One of the things Alexis and are passionate about is nurturing our bodies through the power of nature. Tapping into the cycle of the seasons and utilising this energy to strengthen and nourish us. And helping others to do the same.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, we have channels of energy through our body. These energy channels, called Meridian channels, support our body, mind, spirit and emotions. There are 12 main channels altogether. Grouped in pairs and one set of four meridians. Each set is associated with characteristics, including a season, an element, an emotion, that we may feel if that energy becomes stuck, and a primary function.
In Autumn, the season we are right in the middle of now, the Lung and Large Intestine meridians channels, in the metal element are at their strongest. The emotion, if our energy gets stuck here, is grief. But the counterpoint to that, or the power and primary function of the energy of the metal element, is letting go of. Releasing, so that we can rejuvenate and refresh.
If we think about the function of our Large Intestines and Lungs, this starts to make sense. Our Large Intestines help us eliminate waste from our body after we’ve absorbed all the nutrition from our food. Our Lungs release the old, used air, making room for the new air they inhale.
And we can tap into this energy of Metal and Autumn, of the Lung and Large Intestine meridian channels, to help us do the same thing in our lives.
“Spring” Cleaning & Decluttering in Autumn!
Usually, we think cleaning, decluttering and re-organising our homes as a “Spring” Clean, but doing it in autumn can actually support us. Making this process of releasing the old and creating room for the new, easier.
We can sort and organise our wardrobe, study or office desk and computer files, kitchen cupboards and generally de-clutter. Go through our computer and delete files we don’t need anymore. Go through our wardrobe and put together a collection of clothes we don’t wear anymore. Instead, we can make a donation to feel great about!
We can use this energy not just in a physical environmental sense. We can utilise it to boost our ability to let go of what we no need, like aches or tension in our body, and stressors in our mind. Helping us to clear old habits, old ideas, any physical or psychological clutter, that no longer serve us. As such, autumn is a good time to reflect on what we may be holding onto and work these ideas through fully so that they can be completely released.
Uncovering the Real You
In her book, “The Gift”, psychiatrist, Dr Edith Eger explains that “in trying to keep ourselves modest, we risk making ourselves less than we really are”. She says that the foundation for being our whole self, for being truly healthy and joy-filled, is our ability to love ourselves.
But what really spoke to me, in her book, was the concept that once we begin healing, “what you discover will not be the new you, but the real you.” The You who was there all along. Born innately beautiful and full of love and joy.
Edit goes on to say that if we want to take charge of our thinking, we first need to look at our actions, what we’re doing, and what we’re saying to ourselves, and ask: “is it empowering or depleting me?” “Is it kind and loving?”
Recently, One challenge I’ve been falling into is the trap of negative thoughts and the roller coaster of emotions that they bring. When I’ve woken up early in the morning, I get annoyed that I’m awake, which leads to other annoyed thoughts and I get sucked into the cycle of negative thoughts, that turn into a tidal wave! It’s hard to break and left me getting up in the morning, “on the wrong side of the bed”, angry and frustrated with the world and focused on what wasn’t working for me. Not a great way to start the day!
The other day I took myself through a process that Edith talks about. One that I haven’t done for ages. I took time to journal my thoughts. Just jotting them down each hour through the day. With no judgement or analysis.
Just bringing them up to my conscious awareness level.
That night, I woke up at 3 am, as I often do.
But this time, I was finally able to remember, at 3 in the morning, that I had a choice about what to focus on and where my thoughts went. I was finally able to choose to find things to be grateful for! A husband who loves me, a family who cares about me and supports me, and a business I love working in.
But I wasn’t able to start there. I had to start with really simple things, like: 2 eyes I can see well with, 2 nostrils I can breathe through (that’s actually quite a big one since I’ve had sinus & respiratory troubles all my life), teeth I can chew with, tongue I can taste yummy food with, 2 legs that carry me and 2 arms I use all day, for writing and sharing my thoughts & insights & for helping clients deal with their issues and improve their lives, to the best of my ability.
