

This pelvic tightening throws a monkey wrench into the normal feeling of ease, and into normal functions that the center of the body is involved in like urination, defecation, sexual arousal and orgasm, balance, and even sitting. This disorder is labeled differently by doctors having different sub-specialties – the names include pelvic floor dysfunction, prostatitis/CPPS, anorectal pain, levator ani syndrome, or pudendal neuralgia among others. In pelvic pain patients, the center of the body is unhappy — the nerves and muscles of the pelvic floor are in a state of what could be called ‘freeze’ in the famous distillation of the stress response as fight, flight, freeze.
The pelvic floor muscles are in a state of freeze. This tightened, painful state becomes the unhappy normal state, and is fed hourly and daily by chronic pelvic tightening fed by pain, anxiety, and sore, irritated tissue. It is further exacerbated by the underlying worry that nobody understands what’s going on, nobody can help, and it will never go away.
This all brings me back to why I am saying here that a prolonged and concerted effort is needed to have the best chance of resolving this problem. In a word, it is a very big deal to change how you hold yourself in the center of your body, and to change the reflexive habit of how you automatically tighten yourself physically up as you worry. In our program, addressing chronic pelvic pain involves the very big job of calming down the body physically as well as mentally and emotionally on a daily basis – a problem that conventional medicine isn’t very helpful with. In my experience, the anxiety driving the protective guarding response of pelvic tightening isn’t resolved through medication. In fact, drugs often worsen someone’s pain as the medication stops being effective, and most typically becomes addictive.
Easing the chronic tightening of the pelvic-floor muscles in the core of the body and the related muscles requires a concerted and long-term daily effort of releasing them and reducing anxiety on a daily basis. There are ups and downs. There are flare-ups. There are periods of great optimism and periods of anxiety related to flare-ups or lack of progress as it appears in the moment. All this needs to be understood and accepted, and the practice of releasing the sore, tightened muscles and quieting the nervous system must nonetheless be doggedly pursued.
In my view, a daily quieting of anxiety and nervous-system arousal must be done. For any long-term resolution of pelvic-floor pain, focusing on only the physical release of the pelvis (which itself requires skill and patience and knowledge) is not enough. Again, pelvic pain is ultimately a stress-related disorder, and addressing the physical pain without providing the pelvis with a stress-free/guarding-free environment every day is like continually cleaning up spilled water from a leaky faucet rather than replacing the leaky faucet.
I myself was dogged in treatment of myself when I was symptomatic because there was really nothing else to do. And gratefully, I now sit here and write this essay without pelvic pain.
Pelvic pain doesn’t occur overnight, even if for some it feels like it does. I like the aphorism, “the fruit falls suddenly, but the ripening takes time”. While there are no studies about this, I believe it takes years of chronic tightening from anxiety to create chronic pelvic pain. Similarly, when pelvic pain heals, it doesn’t heal overnight. Healing pelvic pain takes dedication, trust, and a significant amount of time every day doing what is necessary to address the problem – physically releasing the painfully tightened pelvic muscles, yes, and simultaneously interrupting the habit of chronically tightening the pelvic floor. This means taking the time to give the sore pelvic tissue an opportunity to be free from anxiety, and to heal. This concept applies to conditions including diagnoses of prostatitis, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, CPPS, pelvic floor dysfunction, levator ani syndrome, pudendal neuralgia and perineal pain among others.
There are a number of mainstream treatments for pelvic pain, from taking drugs to undergoing surgery to simply doing physical therapy. However, in my view, the painful pelvis has little chance of healing without the long-term practice of regularly releasing stubborn pelvic floor muscle related trigger points (which is best done by the patient himself or herself), and without the devoted, daily practice of resting in an environment free from the major pelvic irritants.

Relaxation is the healing chamber for chronic pelvic pain after the trigger points have been released

Healing pelvic pain means both stopping the local clenched muscular pain in the pelvis and reducing the arousal of the nervous system that is driving the chronic clenching of the pelvic floor.

It is indisputable that when someone has pelvic floor pain, selected muscles inside and outside the pelvis are painful upon palpation (that is when your press on them with an educated finger). The centers of the pain in these painful muscles are called trigger points, which you can think of as rice-grain shaped knots of spasm within a tight muscle. The presence of pain/soreness/discomfort when you press on certain muscle in and around the pelvic floor of the pelvic pain patient, recreating someone’s symptoms, is the definitive criterion we use to determine the appropriateness of our protocol.
As a rule, people who do not have pelvic pain do not have such pain, tenderness and symptom-referral upon palpation in and around the pelvic floor. Furthermore, when the muscles in and around the pelvic floor stop being painful in the person with pelvic pain, it has been our experience over years that pelvic pain has significantly reduced or has gone away.
In order to determine the presence of trigger points and their referral of symptoms upon palpation, one must be skilled at trigger point release, one must understand the location in the pelvis where trigger points reside, and one must be skilled in using correct pressure in pressing on this tissue.
We understand that the overriding question in treating pelvic floor pain is how to ultimately help the pain in the external and internal pelvic tissue go away and, importantly, for it to stay away.
It is important to understand that in general, physical treatment of chronically tightened pelvic and related muscles, while essential in our protocol, is clearly necessary but not sufficient in the long-term resolution of pelvic floor pain. Relief of pain from pelvic floor physical therapy, and sometimes even the flare up of symptoms from pelvic floor physical therapy which is usually indicative of pressing too hard in the pelvis, usually last for a relatively brief period of time.
If, you don’t understand this, then you can get discouraged that the pelvic floor myofascial/trigger point release, sometimes called pelvic floor physical therapy isn’t working. If it affects the pelvis one way or another, it is significant and in our view prognostic. Chronic guarding in the pelvis floor produces pain in the pelvis. My point here is that this ongoing physical release of the pelvic muscles, using myofascial trigger point release, must be combined with stopping the habit of re-tightening these muscles, for any long-term solution.
Said in the simplest terms, the chronically painful muscles in and around the pelvis that are the hallmark of the condition of chronic pelvic pain and occur because the sufferer typically inadvertently and reflexively tightens their pelvis and related muscles all the time, keeping the pelvic floor sore and painful. The inadvertent tightening is fueled largely by the habit of tightening the pelvis under stress and by the sore, painful pelvic floor which tightens on a hair-trigger.
This tightening is ongoing… throughout the day. Pelvic pain is not something that is triggered at one moment in time and mysteriously continues because of this one event. Certainly pelvic floor pain may be set in motion at one moment in time, but it continues as a chronic condition because you are inadvertently fueling it throughout your day in the self-feeding cycle of chronic guarding/tightening, which is potentiated by the hyper-irritable pelvic tissue, which triggers pain, which triggers anxiety, emotional distress and the ruining of any quality of life, leading to more chronic and uncontrolled tightening, pain and anxiety.
Without the regular physical release in these muscles and without the regular and deliberate practice of placing them in in a stress-free environment which is the role of Extended Paradoxical Relaxation, pelvic pain remains chronic. We see relaxation acting like a cast to a broken bone. It provides a healing environment for the healing mechanisms of the body to restore the normality of the sore, chronically tightened pelvic tissue. Extended Paradoxical Relaxation and our training patients to do their own internal and external trigger point release with our FDA approved Wand, is how we help our patients break the pelvic pain cycle. Breaking the cycle of chronically tightening the pelvis, which fuels pain, which trigger anxiety which triggers more pain —breaking this cycle is the whole point of the Wise-Anderson Protocol.
Unfortunately, there is no subspecialty that focuses on both the physical and mental components required to heal a sore pelvic floor. Strangely unless you have suffered from pelvic pain, and have recovered from it, it is difficult to understand what it is and what is necessary to resolve it. Because pelvic pain is invisible and the conventional tests cannot detect it, and the person who never experienced pelvic pain has difficulty in understanding it, the practitioner has to project a concept of what is wrong with the pelvic pain patient to treat him or her. Unfortunately, the current concepts of pelvic pain are either vague or off the mark in my opinion. In my own journey, I had to include, but venture well beyond the existing subspecialties and their ideas for me to get better.
In 2018, we published a meta analysis in the Gold Journal of Urology defining pelvic floor related pain as a psychoneuromuscular disorder—psychoneuromuscular meaning being intimately involved in mind and body. There are few who treat pelvic floor pain as a psychoneuromuscular disorder with a robust program involving both mind, nervous system arousal reduction and the regular releasing the internal and external muscles related to pelvic floor guarding
Extended Paradoxical Relaxation stands on the shoulders of my work with Edmund Jacobson who developed Progressive Relaxation in the beginning of the 20th century, and is the method we have developed over the years aimed at reducing nervous system arousal in someone who is suffering from pelvic pain.
The practice of Extended Paradoxical Relaxation is the method we use to put the pelvic muscles in a regular environment protecting them from having to tighten in response to the stresses of life. Extended Paradoxical Relaxation isn’t an easy or quick method. It must be practiced daily.
This method trains attention to focus on sensation rather than on thought. In the service of calming down an aroused nervous system, it asks those who want to learn how to do it to paradoxically give up attachment to an outcome to achieve the outcome – which is profound relaxation – it is a paradox. It asks to accept tension as the way of relaxing it – another paradox. It asks practitioners to return attention from what distracts them over and over again. Clearly, our method borrows from the storehouse of what all wisdom and meditation traditions that move the body into the relaxation response borrow from.
Extended Paradoxical Relaxation is the practice of effortlessness, the practice of giving the body an opportunity to do nothing while being present in the moment. It is the practice of not thinking, focusing on sensation and away from the movies and words that are the regular narratives of the mind. The instructions we ask patients to follow guide them in resting attention in sensation from moment to moment in order for the body to rest. When attention rests in sensation from moment to moment, thinking reduces, and this practice makes it most likely for the nervous system to shift into the relaxation response. We see this inner quiet as the healing room for the sore pelvis.
It is not well understood that the practice of relaxation or meditation is a profoundly psychological event… for it is the practice of letting go of your own inner defenses. I want to propose what is obvious to me after many years of the practice of relaxation – chronic tension is the expression – usually unconsciously — of not feeling safe and the tension is a primitive way, and not helpful way, of protecting us from harm.
In the lore of yoga, there are energy centers in the body that must remain open to permit the passage of the life force (kundalini) through the body to maintain heath and emotional balance. The centers associated with pelvic pain in the yoga tradition are the first and second chakras. The first chakra has to do with the anorectal area. The second chakra is associated with reproduction and is related to the genitals involving sexuality, creative expression and emotions. Pelvic pain can been seen from a yoga perspective as the blockade of the bodily energy involving the feeling of safety which is the first chakra, and issues around sexuality, which is the 2nd chakra.
When we look at the experience of those with pelvic pain, the issue of existential safety – of feeling safe in life — regularly shows up. The great catastrophic thought of the pelvic pain patient is ‘will I have to live with this pain that I can’t imagine living with’. In my view, the inability to relax is typically related to unconscious concerns about existential safety and survival and the worry that ‘If I relax, I will be vulnerable and can be hurt so I have to keep guarded’. In an upcoming podcast, I will go more deeply into the psychology of the inability to relax and my view of its solution.
Learning to profoundly relax with all of the unconscious inner fears of childhood showing up during relaxation, and in the midst of a world full of scary news and uncertainty is life changing. I say this from my own experience and from my experience working with many patients.
No app or deep breathing reliably brings the nervous system into the relaxation response. There is no royal road to learning to quiet the body and mind. It must be done daily, along with the physical loosening of the body, to have a chance of soothing the nervous system, along with loosening the pelvic floor, to resolve chronic pain and dysfunction in the pelvis.

