With all the discoveries of modern medicine, there remains a certain arrogance in the idea that medicine is the source of health and longevity. Yes, we live longer, and illnesses and conditions that killed our ancestors are cured by the remedies of modern treatments. But we also often forget that the healing of the human body requires the services of the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
The body’s ability to heal itself is essential for the efficacy of any man-made remedy. We cut ourselves and observe over a week or two that the torn tissue heals. How amazing would it be if a car with a crushed fender could spontaneously fix itself when left alone for a few weeks? But this is what the human body does, and we tend to take it for granted when admiring all the modern methods to support that healing system.
Modern medicine depends on the body’s innate ability to heal
The focus in modern medicine on miracle drugs and new technologies leaves out a fundamental reality: without the body’s ability to heal itself, no medicine heals anything. In our work with pelvic pain, I see that the only use for any medical intervention is to honor, cooperate with, and enable the healing mechanisms of the body to work on what is injured or troubled. What we often consider remedies for illnesses and disorders are really only support mechanisms for the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
Any successful treatment of pelvic pain must cooperate with the body’s intrinsic ability to heal the sore tissue of the pelvic floor
This insight is crucial in the resolution of pelvic pain. Many patients with pelvic pain hanker for a miracle drug or procedure to relieve their suffering. Most have been deeply disappointed in finding such a remedy.
When I myself suffered from pelvic pain, I forgot a very important thing: no medicines or procedures or technologies are necessary for people who don’t have pelvic pain to remain out of pain. People who have no pelvic pain have a body in which the pelvis is not sore or painful, and the body continues to maintain the pelvis in an easy and pain-free state without interventions of any sort. This kind of body is what we need when we have pelvic pain, and it is attainable.
Our bodies want to heal themselves of pain and disease
The pelvis does not want to hurt. The question is how to help the body in its biological intention to be without pain. It has become clear to me over the years how anything that helps pelvic pain must cooperate with the natural healing mechanisms in our own body.
This raises two important questions. First, can pelvic pain heal even when it has gone on for a long time? The answer is yes. I recovered after 22 years, and I am one of many whose pelvic pain resolved. And second, how can we help the body’s innate healing mechanism restore health and stop the pelvic pain? In order to answer this question, you have to understand what gets in the way of the body healing the sore pelvis.
It is possible for pelvic pain to heal and go away. This is often forgotten by the patient because the most distressing aspect of chronic pelvic pain is its chronicity – how it seems to stubbornly hang around no matter what a patient or doctor does. For most of those years I suffered from chronic pelvic pain, I doubted anything would help. I didn’t understand why the pain and symptoms wouldn’t go away like other aches and pains. Like many pelvic pain patients, I worried that I was a goner, that somehow my pelvis was beyond reach of getting better. Only after many years did it become clear to me what was necessary for me to heal.
There is an approach that cooperates with the healing mechanism of the body
When I recovered from pelvic pain, a key component of my path to health was regularly loosening my sore, irritated pelvic muscles. I created an environment where loosening and easing of my sore pelvis was not disturbed by the stresses that normal life can impose. I achieved this through a method of becoming both physically and mentally quiet, as we teach patients in our six-day immersion clinics on what is now known as the Wise-Anderson Protocol.
So, why doesn’t pelvic pain spontaneously heal?
Sore pelvic tissue is typically caused by chronic, anxiety-related tightening of the pelvis. The irritated tissue triggers a reflex in the pelvic floor to tighten up against the pain already there. This reflexive tightening imprisons the pelvic tissue in a chronic constriction, preventing it from healing – much like a broken leg that is continually walked on. Chronically irritated and tightened pelvic muscle tissue can throw a wrench into the normal functions of life, like urination, defecation, sexual activity, or even just sitting. But then, catastrophic thinking that the pain will never go away leads to worry and stress, which contributes to tightening the tissue to keep it in an ongoing sore and irritated state. As the diagram below illustrates, anxiety first leads to chronic tightening of the pelvic floor.
There is an effective treatment
We teach our patients to do pelvic floor physical therapy three or four times per week, with the goal of temporarily freeing the sore tissue from reflexive guarding. As pioneers in using pelvic floor physical therapy for the treatment of pelvic pain, we have treated thousands of patients. We developed the only FDA-approved internal trigger-point wand, and established clear instruction for patients to do their own internal trigger point release.
While essential, simply loosening painful pelvic tissue isn’t enough for it to heal. Pelvic floor physical therapy can help temporarily loosen the reflexive guarding that occurs in a sore pelvis, but the stresses of life tend to return the pelvis to its tightened state. It is simply incorrect to think that you can physically loosen the irritated, tightened pelvic floor without resolving the stress-related habit of chronic guarding that contributed to the problem in the first place.
One of our key insights is that loosening the pelvic floor with physical therapy helps in the long term only when this loosening is accompanied by sufficient time and inner quiet to allow the loosened pelvic tissue to heal.
In a way, the Wise-Anderson Protocol is like putting a broken bone in a cast and then allowing it to heal properly by removing it from activity that worsens the injury. Learning to profoundly relax to enable the healing of sore pelvic tissue takes time and practice, but the mind and the body are intertwined in pelvic floor dysfunction – treating the physical, mental, and behavioral dimensions of pelvic pain together is essential to any real possibility of resolution.
There is no quick fix for pelvic pain but there is a slow fix. Healing is a slow dance of physically loosening chronically contracted sore pelvic tissue and bringing it into the healing chamber of a quiet, relaxed body. Day after day. As the saying goes, God cures and the doctor collects the fee. Only when we give our body the support it needs can the real healing of pelvic pain begin.