Another tool I’ve used numerous times, to start to change negative thoughts I’ve had, these are some phrases I like to add:
“That used to be me”
“Up until now ….”
We can use phrases like these to take back our own power, gently. We can even utilise them to empower affirmations. Making them feel more real and possible. Expanding out thinking and self-belief also themes empowered throughout the season of Autumn and enabling us to bring in qualities and characteristics we desire for ourselves, as we become our best versions of ourselves.
Until we can change our language, as Edith predicts will happen, and we can genuinely, authentically and strongly state:
“Yes I am!”
“Yes I can!”
“Yes I will!”
Nurture and Nourish Our Body, to Strengthen Our Immunity
One of the best and simplest ways to strengthen our lungs is deep breathing. Especially outdoors, in the brisk autumn air. This nurtures and nourishes our immune system, supports our energy, and promotes good sleep.
When we breathe deeply and deliberately, we flush our cells with the oxygen needed for all our bodily processes. Promoting the process of releasing and rejuvenating.
So next time we take our morning or evening walk outdoors, take and moment to take a few long, slow, deep breaths. Letting the cool air seep into the lungs, strengthening them.
As you breathe the air out, know that this process, of air flowing in and out of our body, is helping us to release. To let go of anything that is no longer supporting us. Be it social, emotional, mental or physical.
Through our nose, mouth and skin pores, our lungs interact directly with the outside environment, giving them an important role in fighting off external pathogens, like viruses and bacteria.
As the temperature drops and winds become dry you may notice cold or flu-like symptoms such as a stiff neck, body aches, chills, fever, sore throat, headache, cough and runny nose. Existing skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis may get aggravated, and asthma or allergy reactions may flare. Now is the time to strengthen our Chi, energy, to prepare for winter.
Healthy foods that can be easily added to many dishes, to further nourish our bodies and our family, include: bay leaves, garlic, horseradish, leek, ginger, capers. They can support our lungs and boost our immune systems, naturally.
For further support and strengthen our immune system and our whole bodies, with a “tune-up”, we can visit our preferred professional practitioner. An osteopath, acupuncturist, naturopath or transformational massage therapist (see website link), can really help us make a difference.
Wishing You Happiness and Strength This Autumn!
If you knew that you could, which aches and pains in your body, would you let go of?
If you were courageous enough, what thoughts, ideas or habits would you release?
Please comment in our Facebook Community Group, we’d love to hear from you!
Like success, and anything else worthwhile, Healing takes time. Many people think of our bodies’ ability to heal, for example back pain or knee pain, or an injury like a pulled hamstring muscle, as a one-off event. Others imagine that this recovery happens in a similar time frame to the healing of a broken bone, about 6 weeks. Healing issues and injuries like these, usually involve soft tissues, like muscles and tendons, which will begin healing in that time, but rarely complete healing and recovery that quickly.In this blog, I will be discussing how healing happens and why healing takes time.
Many of our clients initially arrive at our clinic, in a great deal of pain and discomfort. As you can imagine, our first focus is to improve comfort and mobility. Then we focus on supporting and strengthening the body. This allows the changes to consolidate and build on each other. Enabling this new posture or way of being to hold for longer and longer periods of time. Ultimately this leads to improved health, strength, resilience, energy, and vitality. Unfortunately, this doesn’t all happen in one visit, it takes time. Often it will take a number of visits, as well as time for their body to assimilate these changes.
During our body’s healing and recovery, from an issue or injury, there are three clinical stages: Inflammation, Proliferative and Remodeling.
Inflammation is the first stage, and often our first sign that something is wrong and our body needs help. Actually, it is part of the healing process itself, our body’s early response to the injured tissues. The swelling and redness of inflammation happen because of the influx of supplies and reinforcements, particularly red and white blood cells, that the body brings specifically to the affected area. This launches the beginning of the process of healing and repairing the tissues. This can last up to 4 days.