Understanding the Healing of Prostatitis, CPPS and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, Levator any Syndrome, and Related Pelvic Pain Conditions, Continued

In my long experience with pelvic pain, before it resolved for me, I had no idea how to stop my pain, it was there, I woke up with it every day, it didn’t go away, some things made it worse sometimes some things made it better or it just got a little better, but it never went away. For years I couldn’t see a way to resolve it. When it finally did resolve, the path of its resolution became clear to me.
We all understand that an intensive care unit in a hospital is a place in which patients who are dangerously ill are kept under constant observation to support their bodies to become well enough to remain alive and healthy without the need for such intensive support. Intensive care is needed to help someone recover their health. The true purpose of an intensive care unit is to support the body’s ability to become well. Let me say that again – the true purpose of an intensive care unit is to support the body’s innate natural ability to become well because the circumstances of someone’s life are jeopardizing and challenging the capacity of the body’s ability to do this.
An intensive care unit is aimed at supporting the body’s ability to heal so that it does not need extraordinary support to remain alive and healthy. Ultimately Intensive care leading to the recovery of someone’s health supports the natural, indigenous ability in the human body to be healthy and alive when it is compromised. We all intuitively understand that we don’t bring germs into an intensive care unit, we don’t play loud music, or we don’t do anything to stress the person who is there. We all understand that undue physical or psychological stress will impair the person’s ability to recover, will impair the body’s ability to restore health. We all understand that undue physical or psychological stress in an intensive care unit is forbidden for good reason. It’s touchy – the body’s ability to recover under certain circumstances, and in order for the body to heal, efforts that are intense and pointed are necessary to kickstart the healing mechanism of the body to be able to support the patients recovery to life and health.

None of us would be surprised in any way if there were a sign that said “quiet” outside an intensive care unit or even to require visitors to put gowns, masks, and gloves on, to not bring in any potential threat to the healing immune compromised person.

In another example, when an injured solder comes back from a war none of us are surprised at the long period of time it takes for the injured soldier to recover. None of us would be surprised that the soldier would be in the sanctuary of a hospital, that the soldier would not be expected to work or do normal duties of life that normally would not stress a healthy person, but would stress someone who is recovering from serious injury or compromise of their body.

When we get the flu most of us know that sleep, rest, liquids are essential to our recovery. We don’t go to work, often staying in the protected environment of bed and rest. What we are doing when we have a cold and take these measures in supporting our body is supporting our own natural healing mechanisms. It’s not the cold medicines that we buy at the pharmacy or the cold medicines that the doctor might give us that do the trick. It’s our body’s amazing ability to recover and heal. And that’s what we do when we protect ourselves in the way that we do when we have a bad flu for instance.

In the intensive care unit the case of an injured soldier who comes home from war or in the case of our battle with the bad flu, we may not recognize it explicitly but we honor and support and cooperate with the healing mechanism of the body to cure itself. In the age of modern medicine, we often forget this. We attribute all kinds of power to the drugs and healing devices that have been invented in modern times, but we forget that those are all just the servants of the healing mechanism of the body. This is what the important thing I’m saying here. Whatever we do in the intensive care unit or the hospital for an injured soldier, or for our own struggle with a bad flu, without the body being able to heal itself, none of our efforts would matter. We serve of the body’s ability to heal in the intensive care unit, the soldier’s hospital stay, or our attempts to heal ourselves of a bad flu.

Now pelvic pain doesn’t seem like a problem that requires healing in the same way as the examples that I’ve just discussed. I believe this is because pelvic pain is invisible, doctors can’t see it, friends can’t see it, doctors can’t find any abnormality either in the normal manual examination of a patient or in all the standard medical tests or standard visualizing tests used in contemporary medicine.
What is typically overlooked in understanding chronic pelvic pain is why the pelvic tissue is sore in the first place. What caused it? Why does it remain sore? It is accepted that chronic pelvic pain tissue is sore, it keeps being sore, and there isn’t much understanding about it.

If you pull a muscle or overdo exercise and your arm or hand or leg or back gets sore, you might baby it, not stress it, in other words, you would cooperate with the mechanism of the body that heals a sore arm, or neck, or back by mobilizing it, not stressing it, not using it so vigorously. You might not think that you are cooperating with the body’s capacity to heal sore, painful tissue, but in fact you are. A splint or brace or even a cast for a broken bone are all efforts to help the body’s natural healing mechanisms heal the problem. Most people don’t explicitly give a lot of credit to the body’s ability to heal but everyone goes to great lengths to support this ability of the body when they are injured or hurt even though they may not explicitly say “I am honoring the body’s ability to heal”.