The Proliferation stage begins about 3 days into the process, overlapping with the end of the Inflammation stage. In this stage, the tissues, for example, the muscles or tendons, are being rebuilt. As this happens, the tissues can contract, feeling tight, restricted and often painful.
Remodelling is the last stage and can last 6 months to a year, after injury. This is the stage of re-educating our body, helping it to regain its original strength and conditioning. It involves our body adapting to these re-educational changes and finally assimilating them. When done well, it can even enhance and improve the state of our body, from where we initially began, because of what we learn and change in that process of re-education. For instance, in the process, we can learn better habits of lifting, of exercising, of movement, and of posture. When we do, we can find that after we have “recovered” from our injury, our body is actually stronger, more proficient, more resilient, and we have even more energy than we had before the issue or injury.
Are healing bumps normal?
Healing rarely happens smoothly or in a nice straight line. Healing is not linear. Healing is a process. One that naturally goes up and down. The old saying of “two steps forwards and one step backward” can sometimes be how it feels. Sometimes things can feel worse before they start to feel better. Sometimes it can feel like you’re going backwards, when in reality, it is just your body working with and assimilating the changes that it is being led and encouraged and hopefully supported in, in taking. Unfortunately, this can be a common response during healing and even to treatment. So yes, there can be bumps in healing. It’s normal for the process to be a bumpy one.If this is how your body is responding, it can feel tight, uncomfortable, or even painful. We’re sorry to hear you’re suffering.If this does sound like what is happening for you, heat will usually be your friend. Whether in the form of a warm shower, an Epsom Salt bath, foot bath, or heat pack, to soothe and relax your muscles.If you have any questions or concerns about this, please call your practitioner and they can help you understand what might be happening specifically in your body, what your particular journey to healing and recovery might look like, and what can best help you.
Healing is like a spiral
I have often heard clients and practitioner friends, describing that to them, healing looks like or feels like “a series of hills or mountains to climb”. Especially when they get frustrated that it’s not progressing in the straight line that they expected. My favourite image or shape to describe the healing process is a spiral. Looping around, coming back to a similar place, for instance when we feel the pain, discomfort, or tightness again. But in fact, the process has actually moved forward. It has improved and gone to the next level, loosening muscles or releasing tension in places. But the body has gone as far as it can at this moment and hit the next point of resistance. That is the pain, discomfort, or tightness that we feel. With some more help, from you or your therapist, you can also move through this, to your next level of healing and recovery, and reach an even higher level of strength, resilience, and energy.
Healing is the new high
Through this up and down journey of healing and recovery, we have often found clients get so focused on how they feel in the moment, they forget the more intense, more constant pain, discomfort, or tightness they suffered at the beginning. This is a normal and natural part of the healing and recovery process. But it does remind me, as a practitioner, to help my clients to reflect back on just how far they have come and to celebrate their wins at each step, no matter how small they sometimes seem. Feeling more positive about the healing process can empower, enhance and even increase the speed of healing because we are then supporting rather than resisting it. This can make the journey of healing feel like a fabulous high.
Wishing You Happy Healing and Recovery!
What would you do if you could clear your pain enough and improve your movement enough?
Where are you at in your journey to healing and recovery? How have you found your journey so far?
Please comment in our Facebook Community Group, we’d love to hear from you!
5 Reasons the Infra-Red Sauna can change your health!
Are infra-red saunas any good for you?
From the moment Alexis and I first experienced the sauna, with a remedial massage following it, we were both hooked! We found that the therapist could get in more deeply, because our muscles were already warm & relaxed, and therefore we got better results from the full treatment. Our personal experience, was our original reason for having an Infra-Red Sauna in our own clinic.
Do they actually do anything healthful themselves?
Infra-Red saunas can aid in healing specific ailments as well as improving your overall health and wellbeing. From helping you relax, to warming, softening and relieving your tight muscles and stiff joints, to improving circulation, boosting your immune system, and even assisting in weight loss.