It is peculiar that conventional thinking of chronic pelvic pain doesn’t recognize the need to support the body’s ability to heal itself. In the Wise Anderson Protocol, we train our patients to be servants of the body’s ability to heal the sore and irritated pelvic tissue. After all, when the sore and irritated pelvic tissue stops being sore and irritated, pelvic pain stops existing. Pelvic pain is essentially sore irritated pelvic tissue that hurts and that interferes with the normal functioning of urination and defecation and sexual activity and sitting and management of stress that otherwise it wouldn’t be affected by. What needs healing is the sore tissue that has occurred typically because chronic tension in the muscles of this tissue has made it sore and this process is invisible, it can’t be seen.
In our Protocol we support the healing of the body in pelvic pain by essentially training our patients in three methods: physical intervention; behavioral and mental intervention, which we call “extended paradoxical relaxation”. And, implicitly, we want to offer a new the viewpoint of what pelvic pain is, what needs to be done for it so that we help head off the normal catastrophizing and fear that people have about this very distressing disorder.
The problem with pelvic pain healing is that for a good part of a person’s day there are things that interfere with the healing up of this tissue, namely urination with some people, defecation with some people, sitting with many people, anxiety, which is a huge exacerbator of this problem. And sexual activity often exacerbates the condition. When somebody is anxious the tissue does not relax. The tissue remains tight and irritated. And the catastrophizing that occurs with many people like “they’re never going to get better, that no one understands, that the doctors can’t help, and woe is me, what am I going to do? What’s the matter with me”?
With some peoples continued activity like bodybuilding, bicycle riding, and other things that stress the pelvic floor are all things that normally don’t have any negative affect on the pelvis and in a pelvis that is not disordered like it is in pelvic floor dysfunction. But it can be a problem when you have pelvic floor tenderness and pain. So, the healing that is required for the sore pelvic floor is typically interrupted all day in the life of the person suffering from chronic pelvic pain. Imagine somebody in the ICU who is carefully monitored and supported in healing at 9:00 in the morning and at 9:00 in the morning has to deal with somebody coming in and saying “ok you have to go to work, get in a car, deal with all the stresses of life, and when you come back at 6:00 in the evening we can again support your healing in the ICU”. This would be a joke. The same would be true in our attempts to support the healing with a bad flu or a soldier recuperating from wounds, we wouldn’t think of doing this.
But in my view, this is what the pelvic pain patient is subject to. So, the two to four hours of self-treatment that we ask our patients to do, a huge requirement, which involves loosening the tightened tissue that needs to be loosened in order for it to heal and then reducing the inner turmoil triggered by an aroused nervous system continually stoked by catastrophizing, and the inherent arousal of the nervous system because of chronic pain, is a minimum time required for healing and this is why the healing takes so long. Because when you’re doing well, you’re moving ahead three steps and you’re moving back two steps in dealing with all of the stresses that continue to irritate the tissue during a normal day.

If you could put someone in an quiet environment protected from the stresses of normal life, supported them emotionally and physically, and this is a big if, I believe pelvic pain would heal up.
Because you can’t see what needs healing in the pelvic floor pain patient and because the pelvic pain patient can work and function, albeit, with a silent, very large cost to the patient, chronic pelvic pain remains chronic. In my view, supporting the healing of the body must be the ultimate focus of someone struggling with pelvic pain. And this is not a small matter. How do you calm a nervous system down and a tightened, painful pelvic floor in a person who has no experience in doing this.

Doing physical therapy to loosen the pelvic floor takes training and the right tool. Loosening the hypertonic pelvic floor has to be taught. You have to learn how to find the tissue, you have to insert a device inside the pelvic floor. It’s a challenge at first. you have to learn how to do it, but in our protocol, it is routinely done. You’re basically going into a sore area and releasing it. And you can’t do it too hard. And you can’t do it too softly. And practicing relaxation and getting very quiet is a life changing practice that requires training and support. It’s a commitment to peace. Many people are not ready to make that commitment. And then the nervous system has got to get used to being quiet, the nervous system used to be vigilant, will often rebel against being quiet, not anxious or fearful.

These are the real obstacles – the absence of an understanding and the creation of an environment – to heal the pain associated with diagnoses like prostatitis, CPPS, levator ani syndrome, and other chronic pelvic pain diagnoses. The healing of the sore and irritated pelvic floor — which is the common thread passing through all of these diagnoses —- requires making the body a regular healing environment. The healing of the painful pelvic floor involves loosening the pelvic floor tissue, releasing related trigger points inside and outside the body related to the pain and creating a healing chamber in which you regularly rest, a healing chamber that is quiet emotionally that peaceful, not guarded. It’s a major event in life to do this. This is why pelvic pain is a major event in life that in the most optimistic viewpoint provides us with the opportunity to be able to find peace inside to allow what is sore and irritate to heal.

You are the environment in which your pelvic pain heals or does not heal

In the original version of our book A Headache in the Pelvis, we described pelvic floor pain as a condition in which the tissue of the pelvic floor is caught in an inhospitable environment of chronic contraction, pain, and tension. We stated simply that our therapeutic approach – called the Stanford Protocol by some, and we call the Wise-Anderson Protocol – aims to turn this unhealthy environment into a hospitable one to permit the healing of sore, tightened tissue.

Many years after we originally wrote that first edition, and after treating several thousand additional patients, many new observations and insights have emerged, and we’ve found different ways to describe the onset and perpetuation of this invisible condition.

If you have pelvic pain, and your pelvic floor muscles are locked in a self-feeding cycle of tension, anxiety, pain, sore tissue, and protective guarding, then it’s an important but often-overlooked observation that you are the environment in which this condition exists. You are the environment in which this sore, painful tissue can or cannot heal. As a result, you needn’t be a passive participant to resolving your condition.

I experienced pelvic pain for over 20 years. Every day, I was in pain, distracted, and living with an underlying feeling of dread that I would never recover my life. Inwardly, I felt like a mess. Doctors had nothing to offer me. They told me that my conditions was related to my prostate gland – something I later discovered was untrue – but they also seemed uninterested in my pain, and more than happy to see me leave their office. Knowing what I do know now, I think my sense about the doctors was correct: they weren’t interested in my situation, they didn’t understand it, and they could do nothing to help. In fact, they offered the faulty diagnosis that somehow this was a prostate-related problem for which there was no solution. When you’re a doctor and someone comes to see you with a condition you don’t understand and can’t help, you naturally withdraw. I still clearly remember the first time I went to see a doctor about my pelvic pain. He talked to me, examined me, and very quickly said to his nurse, “Next patient.”

I went to these doctors as an anxious and frustrated patient. I had the idea that my condition was mysterious and arbitrary – that it had nothing to do with the state I was in. I didn’t understand that my inner state had everything to do with my chronic symptoms. But, no doctor I saw understood this either.

What does it mean that my inner state led to my chronic condition? Consider a more straightforward example: if you tightened your hand into a fist for a year, the tissue of your hand would be sore, irritated, and painful. That’s just common sense. Further, if you kept maintaining a fist, this sore tissue would remain irritated and painful – that pain isn’t going to heal. This continually tightened fist is the environment that the sore, painful hand and fingers exist in.

The same situation exists with pelvic floor pain: the patient’s tightened, anxious, nervous state is the environment that interferes with the healing of the tissue. Furthermore, normal activities of life exacerbate the pain and irritation of sore pelvic tissue. Sitting, walking, lifting, and balancing are all potentially irritating to the already sore pelvic floor. Additionally, a subset of people with pelvic pain have post bowel movement pain, post urination pain, post orgasm pain, and even sitting pain – activities that are part of regular life and normally cause no pain or difficulty. With pelvic floor pain and dysfunction, these activities contribute to the inhospitable environment that interferes with the pelvic floor.

And, of course, there is also anxiety, sleep disturbance, and the deep psychological distress that most people with pelvic pain endure. Anxiety and nervous arousal are a huge exacerbator of pelvic floor pain. Gevirtz and Hubbard demonstrated in a watershed study that relaxation quiets electrical activity in trigger points, while anxiety hugely heightens electrical activity.

All of this is what I mean when I say that you are the environment in which your pelvic floor tissue can heal or remain irritated. Our approach asks a very big sacrifice – that patients devote at least two hours every day to applying competent, self-administered physical release and practicing relaxation.

When I had pelvic pain, I went to the doctor and hoped that the doctor would just fix it. I wanted to simply say, “Here it is doc. It’s your problem, now.” A doctor who understood pelvic floor pain would have replied, “You will have to create an environment inside yourself, every day, to allow the sore and painful tissue to heal.”

It’s true that pelvic floor pain can go away on its own without treatment. There are people who practice no self-treatment and just get better. It’s also true that some patients get better in a variety of ways – from doing physical therapy to changing jobs and other apparent interventions. In my experience, however, those people are a small minority of pelvic pain patients. For the majority of patients, no one else can ultimately fix the problem. It’s like brushing your teeth – yes, someone else can show you how to brush and floss, but ultimately there is no one who can do this for you in your life except you.

We are the environment in which our pelvic pain exists, and in my view this environment in which we exist day-to-day is the central factor that facilitates the healing of pelvic pain. Skillfully loosening the relevant tissue inside and outside physically and providing regular and significant daily time in which the body becomes quiet and relaxed is necessary for most cases of pelvic pain to significantly improve and resolve.

How Plato Inadvertently Points to the Healing of Pelvic Pain

Plato reportedly said, “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.” What he meant is that for many people, underneath the surface is a struggle that isn’t visible. Inside each of us is a daily fight to deal with survival and the many obstacles in life, and the unseen interior efforts to overcome them.

My experience with pelvic pain – both professionally and personally – has made clear to me that the battle Plato refers to is more than just psychological, but also physical. It is intuitively obvious that stress can kill you or make you sick. We’re not surprised when an especially stressful event occurs and someone gets sick or even dies from it. There is an indisputable physiological component to stress: major blood vessels constrict, blood pressure elevates, the immune response is weakened or postponed, and adrenaline pumps into the bloodstream. This inward “fight, flight, or freeze” response to stress can take a huge toll on our health.

In my view, pelvic pain typically arises out of this inward battle. When a person is at peace and life is good, the muscles of the pelvic floor are relaxed and perform the functions of urination, defecation, and sexual response easily and comfortably. The pelvic floor feels good. However, when certain people deal with the challenges of life, and anxiety arises – which is just a fancy word for fear, and typically has little to do with actual survival – then the pelvic floor tightens.

Prolonged tightening in the pelvic floor leads to irritation of the pelvic tissue and then pain, setting the pelvic pain cycle in motion that makes pelvic pain chronic. One of the challenges for those suffering from pelvic pain is that there are no outward signs of this inner battle. Some physicians discount the pain that a patient describes because there are no outward symptoms that the physician can detect. The battle inside, however, is real.

So, the injunction to be kind to others because of the battles they deal with inside also speaks to the best treatment for pelvic pain. The Wise-Anderson Protocol is a method that operationalizes kindness to our own inner battle. Through careful instruction in pelvic floor and related physical therapy self-treatment, we teach our patients to gently physically loosen the painful inner and outer knots connected with pelvic floor pain. In order maintain this eased state long enough for the sore pelvic floor to have a chance to heal, we also teach our patients to quiet body and mind using Extended Paradoxical Relaxation.

Plato’s point is an excellent metaphor for thinking about how to heal pelvic floor pain. It’s important we recognize the inner battle fought by the pelvic pain patient, and apply a method to bring kindness and healing to it.


After consulting with my physician colleagues in our program about our experience with many patients who have undergone some surgery or invasive procedure for their pelvic floor related pain, it has been our conclusion that there is no convincing basis for a surgical approach to treating chronic pelvic pain syndromes. While there are obviously circumstances in which surgery is called for related to cancer or pelvic related repair, we have never seen a positive surgical outcome in the 25 years we have treated many patients for idiopathic pelvic floor pain in which no pathology is found. Although ours may not be a representative sample, in our experience the overwhelming majority of patients we have seen have expressed regret about their particular surgical intervention and often found it hurt them.

The pelvic pain symptom complex we treat has been blessed with several descriptive names including pelvic floor dysfunction, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, chronic prostatitis/CPPS, urologic chronic pelvic pain, syndrome, painful bladder syndrome, coccydynia, pudendal neuralgia, chronic proctalgia, levator ani syndrome, pelvic floor dysfunction, pelvic floor myalgia, anorectal pain, dyspareunia, to name a few. The aggravating sensory pain may be associated with several anatomical sites including genitalia (scrotum, penis, and urethra), perineum, anus, groin, suprapubic region, bladder, psoas muscle, and even into the upper thigh. Normal genitourinary and intestinal function may be disturbed at the same time, manifested by urinary frequency, urgency, incontinence, sitting pain, nocturnal voiding (often labeled overactive bladder), bladder pain with filling (often diagnosed as interstitial cystitis), incomplete voiding, erectile dysfunction, painful ejaculation and disturbances in ejaculatory function as well as sexual arousal and orgasm and, of course, irritable bowel syndrome and anorectal pain and dysfunction.

Our experience over a period of twenty five years and treating several thousand patients suggests that some of the unfortunately worst patient cases of recalcitrant chronic pelvic pain have occurred following what we regard as misguided attempts at a surgical cure.

Typical examples of what we believe to be inappropriate and misguided surgical treatments we have documented include:

       Total Prostatectomy

       Transurethral resection of prostate tissue

       Orchiectomy for testicular pain,

       Coccygectomy for tailbone pain,

       Varicocelectomy for penile/testicular pain

       Surgical excision of prostatic calculi

       Ileostomy for post bowel movement pain

       Vascular reconstructive surgery for men with erectile dysfunction

       Hysterectomy for female pelvic pain

       Urethral surgery for slow urinary stream or urinary symptoms related to       pelvic pain and no urodynamics documentation

       Pudendal nerve decompression surgery

Scrotal operations to remove epididymis or testis

In our experience, It should be noted that every one of these documented surgical attempts at treatment, failed to alleviate the pelvic pain and, often produced worsening and more complexity of the pain syndrome. Agreeing to failed surgery has typically occurred with anxious and desperate patients seeking relief at any cost while simultaneously not seeing being educated about the risks or reports in the research about poor outcomes.

The choice of surgery misunderstands the nature of chronic, muscle based pelvic pain. It sees the problem of chronic pelvic pain as a condition in which something has gone wrong in the pelvis that must be surgically treated. This viewpoint, in our view, is out of touch with the real nature of this disorder.

Over viewpoint, that comes from many years of treating thousands of patients, and first shaped by my own recovery from chronic pelvic pain after suffering with it for over 20 years bears no resemblance to the view point of those who have advocated surgery. In the viewpoint of those of us who use the Wise-Anderson Protocol, chronic pelvic floor pain occurs because the tissue in the pelvic floor is irritated and sore because the pelvic tissue has been tightened in a posture of chronic muscular guarding. This typically is related to years of anxiety and sometimes in response to an insult or injury to the pelvis.

With people who have pelvic pain, worry tends to show up physically in the muscles of the pelvis, which tighten whenever you get anxious, just like the muscles in the pelvis of a dog tightens to pull the tail between the legs when the dog is frightened. This tightening isn’t debilitating – we’re talking about a slight but noticeable guarding and tension. However, for those who are chronically worried or anxious, over time little knots occur in pelvic muscles that are habitually tightened. We call these knots trigger points and they are sensitive to emotional distress. In a watershed study with hundreds of subjects on the relationship between emotional distress and trigger-point activity, Richard Gevirtz and David Hubbard found that when emotional distress is heightened, trigger-point electrical activity is profoundly heightened as well. This is likely why many pelvic pain patients experience a worsening of symptoms with increased stress.

Other than pelvic floor pain that occurs as the result of an injury or insult to the pelvic floor, pelvic floor related pain is strongly associated with worry-related pelvic tightening over a long period forming trigger points and an inhospitable environment in the pelvic tissue. This worry-triggered tightening produces tissue that becomes uncomfortable, sore and hyper-irritable.