Relaxation and mood boosting:
By triggering your body’s parasympathetic nervous system, your “Fight / flight response”, in a less stressful way, the heat from the sauna can help relieve physical and emotional tension in your muscles, warming and relaxing your whole body.
Infra-Red sauna can help lower your cortisol levels, a hormone connected with stress and stress-related health problems. As well as aid in increasing your endorphin (happiness hormone) and opiod levels (your body’s natural pain reliever). So your muscular pain and tension is reduced, you feel less stressed, more relaxed, happy and contented.
They may even improve your brain function and performance. Increasing neurotransmitters, in particular, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and norepinephrine, can enable your brain to function better, to grow new brain cells, and to more effectively protect these brand new neutrons (brain cells) from damage. Thus helping improve your cognitive performance.
Improved Circulation: The heat created in an Info-Red sauna can increase your blood flow, bringing your blood vessels closer to the surface of your skin and enabling them to expand, to cope with the increased flow. This can assist the cells in your body to release waste and receive nutrition more easily. Further, according to Dr Chrisiane Northrup, MD., if done regularly, over time, this expansion process can help your blood vessels become more elastic. Which can improve your circulation and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Dr Cohen agrees and further suggests that this improvement in circulation, can lead to better healing ability; especially your skin and superficial muscles, as well as relieving your muscle tension, improving muscular condition, losing weight, detoxification, clearer skin and greater immune health and generally feeling great.
Relief from sore muscles:
Muscle soreness, especially in the period 24 – 72 hours after exercise, is caused by tiny tears in the muscle fibres. Your recovery, is the process your body goes through, in healing these tears. As described above, the increased blood flow, helps rapidly clear the waste, in this instance, the debris and inflammation from the torn muscle cells, and deliver nutrients to foster healing.
Weight loss: According to Dr. Masakazu Imamura, MD study, published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology in 2001, you can burn up to 400-600 calories in one 30 minute sauna session. That’s quite impressive, when you realise that investing that same 30 minutes in jogging or swimming, typically burns around 300 calories.
When it comes to weight loss, saunas can be very effective, as part of a health focused program. For best results that last, and are healthy and holistic, not just fast, we agree with Dr. Mukai, MD statement, that as part of a program “where you’re working on both diet and exercise, the sauna can be a beneficial component [of] a holistic plan.”
Studies suggest that all of us have chemical toxins and heavy metals residing in our bodies’ fatty tissues, particularly in our liver and blood plasma. These toxins can contribute to various diseases, such as autoimmune diseases, autism and arthritis. Dr Christiane Northrup, MD, explains that whilst usually our sweat comprises of 95-97%water and the rest is salt, when using an Infra-Red sauna to induce it, as much as 15-20% of our sweat, is “made up of cholesterol, fat-soluble toxins, heavy metals, sulphuric acid, and ammonia, as well as sodium and uric acid”. This, would, indicate she suggests, that using an Infra-Red sauna, to sweat, may enable your body to excrete these toxins. Dr Cohen agrees, and reminds us, that if you actively want to clear the toxic chemicals out of your body, it’s important to mop up the sweat from your skin with a towel, or else the toxins will just be reabsorbed into the skin.
This detoxification together with the improved circulation, mentioned earlier, can assist directly, to clear out waste and toxins as well as rapidly bringing in nutrients, leaving you with cleaner, clearer and revitalised skin.
Immune system: When it comes to the Immune System, both Dr Christiane Northrup and Dr Gini Mansberg agree that the perception of the role of heat, in the body’s fight against infection, has changed. It’s not just about creating fever, as part of the immune system’s battle against the infection. They believe, that heat does more than that. It actually “stimulates and “activates the immune system”, possibly stimulating increased production of white blood cells and antibodies. Further, they suggest that heat from Infra-Red saunas, may do this as well.
So if you’re looking to significantly improve your overall health and wellbeing, boost your immune system or enhance your weight loss program, in a relaxing, enjoyable way, you might like to consider one, or even a series of visits to a local gym, spa or health and wellness provider, for your own relaxing, healthful Infra-Red sauna experience.