It is overwhelmingly the case that people with pelvic floor pain have sore, irritated, trigger point laden pelvic floor tissue easily detectible by an experienced and skillful practitioner of trigger point release. We have seen many patients who were unaware of their pelvic floor trigger points and areas of restriction until they came to see us and were examined by our doctor and physical therapist. In our book, A Headache in the Pelvis, we have illustrated the different anatomical locations of trigger points in relationship to someone’s symptoms. In 2009, we published an article in the Journal of Urology documenting painful pelvic floor trigger points in relationship to someone’s symptomatic complaints (J Urol. 2009 Dec;182(6):2753-8. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2009.08.033)

What is not well understood – but becomes obvious when you look at people with pelvic pain – is how irritated, sore and hyper-reactive pelvic tissue reflexively tightens up against its own pain. This is one of the strange phenomena in pelvic floor dysfunction: the pain inside the pelvis triggers a guarding or protective reaction in the pelvis that then makes the pain worse. This leads to a cycle of pain in the pelvis, where pain triggers reflexive tightening, anxiety, pain which increases anxiety which leads to further trigger-point activity and pain. We call this the “pelvic pain cycle,” and we’ve written about it extensively in our book A Headache in the Pelvis, recently revised and published by Penguin/Random House/Harmony books in a definitive edition. Once established, the sore tissue triggers reflex protective guarding, producing pain and dysfunction, leading to more guarding against the pain, triggering anxiety that profoundly irritates the trigger-pointed pelvic tissue which then leads to more tightening. Once pelvic floor pain occurs, it takes on a life of its own and is generally not responsive to conventional treatment. Surgery for pelvic floor dysfunction in our view, may be among the worst things to do to an already painful, sore and tightened pelvic tissue.

It is the healing of the sore, irritated pelvic tissue that is the answer to pelvic floor pain

It is the support of the natural healing of this sore, irritated tissue that is the answer to pelvic floor dysfunction. Facilitating the healing of this tissue, in our protocol, is the point of treatment. In order for the tissue to heal, the chronically tightened pelvis must be physically loosened and the trigger points and myofascial restriction must be released on an ongoing basis. In the Wise-Anderson Protocol, we loosen the tissue by teaching patients to do their own internal and external trigger point release. This method is described in other writings, podcasts, and in our book, A Headache in the Pelvis. In conjunction with regularly loosening the sore pelvic tissue, an environment that allows the sore tissue to heal must be regularly provided, free from the reflex and default tightening of the sore pelvis in people with painful pelvic tissue. This is why we ask our patients to practice the method of Extended Paradoxical Relaxation, that allows the tissue remain undisturbed by the many stresses and strains of ordinary life that keep the sore pelvic tissue from healing. In our view, surgery has no place in the healing process of hypertonic muscle based pelvic floor pain.

Healing Pelvic Pain (in men called Prostatitis/CPPS) is Simply Repetitively Returning to Your Natural State

It’s easy to medicalize pelvic pain; to view it as a purely physical disease or disorder instead of a stress response tied to chronically tighten up the pelvic floor. In seeing it simply as a physical pathology and a medical problem, you miss out in understanding what pelvic pain in fact is and what it needs to heal. As we wrote in our Gold Urology Journal publication recently, pelvic floor pain, sometimes called prostatitis/CPPS in men, is psycho-neuromuscular state. To say that pelvic pain is psycho-neuromuscular means that it affects muscles, nerves and mind which interact with each other. It is not simply some physical event like a broken bone or a cold. Mind and body do meet in the pelvic floor.

Most important, only treating pelvic floor related physically typically doesn’t resolve it. While physically loosening of a chronically tightened pelvic floor can bring some short term reduction in pain, and is central in its effective treatment, the experience of the vast majority of sufferers we have seen who have been diagnosed with prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain syndrome, is that there is typically no enduring resolution of symptoms by only treating it physically. In only treating it physically, there is no opportunity given to the sore, tightened, irritated pelvic tissue, to have a chance to heal. Anxiety strongly interacts with the pelvic floor related pain, tightens it up, activates the electrical activity of related trigger points and perpetuates its sore irritation-related pain. The sore irritated tissue of the pelvis intimately aggravates a person’s thinking and emotional state as part of a self-feeding cycle of pain, chronic tension, anxiety and sore, irritated pelvic tissue. The sufferer of pelvic floor related pain knows all too well that this condition somehow takes on a life of its own.

Repetitively returning to one’s natural state makes the resolution of pelvic pain possible

When we were in our happy natural state as children, we didn’t have pelvic pain. Absence of pelvic pain reflects a certain kind of ease in the body and mind, one where the pelvic floor muscles are not chronically tightened, irritated and sore, and are not being targeted by, and does not bear the brunt of the stresses of life.

Over the years I have come to see with myself when I was symptomatic and with patients I have seen that returning the pelvic tissue to a quiet, undisturbed state is what is necessary to stop the chronicity of pelvic floor pain. Our natural state is one in which there is an ability to relax, to experience peace and pleasure. It is a state in which the pelvis is not irritated and on a hair trigger to protectively guard, flaring up pain and contraction prompted by many triggers including the heightened the survival alarms of the nervous system in a person living with a chronically painful pelvis.

The question is, how do you return yourself to the own natural state of the body when you have pelvic pain? We have designed our protocol, we aim to help patients return themselves to the state they were in before their pelvis started hurting. We are of the necessity to give control over the restoration of this state to the patient. Healing pelvic pain is an inside job. Ultimately no one can do it for you.

Self-treatment is something we have written about extensively. Physically, we train our patients to regularly loosen up the knotted-up tissue that has become their default state in response to the stresses of life. We do this by teaching our patients physical therapy self-treatment, both externally trigger point release with our Trigger Point Genie and the Theracane and internally by training patients to use our FDA approved Internal Trigger Point Wand to restore the internal pelvic floor tissue to a state of ease and relaxation.

The external and internal physical therapy must be done repetitively to have a chance to release the automatic, default contraction of muscles in and around the pelvis. Typically the stresses of life have been intimately connected to tightening the body for a long time. In most of our patients, the body habitually has been overly tightened for a very strong lock-down. This lock down ultimately hurts the pelvic muscles. If we made a fist day and night for months or years, our fisted hand would soon hurt. We have to repetitively release this lock-down of pelvic floor fist. This is the physical intervention we train our patients to do.

Extended Paradoxical Relaxation is the relaxation method we have published studies on. It is aimed to free the irritated pelvic tissue from its protective guarding for regular, extended periods of time. It is a practice of shifting focus away from thinking, bringing ourselves into a state of effortlessness. It is a practice of stopping the chronic guarding and squeezing that tends to be ongoing in the pelvis pain patient. Learning how to do this at first is not easy when one is anxious and in pain. It requires practice. It is doable with enough practice and intention. This state of not exerting any effort, of not activating any tension in yourself, of resting attention outside of the mental narrative that usually consumes our attention, is the essence of the method.

Babies know how to be in the natural state of ease without any training at all. When you observe a sleeping baby or a happy baby just hanging out, you can see that the baby is not worried about anything. They have (unbeknownst to the baby) outsourced their survival to their parents and the baby’s body is working well and happily and all systems are at ease. The baby doesn’t protectively guard itself. Happy babies trust that they will be protected and taken care of. The pelvis is relaxed. That state is what we want to enter regularly in the journey of healing pelvic pain.

In summary, what I understand about healing pelvic pain is that nothing has to be added to the body, nothing has to be taken away, no drugs need to be given for it to heal. In the restoration of the natural state of the pelvis, we want to repetitively return our body and mind to its natural, undisturbed state on a regular basis by loosening it and controlling our attention in a way that allows the tissue in our body to quiet down and heal. This is our aim at the Wise-Anderson Protocol. This is something you have to practice and get good at.

The sore pelvic tissue present in pelvic pain yearns to be loosened and released and then needs to rest in this state over and over again. This provides the very best chance of providing an environment in which the sore and tender pelvic tissue can heal.

Healing prostatitis, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, pelvic floor dysfunction and the vital medicine of regular, profound relaxation

The concept of intense and relaxation practice as a necessary therapy for the resolution of what is diagnosed as prostatitis, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, pelvic floor dysfunction among other diagnoses, may well produce a head scratch to the casual observer. What does relaxation have to do with pelvic pain?   In this essay, I want to discuss why the practice of profound relaxation is essential to the healing of pelvic-floor pain.