Have you used an infra-red sauna? What benefits have you noticed? Tell us in a comment below!
I Sleep, but I’m always TIRED… Maybe its my Thyroid
Depending on which source
you look at, Thyroid conditions affect women somewhere between 4 and 10 times
more than men. The Thyroid Foundation of Canada states that about 5% of the
world population is affected and the Australian Thyroid Foundation adds that 1
million Australians currently have an undiagnosed Thyroid issue (that’s 1 in 25
people!). As rates of thyroid conditions (especially hypothyroidism) tend to increase
as we age and we have an aging population, we may expect to see numbers
increase further. The Thyroid Foundation of Canada goes on to state that Thyroid
disorders are very treatable. Given that a large percentage of the affected
population is unaware of their situation, this would lead to a substantial number
of people, unnecessarily feeling fatigue, irritability, discomfort and with an inability
to be fully productive.
The Thyroid gland is an
important part of the endocrine system. Its job is to control many bodily
functions via secreting hormones – T3 (triiodothyronine)
and T4 (thyroxine). They
regulate the body’s temperature, metabolism and heart rate and in doing so affect
many areas. The Pituitary (and Hypothalamus) glands monitor and control the
amount of T3 & T4 that the Thyroid releases. Thyroid conditions create either a state of Hyperthyroidism or
Hypothyroidism, that is, too much or too little thyroid hormone production,
Thyroid disorders may
be caused by iodine deficiency; autoimmune diseases (namely Hashimoto’s
Thyroiditis and Graves’ Disease); viral and bacterial induced inflammation (thyroiditis);
congenital; malignant (cancerous) and benign tumours/nodules on the thyroid
gland, disfunction of the pituitary or Hypothalamus glands; or as a result of some
treatments (surgical removal of the thyroid gland [or part there of] & toxic
changes from radioactive iodine therapy).
tend to vary as there are many factors involved, further, as symptoms tend to
start slowly and gradually progress, it may take a while for sufferers to
realise that they are not just tired or stresses etc.
weak slow heart beat
muscular weakness and constant fatigue
sensitivity to cold
thick puffy skin and/or dry skin
pale and cold (maybe clammy) skin
voice may be croaky and hoarse
slowed mental processes and poor memory
weight gain/difficulty losing weight
goitre (increased size of the thyroid)
rapid, forceful heartbeat
muscular weakness (due to muscle loss)
weight loss (due to muscle and fat loss) in spite of
restlessness/irritability, nervousness/anxiety and
Generally is treated
by medicating with T4 thyroid hormones (and sometime T3 also). This is a life-long
treatment and requires frequent blood test monitoring.
Hashimoto’s is an
autoimmune condition creating a low level of Thyroid hormones and is the most
common cause of Hypothyroidism. As with all autoimmune diseases, the immune
system is over-active and is associated with inflammation. A diet and lifestyle
that reduces inflammation and supports the immune system to balance, may be of
benefit in combination with medication and monitoring. It is also worth noting
that generally only T4 hormone medication is given, but some people respond
better with a combination of T3 & T4 hormone medications. Further, some
people find that animal derived Thyroid hormones are more effective for them
than the synthetic medications. So be aware that there are a few options out
there and if your symptoms are not responding as expected, some experimentation
with the support and guidance of your GP is possible.
Lifestyle changes that
may assist in the management of hypothyroidism include:
Reducing gluten intake
Checking MTHFR gene function and your body’s
ability to absorb and use Folic acid/folate/folinic acid effectively – and supporting
Supporting Adrenal overload and the body’s
herbs (such as Siberian Ginseng, Rhodiola and Ashwaganda)
Supporting Kidney and Liver functions and the
body’s detoxification processes
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet
dairy, red meat, processed sugar, packaged foods
omega 3, green leafy vegetables
Supporting optimal Thyroid function
(electrolytes) – using water, sea salt and honey
Graves’ Disease (a
genetic autoimmune disease) is the most common cause of Hyperthyroidism.
Nodules on the Thyroid (cancerous or benign) and Thyroiditis caused by viral or
bacterial infection can also be causes.
Treatment is based
around reducing the levels of thyroid hormone in the body. This can be done via
Thyroid blocking drugs
Destroying thyroid cells with radioactive
Surgically removing the thyroid gland (partial
treatment is required, a healthy lifestyle may generally support optimal
response to treatment, your general health and your resilience.
It is also important
to note that the treatment of Hyperthyroidism may result in a subsequent hypothyroid
state, meaning that Thyroid hormone medication may be required.
Pelvic pain and dysfunction part 3: 7 tips to nip that pain in the butt
In part 1 and part 2, we discussed the symptoms and causes of chronic pain and the basics of an effective treatment and management plan. Let’s discuss what you can do NOW to help improve your situation.
While effective treatment and management requires a multi-faceted approach, there are a number of lifestyle modifications that can be easily implemented to start reducing triggers, allowing the nerves more mobility and reducing the nervous system tension in order to directly impact the negative cycle and start increasing comfort now.
Tip # 1:
Minimise activities that
tend to trigger and aggravate pudendal and perineal nerve irritation such as:
riding a bicycle (especially for long periods)
jumping (for example, on a trampoline)
lifting weights (anything over 5 kg is too much)
anything that causes intense pain (if 0 is no
pain and 10 is the worst pain imaginable, do not go over a pain scale of 7/10).
Tip # 2:
For any activity where
you know pain comes on after a certain period of time (for example sitting for
more than 5 minutes):
Ensure that you set an alarm and only sit for 4
minutes at any one time.
When the alarm goes off – get up!
go to the toilet
or get a drink or stretch before continuing to sit
sitting again, ensure the alarm is set for another 4 minutes.
Tip # 3:
Ensure you have good
posture in any activities you perform for a prolonged time (more than a few
minutes). Get ergonomic advice if required.
ensure that your knees sit at the same level or
slightly lower than your hip joints.
allow your pelvis to rotate forward slightly, keeping
a slight extension in your lower back – this happens naturally when your knees
are lower than your hips, helping to keep the natural spinal curves.
ensures your back is “straight” with your head sitting directly over your
also helps your shoulders to sit in a good position, not rounded forward or
held up high towards your ears.
Make sure that you don’t lean on your elbows or
put too much pressure on your wrists (or you will get elbow or wrist strain injuries)
(it also pushes your shoulders up and tends to make you lean to one side).
ensure that your feet are flat on the floor
(use a floor stool if required for comfort)
ensure the seat is cushioned a little
(especially if you have pudendal nerve pain) – you can use a doughnut ring if
pain is more severe.
Tip # 4:
Lie with your legs up
the wall for 5-10 minutes in the evenings
lie on your back, on the floor with your
shoulders relaxed and rotated backwards
get your bottom as close to the wall as
possible. Adding a cushion underneath your bottom to raise the angle of your pelvis.
place your legs up the wall and relax (you could
use a meditation or relaxation app at the same time)
only stay for 5 minutes initially, but if it
gets painful, stop. Aim to get to 10 minutes per night.
allows pain relief in the pelvic area – for
vaginal issues, haemorrhoids, pudendal nerve pain, period pain and also assists
with reducing pressure associated with incontinence issues
increases blood return to heart, therefore
helps with venous return in general and varicose veins/haemorrhoids etc
allows the spine to relax and lengthen after a
day of compression forces from standing and sitting.
Tip # 5:
Avoid straining on the
To avoid constipation, it’s important to keep
hydrated, eat healthy fruit and vegetable fibre, exercise regularly and use a natural
laxative if necessary (avoid stimulant laxatives).
Don’t sit for extended periods as this
stretches the ligaments and increases the pressure in the wrong spots
increasing likelihood of pain around the buttock (inferior cluneal nerve) or
haemorrhoids. If it’s not coming, stop and go for a little walk and come back
when you feel more ready.