There are, certainly, some people whose pelvic pain gets better spontaneously without doing anything. And then there are those who plug away at many, many different treatments but their pelvic pain remains. In general, however someone whose pelvic pain has become chronic and is not able to calm down in deep relaxation regularly, I think the likelihood of really recovering from pelvic-floor muscle-related pain is small. I realize this is quite a strong statement. I say it because of how I see pelvic pain from the inside after my own person al experience with pelvic pain of 22 years, my continued state of being pain free and my ongoing relaxation practice.


Why is regular quieting of the body necessary for the healing of pelvic floor related pain and dysfunction? After all, people without pelvic pain don’t need to do any kind of relaxation in order to remain pain-free – but, people without pelvic pain also don’t have sore pelvic-floor tissue that needs to heal. When you have sore, tightened pelvic muscles that are continually re-irritated by the normal functions of life (including urination, defecation, sexual activity, daily stresses, and even sitting), irritated pelvic tissue is unlikely to heal without the ongoing environment provided by the regular practice of relaxation. As I’ve discussed in other podcasts and as we discuss in our book A Headache in the Pelvis, sore pelvic tissue needs a regular sanctuary – a healing chamber, free from the activities and stresses of life that keep it from healing. In our protocol, regular relaxation, done for two-to-four hours each day in an environment that gives the natural mechanisms of the body a chance to let sore pelvic tissue heal, is necessary for the possibility of any real healing to occur.


So, how do you put the sore pelvis into a healing chamber? How do you put up a sign that says to the brain, and to the world, “Do Not Disturb” when you are suffering from prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome, pelvic floor dysfunction and related conditions? Being able to become deeply quiet and serene in the midst of a crazy world and a demanding life isn’t simple, but it is doable to the person who says, ‘however high I have to jump, I will’.


There are several steps in learning how to profoundly relax. The first is understanding that relaxation is a skill which takes ongoing practice. Like learning to play the violin or to fly an airplane, or any skill of value, you have to put the time in. There are relaxation apps, and relaxation lessons to buy, but I don’t personally think much of them. In my experience, quick fixes, simple breathing methods, and other gimmicks always wind up on the shelf. We all know that there’s no quick way to become skilled at playing the violin. In exactly the same way, there’s no quick method to being able to quiet the body and mind – especially when someone is anxious and experiencing chronic pelvic pain.


It took me years to learn. I was a student of Edmund Jacobsen, the father of relaxation therapy in the United States. He developed a method called progressive relaxation and began practicing it in the early 20th century, writing a book in 1929, later edited in 1939, called Progressive Relaxation. He was one of the first physicians to treat what we would now call “stress-related disorders” like headache, idiopathic dyspepsia, stomach and digestive problems like esophageal spasm and IBS, hypertension, back pain, and constipation. It took me many years, both at the feet of the master and then on my own after his passing, to really “get” what relaxation is and what is necessary to regularly enter its state.


We all can recall “feeling relaxed.” When we talk about being relaxed, in a way even the word trivializes the experience. In my view, being relaxed is a holy, profound state. It is a state in which life has meaning, and we enjoy things, and we have the experience of just being – being able to delight in the present, in the things that have meaning to us, in our love for others, in the food we eat… in the many things that bring us joy. In the state of real relaxation, the sense of separation between people and the world dissolves.


Relaxation isn’t about breathing exercises. It’s not about visualizing a sun-drenched desert island or some ideal home. Relaxation is about the experience of effortlessness. The idea that breathing exercises are a method of relaxation, in my view, is a misunderstanding by people who don’t know how to do it themselves. When you’ve been relaxed, I doubt you got there through breathing exercises. The sleeping child who is deeply relaxed didn’t need to do anything. Rather, relaxation is the voluntary shifting of the nervous system from sympathetic dominance to parasympathetic dominance. And what does that mean, exactly? Well, physiologically speaking, relaxation is a state in which one of the parts of the autonomic nervous system, called the parasympathetic division, is dominant – as opposed to the sympathetic division. The parasympathetic division has been called the rest-digest-recuperate aspect of the nervous system, while the sympathetic division is involved in activity, nervousness, focus, and anxiety and is often called the fight-flight aspect.


I’m going to do my best to explain how the divisions of the autonomic nervous system work and relate it to the condition that is typically diagnosed as prostatitis/CPPS or pelvic floor dysfunction. You can think of the human body as a computer that comes hard-wired from the factory with two automatic computer programs that are generally not under the owner’s control. These programs refer to the activity of either the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the nervous system. Neither is under much conscious control unless you make effort to learn to control them – which is what we do in the relaxation protocol that is a central part of our program. Generally, these two aspects of the autonomic nervous system work automatically reciprocally: when one is on, the other is off.


The activation of the sympathetic system can be thought of as what happens to a car when you press on the gas pedal, and the activation of the parasympathetic system is what happens when you take your foot off if the gas pedal. When one system is operating, the other isn’t. The balanced system is meant to preserve survival – it allows us to respond to danger, to flee, fight or freeze, or to rest, digest and rejuvenate when danger has passed. As a survival mechanism, the body postpones recuperative tasks when there’s an emergency. The parasympathetic system has to wait until it feels safe from danger before it can fully activate`. This is important.


We’re often unaware of the autonomic nervous system because it functions involuntarily and automatically. For instance, we generally don’t notice changes in the size of blood vessels or the rate of our heart, because those are automatically regulated by the nervous system. The parasympathetic division of the nervous system is the part that allows recuperation, but it has to be patient… it waits for the right time to do its work. If there’s an emergency, the parasympathetic system waits to rest, digest, or recuperate, for its immune function to fight off infection, or to do the other tasks it performs. However, you can’t postpone parasympathetic functions indefinitely. You can only ignore your body for so long without paying a price.


Back to cars… you can run your car at 100 miles per hour all day, but if you keep doing it you’ll be in for a trip to the mechanic. Arousal of the sympathetic nervous system postpones parasympathetic response, and you can’t postpone it forever without something breaking down. Chronic pelvic pain, in my view, is one consequence of ongoing parasympathetic postponement, where the normal relaxation required to heal sore, irritated pelvic-floor muscles doesn’t occur. The pelvic-pain cycle is a sequence of tension leading to anxiety, leading to a sore pelvic floor, leading to a protective guarding that causes more tension and anxiety and pain. This cycle is basically what happens when the sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive and doesn’t get a chance to turn off.


When a person is healthy, these two systems are reciprocal, shifting back and forth depending on the body’s activity at the time. We can tell which system is dominant through certain physiological signs. For instance, sympathetic dominance in its extreme, involves sweaty palms, narrow pupils, muscle tension, dry mouth, and increased blood pressure or heart rate. The parasympathetic response is very different. In a book called The Relaxation Response, Dr. Herbert Benson discusses the “relaxed state,” which is essentially parasympathetic dominance. This is the state in which we sigh deeply and say, “Ah, I feel so good.” Nobody feels relaxed and not good – the experience of parasympathetic dominance is relaxation and pleasure.


Sympathetic arousal is certainly not always a negative thing. Sympathetic dominance is about alertness, activity, focus, and getting things done. When someone is “on the case” about something, being attentive and productive, the sympathetic nervous system is on.. Conversely, the parasympathetic nervous system supports rest, rejuvenation, and rehabilitation. It’s the state of ease and unguardedness, of being unconcerned about survival, of not being vigilant but instead feeling safe and open. We know that we’re in a parasympathetic mode before going to sleep, when we feel tired and are just looking forward to nodding off. When people can’t drift off and instead just lie awake, it’s because their sympathetic nervous system is still activated and they are not able to shift into parasympathetic mode to relax.


So, I repeat, what does any of this have to do with pelvic pain? As we discuss in A Headache in the Pelvis and in previous podcasts and articles, pelvic pain results from sore pelvic tissue put in an inhospitable environment of contraction and anxiety, when sympathetic dominance of the nervous system doesn’t support healing of this tissue for the soreness to go away. An unfortunate dilemma with pelvic pain is that pain makes you anxious and anxiety puts you in heightened “survival mode” where sympathetic dominance is the rule.