Aim to sit correctly on the toilet (not squat
over it) as this tends to constrict rather than relax the area, increasing
downward pressure and reducing ease of toileting.
Tip # 6:
Perform a relaxation
and strengthening program for the pelvic floor muscles daily.
massaging the perineum to help relax the pelvic floor muscles, relax the
nervous system and improve circulation in the area
bathroom or a private area, use a small amount of unscented, natural oil
(coconut, olive or jojoba are best)
area right in the middle – between your anus and your vagina in women or base
of the penis in men
fingers with the oil and gently rub that central area in a clockwise motion for
gently rub in a counter clockwise motion for another 20 rotations.
Use a simplified Kegel-reverse
Kegel pelvic floor exercise to help your pelvic floor re-learn to strengthen
its contraction as well as relax when contraction is not needed (many issues
are due to an over-tense pelvic floor).
stand with good posture, feeling your head being pulled up in the centre, your
shoulders relaxed and back a little, your chest “out”, your natural back curves
present and not accentuated and equal pressure either through both sit bones or
through the front and back of both feet.
breathe in, allow your pelvic floor to relax – feeling that centre point
(located in the previous exercise) drop, and breath in for a count of 4-5.
breathe out, allow your pelvic floor to gently contract and pull together –
feeling that centre point gently squeeze together and up towards your pelvic
organs and breathe out holding that squeeze for a count of 6-7.
Tip # 7:
activities. Some people find that sex is painful or that afterwards, symptoms
seem to worsen.
Always use a gentle lubricant (that works for
you – jojoba oil is great)
Using a relaxation technique may be of benefit
Play around with positions to find what is most
comfortable for you.
If you would like to chat about your situation, drop
us an email, call, or book an appointment with Alexis.
In part 1, we shared some of the causes and symptoms of pelvic dysfunction. In part 2, we discuss chronic pain (as compared to an acute condition) and why chronic pain can be so complicated to deal with effectively. It’s important to understand what’s going on in your body first, so that you can work out the steps you need to take in order to help heal yourself. It also helps you feel more confident in your approach and in the fact that improvement CAN happen, as well as give you motivation to keep going (healing has good and bad days and times when it feels like nothing is changing, then suddenly, but only after consistent action, things improve and you suddenly realise, the pain you “always” had is no longer there).
Pelvic dysfunction is a complicated subject, because:
There are so
many variations of pelvic dysfunctions and symptoms.
multiple possible causes and a large number of associated factors and triggers.
taboo subject so most people don’t want to talk about it.
don’t generally ask their GP or health practitioner for help for the above
reason and don’t realise that there is anything that can be done to help.
don’t talk to their physical/manual therapists (such as their Osteopath,
Chiropractor or Physiotherapist) as they don’t expect that lifestyle factors
and muscle imbalances can be an easily treated part of the solution.
Because of these above
issues, it often becomes a chronic pain condition. But what exactly is a chronic
The definition of chronic
pain is any pain that extends beyond the expected healing time for an injury.
Generally, it’s accepted that most tissues have healed by 12 weeks. So, any
pain that has continued for longer than 3 months is chronic pain. Conversely,
acute pain is any pain condition that has resulted from a direct injury and is
still within its expected tissue healing time (thus any pain less than 3 months
The brain is a pain
modulating unit. That means that any pain stimulus, via nerves, alerts the
brain to a potential issue and the brain then uses all the information it can
gather before deciding if there is a problem or a potential problem and how
dangerous it is. The intensity of the pain we feel is based on the brain’s
interpretation of the level of injury or danger at hand. The information the
brain uses to decide is vast and includes things like past experience, imminent
danger in our surroundings (such as a car coming straight for you) and our fear
Because of this, the
brain is able to turn up or down the volume of pain you feel based on its need
to keep you safe. Generally, the more threat there is to further harm, the
louder the pain signals one feels. Yet, because the brain’s job is to keep us
safe, it can turn down the level of pain to allow necessary action, hence the
“apparent paradox” in stories you may have heard when for example a person has
badly broken their leg, yet managed to walk many kilometres to get to help or
run from an explosion etc.
However, when pain
continues for extended periods, the wiring in the brain for that location
begins to change. Just as a dirt path used over and over again gets deeper, so
does the neural pathway. This means that the brain becomes hyper aware of that
area of the body and is over sensitive to any nerve input that comes from that
location, alerting us to potential injury, via pain, even if there is no risk.
Can you remember a
time when you got a cut on your finger and it became inflamed? That area may
have begun to feel painful even at the slightest touch such as the gentle
swiping of fabric across it? In fact, even the adjacent finger sometimes feels
painful, for no apparent reason. This is an example of sensitisation.
This is further
intensified by our interpretation of the situation, such as how bad the injury
is, our belief that any movement that causes pain is in fact worsening the
injury and slowing or preventing healing, the level to which our injury has
been affecting our daily life and functioning, and our fear that this situation
will never end and might only get worse.
As you can see, the
brain collects information from many places and can be influenced by many
factors including our individual interpretation of what is happening to us.
Thus, we feel increased pain when
our general levels of stress are high
we avoid all activities that hurt (including
ones that help heal) because we believe they are damaging us
we fear having pain in general – because
that there is something wrong and we are making it worse
understand the biology of our situation
that we’ll never improve and we catastrophise the worst about what that might
mean for our future
afraid that there is something seriously wrong with us.
These factors make
treating chronic pain more difficult because in fact the tissues, while they
may not be functioning correctly are not “damaged” anymore, so one cannot just
deal with the “damaged” tissues nor just the musculoskeletal imbalances that
are perpetuating the functional symptoms (such as reduced strength or
management and treatment must therefore deal with as many of the above-mentioned
types of psychological aspects as well as the physical factors. This requires
education (about pain and the specific process happening in one’s own body),
lifestyle modification, minimising triggers, reducing stress, increasing neural
relaxation, education and techniques for learning to deal with always having
pain (in some cases), rehabilitation exercises and more. Further, all of these
components are unique to the individual, so body awareness, support and
guidance, and some trial and error are required to build the correct plan of
action. Given this complicated and individual nature of chronic pain, I hope
the importance of a multi-factorial approach, starting with education and body
awareness, is clear.
Once we understand the
injury we have, the biology of pain and what is happening inside us, and which
activities, if any, to avoid, our fear is reduced. We can also be confident in
a stretching and strengthening program and doing activities that cause pain as
we understand the difference between hurt and harm. This gives us control,
piece of mind and discipline to continue the healing activities required to
balance the tissues in the area and re-wire the brain to reduce its pain alert
system. Further, we can understand the reason behind any lifestyle, habitual
activity and postural modifications as well as stress reduction techniques
required, making compliance easier.
Ok, so it’s
complicated, where do I go for help?
A practitioner who has some specific knowledge
about pelvic pain and dysfunction is important (potentially an Osteopath,
Chiropractor, Physiotherapist or even Acupuncturist – but you need to ask). A
good practitioner can:
help you deal with the musculoskeletal
imbalances and give you exercises
discuss and explain chronic pain with you and
how you can use techniques and exercises to help re-wire your brain
assist with neuro-feedback, to ensure that you
are using your pelvic floor correctly and give you both pelvic floor
strengthening AND relaxation exercises
give advice on correct toileting techniques and
support and training for lifestyle interventions to treat different types of
incontinence issues (urge and stress)
assist with medicated creams, medications and
referral to surgical (laser etc) interventions IF and only if necessary (generally
a GP or gynaecologist – but you need to ask specifically, and I would recommend
seeing a specialist gynaecologist for this type of thing as with a practitioner
at Sydney’s WHRIA clinic who are researchers and leaders in this field and have
minimal invasive and best results-based interventions).
If you would like to chat about your situation, drop
us an email, call, or book an appointment with Alexis.
Stay tuned for part 3
where we share 7 simple tips to improve your situation NOW.