This creates an environment unsupportive of healing because the survival state focuses on in-the-moment-action and not long-term health. Sympathetic dominance tells the body to put aside all functions not immediately related to survival. When your house is on fire, you don’t start doing the laundry or washing dishes – the maintenance functions that keep things happy and nice in your house are put aside as you run for your life. The same thing happens in the body when the sympathetic nervous system is perpetually activated – the body never gets the opportunity to do the maintenance functions necessary for pelvic-floor tissue to rest and heal.


And that is why relaxation is so important for healing pelvic pain. Relaxation addresses the inhospitable environment that sore pelvic tissue finds itself in. By creating a hospitable, healing environment, relaxation reduces the anxiety that is such a central component of pelvic pain.


In another podcast, I’ll discuss the principles of taking control of the body and mind to move from sympathetic to parasympathetic dominance.

Who gets prostatitis/CPPS and why

Men who suffer from pelvic floor pain, whether it’s called prostatitis or pelvic floor dysfunction, tend to be intelligent, successful, ambitious, conscientious, and accomplished type-A personalities. And these men share the common characteristic of worrying. Pelvic floor dysfunction related to pelvic pain often occurs in men who work too much, care too much, want too much, desire to be appreciated, and strongly aim for success—and underlying all of that, who worry too much and have too little faith that things will turn out well.


Indeed, what we see in our practice is that men with pelvic pain tend to be intelligent, ambitious, thorough, and accomplished. Now, what do these characteristics have to do with pelvic floor pain? Underlying all these positive attributes is a worry about life—a sense of not trusting that the outcome of life will be favorable. It is my hypothesis in understanding this phenomenon, that this underlying unease leads these men to the stress response of tightening their pelvic floor. Really, they often tighten their whole body, but the focus shows up in the pelvic floor.


This highlights the larger picture of pelvic pain—like other parts of the body that bear the brunt of the stresses of life, the pelvic floor is a physical place people react to when they worry. The vernacular expression that someone is “anal” in what they do reflects an attitude of needing to get everything right and not make a mistake. This perfectionistic attitude is a way of guarding against something bad happening if you’re not very careful and not doing things correctly. There is an upside to wanting to do things right and caring about the outcome of what you do. These tendencies move men to be successful in their careers. At our clinic we often say that if we started a new business we’d want to hire many of our patients, because these men are typically very responsible, conscientious, thoughtful, creative, and intelligent.


However, there can be a downside to these tendencies, because often under this conscientiousness, care, and perfectionism is fear. Indeed, muscle-based pelvic pain is, in a certain sense, part of the physical expression of fear that leads to symptoms in a certain group of people. It’s a physiological response to the worry that somehow something bad will happen.


Pelvic Pain is a Squeezing in the Core of the Body


People who don’t care about outcomes, who don’t care about being conscientious, generally don’t suffer from pelvic pain. There isn’t that pressure to “do things right” and an underlying mistrust about the future and one’s safety. The physical consequence of this habitual worry is an ongoing squeezing in the core of the body, and this habitual squeezing is a big contributor to pelvic pain.


We use colloquial language to describe this chronic inner squeezing, such as gut-wrenching or a gut-response or being punched in the gut. These terms reflect a physical reaction that occurs in the sensitive inner core of the body. The “gut,” which colloquially refers to the colon, and in real life involves the pelvic floor muscles, is a Geiger counter for what’s going on in our lives. In our book A Headache in the Pelvis, we share an anecdote about doctors in the 1950’s examining army recruits with sigmoidoscopy to observe the behavior of the colon in relation to stress. When a doctor said, deliberately within earshot of the patient whose colon they were examining, “Look at that cancer,” the distressed patient’s colon would immediately go into spasm. And when the doctor said, “We were just doing an experiment to see the response of your gut to this kind of news,” the gut spasm reversed. Our gut is instantly responsive to things that frighten or stress us. Many people who have pelvic floor pain also suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, which used to be called a “spastic colon.” The gut and pelvic floor are not in separate rooms, and typically respond together to fear or stress.


In addition to all these tendencies, a person with pelvic pain tends to feel things deeply, even if outwardly this sensitivity is not obvious. There’s a Stephen Sondheim song that says “Children may not obey but children will listen,” meaning that though you might not see the effect of what you’re saying on your children (or really on any individual), they nonetheless hear it. In the same way you may not see the effect of the stresses the pelvis is exposed to until it becomes painful. The “listening” of the pelvis happens deep inside—the physical inner core of a pelvic-pain patient deeply hears and responds to the stresses of life.


I know this subject well because I myself suffered with pelvic pain for a long time, until recovered after I spending several years undertaking a rudimentary version of the protocol we teach our patients. In my view, the answer to being someone with pelvic pain who inwardly is sensitive, caring, and easily responsive to the slings and arrows of life is to regularly practice a method for relaxing the inner core and releasing it from ongoing, irritated contraction.


The solution we offer to the sensitive person suffering from chronic pelvic pain is both physical and mental and aims to release the sensitive inner core of the pelvic pain patient from its worried, irritated constriction. We teach our patients to regularly physically release the trigger points, muscle constriction and guarding inside the pelvic floor. Equally important we teach our patients to mentally/behaviorally, to practice a method called Extended Paradoxical Relaxation, whose aim is to regularly bring sore pelvic tissue into a healing inner environment in which the nervous system has shifted to the relaxed parasympathetic activation. In patients we treat whose pelvic pain significantly reduces or resolves entirely, the ongoing practice of Extended Paradoxical Relaxation cannot be avoided in order to allow the pelvis to remain relaxed and pain-free in the midst of often-stressful lives. While I don’t have pelvic pain anymore, I practice Extended Paradoxical Relaxation daily and love doing it. If I did not manage my type A personality and tendency toward anxiety by doing this, I think I very well might become symptomatic again.


The resolution of pelvic floor pain and dysfunction is both physical and mental and has to do with changing one’s way of dealing with a body and mind that is sensitive in which anxiety is easily turned into physical symptoms. In my view, only through daily practice of methods that releases the automatic, frightened physical guarding and tightening, can the pelvis have a real chance to heal and remain pain-free.

Why Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (Often Confused As Prostatitis) Takes Time to Develop and Takes Time To Heal

I’d like to talk about the length of time it can take for pelvic-floor pain and symptoms to significantly improve or resolve when they do using the Wise-Anderson Protocol. Typically when an injury or illness happens – when people get a cold, cut themselves, break a bone, or have some kind of illness – over time, they get better. They take their medicine or they rest properly and the condition gets better and goes away.

Then there are peculiar conditions where instead of going away over time the symptoms just hang on and on. The symptoms don’t kill you. They generally don’t even disable you, although occasionally they can. But, they continue on and on and people don’t know why and suffer more and more silently. Pelvic-floor pain, often called chronic pelvic pain, is such a condition – where pain and dysfunction goes on and on. I personally suffered with pelvic-floor pain for over 20 years before I recovered. For most pelvic-pain patients, the condition is a mystery that cumulatively causes distress and confusion. Why is there pain? And why don’t the symptoms simply go away like other maladies once they’ve run their course?

In other writings and podcasts, I’ve discussed that chronic pelvic-floor pain is an invisible condition: it can’t be detected by conventional medical testing, and it can’t be seen by the eye or heard by the ear. It’s beyond the ability of a doctor’s senses to perceive the problem. As a result, sometimes a particularly insensitive doctor will dismiss the complaints of pelvic-pain sufferers because no symptom can be objectively documented by current medical testing. Sometimes the doctor sends these patients to a psychiatrist, a particularly useless thing to do.

When you’re the one with chronic pelvic pain, this problem is difficult to understand as well. Sufferers of pelvic-floor pain are often very intelligent and systematic. Many of the patients who have come to our clinic had tried to make sense of their symptoms by diligently documenting their pain – keeping journals and pain diaries noting what they eat or drink, what happens in their lives, their sleep patterns. However, these attempts to figure out pelvic pain for the most part result with no answers and the sufferer is left in frustration and bafflement.

Furthermore, when pelvic pain goes away spontaneously – as it sometimes does for a lucky few patients – the reason is usually just as mysterious as its arrival in the first place. The length of time it takes to go away is often mysterious as well. Sometimes, the symptoms simply peter out and one forgets about them.

As someone who experienced pelvic pain for many years, I’d like to share with you my own perspective about why the Anderson-Wise Protocol it often takes a good year or longer to show significant and reliable results in reducing or resolving pelvic pain. The typical course of a patients who successfully use our protocol begins with windows of relief… an few hours, an afternoon a day, several days or longer where there is a substantial reduction or an absence of symptoms. Then flare ups tend to occur mingled with longer and better windows of relief. When symptoms resolve with our protocol, the patient tends to forget about the condition over time as they learn what to do to help the sore pelvis heal.

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time observing the issue of the length of time it takes. As I’ve discussed recently and will share with you here, even though sometimes it feels like pelvic-floor pain occurs overnight, in my view this is very rare unless some kind of trauma or injury to the pelvis sets it off. Rather, chronic pelvic-floor pain occurs because the tissue in the pelvic floor has become irritated and sore over time. The pelvic floor becomes painful because the tissue has been abnormally tightened for a long period of time – typically tightened as physical part of an ongoing response of anxiety and fear as I discuss now.

Anxiety is not only a mental phenomenon – it’s a mental and physical event. Anxiety is a survival response to a perceived threat, and the body itself tightens up protectively as part of worry, fear, and apprehension. This tightening typically goes unrecognized but it is clear when the anxious person pays attention to his/her state of tension. The anxious person is usually aware that they have had always had a difficult time relaxing. With people who have pelvic pain, worry shows up physically in the muscles of the pelvis. This tightening isn’t debilitating – I’m talking about a slight but noticeable guarding and tension when you pay attention to it. My relaxation teacher, Edmund Jacobson referred to this tension as ‘residual tension’, tension that remains after you have attempted to consciously relax.

However, for those who are chronically worried or anxious, that is to say for those whose normal mental state is regularly fearful and worried, over time knots occur in pelvic muscles (and often elsewhere) that are habitually tightened in their typically anxious state. We call these knots trigger points, (we discuss trigger points extensively in our book, A Headache in the Pelvis) and it turns out that trigger points are mysteriously connected to nervous system arousal….they’re very sensitive to emotional distress. In a remarkable set of studies with hundreds of subjects examining the relationship between emotional distress and trigger-point activity, Drs. Richard Gewirtz and David Hubbard found that when emotional distress is heightened, trigger-point electrical activity is profoundly heightened as well. This is a central reason as their pelvic floor related trigger points increase in activity and the referral of pain .

I’m suggesting, then, that pelvic-floor pain not related to an injury or physical insult, is a consequence of worry-related pelvic muscle tightening over a long period forming trigger points and an inhospitable environment in the pelvic tissue. This is a central tenet of our book, A Headache in the Pelvis.

Now, somethings that’s not well understood – but becomes obvious when you examine people with pelvic pain – is how irritated and sore pelvic tissue reflexively tightens up against its own pain. This is one of the strange phenomena in pelvic-floor dysfunction: the pain inside the pelvis triggers a heightened guarding or protective reaction in the pelvis that then makes the pain worse. This leads to a cycle of pain in the pelvis, where pain triggers reflexive tightening which increases anxiety which leads to further trigger-point activity and pain. We call this the “pelvic pain cycle,” and we’ve written about it extensively in our book A Headache in the Pelvis.

The Wise-Anderson Protocol is a methodology whose goal is the help our patients free themselves from the cycle of chronically irritated, tightened pelvic-floor muscles – allowing the sore pelvic muscles to heal as they normally would in other places in the body. We’ve developed specific physical self-treatment methods to help our patients loosen the chronically sore and tightened pelvic tissue, including the use of our FDA approved Internal Trigger-Point Wand and our new Trigger-Point Genie, to release these trigger points and areas of sore and restricted muscle. These devices and the techniques we teach our patients that are required for their effective use, in our protocol are central to restoring sore tissue to a healthy state and to stopping the pain.

As we have repeatedly emphasized, physical intervention while essential to our protocol’s ability to help the patient heal, when used alone is limited and inadequate for the resolution of the condition of chronic pelvic floor pain. The reason is that no matter how skillful physical intervention is, it offers the tightened pelvic tissue a temporary respite from its tightened, painful condition because once the pelvic pain patient re-enters the stresses of life, the temporarily loosened pelvic muscles the pelvic pain cycle is triggered without placing it regularly in an internally quiet place.

So, in my view, the missing piece in the conventional understanding and remedy of the problem of pelvic floor muscle pain is that the sore pelvic tissue is not allowed to routinely relax and heal in conjunction with its physical loosening we teach our patients to do. In my broken bone analogy from other blogs and podcasts, I’ve noted that if you have a broken leg, you can’t walk on it once it’s been put in a cast and expect the bone to heal. Obviously, walking on a broken leg would sabotage the healing of the bone.

The principle of putting a broken limb in a cast to support its healing applies to the healing of painful pelvis
You give the broken limb the rest it needs so that the bone can heal without stressing and reinjuring it. The same principle applies to a sore, irritated pelvic floor. The healing of both a broken bone and of a sore pelvis takes time. The process of healing sore pelvic tissue involves both competently and regularly physically loosening the sore muscles of the pelvic basin, and regularly putting them in a stress-free environment that allows the tissue to remain loose and heal. This simply means regularly removing the sore tissue from the stresses that cause it to tighten up, from everything that bothers it. While this cannot be done 24 hours a day in normal life that requires many activities that aggravate a sore pelvis, in the Wise-Anderson Protocol it means resting the pelvis in an internal and external quiet place for a significant period of time every day. When someone is sick in the hospital, it’s not uncommon to see a sign up outside the room that says “Do Not Disturb.” Why? Because the patient needs time and rest without aggravating his condition so that the body’s healing mechanism can work.

In a certain sense, with the Wise-Anderson Protocol we teach our patients to regularly put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign in their life. This is what is done in the quiet environment required by the method we’ve developed over many years called Extended Paradoxical Relaxation . In order to practice this technique properly, you have to set aside considerable time every day, remove yourself from the normal responsibilities and physical and psychological stresses of life, and practice the vital skill of becoming quiet inside. In practicing Extended Paradoxical Relaxation , you learn to quiet mental activity. This kind of inner quiet, in which you have set time up not to be disturbed by things outside or by your own internal thoughts and emotions, allows a relaxed pelvic floor to heal. This is not a simple endeavor. I deeply understand this and lived it in my own recovery.

Entering into profound relaxation in modern life isn’t common or easy. I’ve said elsewhere that if you could take the pelvis and send it to Tahiti where it could relax in a little hut, undisturbed by the stresses of life for a month or two, then it would heal right up. In the reality of daily human life, what we ask our patients to do is find the time to allow ourselves to heal – to take time off every day so that that broken leg so the sore pelvis can heal.

All of this takes time. It takes patience, and sometimes the sacrifice of valuable time that would be put to other ends. In that sense, healing the pelvic floor is truly two steps forward and one step back. But, the goal is to come out in front of the stresses that promote the chronicity of the condition, to where the healing actually does get ahead of the stresses that interfere with its resolution.

While this is not hard and fast, and patients differ, we suggest a time from of about a year in doing our protocol diligently to allow the healing of the pelvis to significantly and reliably reduce symptoms or resolve. For those who are successful in our program, sometimes it takes longer and sometimes it takes less time, but it’s the creation of a practice of taking time that allows the tissue in the pelvic floor to heal up. This includes regularly physical loosening the tissue, and then hanging up that “Do not disturb” sign internally and externally. The Wise-Anderson Protocol requires time, patience, and tolerance of inconvenience and discomfort about how much time this takes out of a normal, active daily life. In my own experience, once I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, once I experienced my symptoms reducing from my own efforts, I stopped being concerned about how long the process of healing was going to take.

The practice of the methods we train our patients in occurs amidst the stresses of their lives and the necessity of continuing to function in all of the aspects of life. It is possible to continue to work and function while regularly providing the pelvis with a healing environment. The time this takes to do this is best acknowledged and honored. Healing of pelvic pain takes time. And, as I experienced, when the pelvic floor does begin to heal, the time it takes typically no longer feels onerous because the joy of the easing of pain through your own efforts, and knowing that you’re going in the right direction tends to remove the concern about the inconvenience, difficulty and time taken in one’s own healing.