What To Do When Pelvic Pain Brings You To Your Knees
Few things are more debilitating than really sharp pelvic pain. For endometriosis patients, it's an excruciating part of our lives: We suffer from it during our periods, but also on-and-off the rest of the time, making this type of discomfort chronic. Because of its location around our abdomen, right in the middle of our bodies, a bad case of pelvic pain can easily turn into a massive ordeal.
In my case, bad pelvic pain has brought me to my knees on several occasions. Fortunately, or rather, unfortunately, I have suffered from these debilitating flare-ups so often, I've had time to develop the coping mechanisms that work for me. These are the strategies and tools I resort to whenever my pelvic pain levels are bad:
Rest as much as possible
This is the type of pain I can’t fight, although it took me a long while to accept that. Being unable to do any sort of physical activity, work, or simply thinking straight, resulted in intense feelings of frustration. This quickly morphed into guilt and plenty of self-hatred.
Yet, because these flare-ups happened quite often, I realized my life could be easier if I made certain changes. I re-designed my lifestyle and work-life to allow for a more surrendering approach. I am my own boss, so if I need to take a day off due to bad health, I simply accept won’t make as much money as I planned, and take myself to bed. Acknowledging that there is little sense in fighting painful flare-ups has done a great deal for my mental health.
Tips for at-home pain relief
I reach for my TENS unit
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation can be highly effective at numbing extreme levels of pain. These gadgets deliver small electrical impulses through adhesive pads that are attached to a patient’s skin. Once the TENS unit is switched on, these electrical impulses flood the nervous system, impairing its capacity to transmit pain signals to the spinal cord and brain. TENS units are quite inexpensive and some are really small, making them easy to wear even when we can't lie down.
I say yes to certain painkillers
While I no longer take ibuprofen and have to be really mindful of choosing medication that won't upset my digestive system, when it gets really bad, I am grateful for the existence of drugs. When I take painkillers, I generally reach for codeine, which is effective at managing certain levels of pain. Codeine can cause constipation and gastrointestinal upset, but in my case, this type of painkiller has given me few issues.
NSAIDs such as ibuprofen are very popular amongst endometriosis patients. These meds block the production of prostaglandins in the body.1 Prostaglandins occur naturally, whenever there is an injury or disease, causing pain and inflammation. One of their main functions is to make the womb contract during our periods. For anyone with endometriosis, these contractions can be very painful. The belief is that endometriosis patients can produce more prostaglandins than those disease-free.
I put my mind at rest by having regular check-ups
Apart from feelings of frustration, whenever I suffer from bad pelvic pain, my mind can go on overdrive. I tend to imagine worst-case scenarios, believing that my disease has worsened, or is progressing towards something scarier. This is why every year, I mention my pain levels to my doctor and we book a scan. While endometriosis adhesions or post-surgery scarring may not come in any imaging tests, it’s good to check the bouts of sharp pain are not due to an endometrioma2 or a cyst at risk of bursting.
Living with endometriosis can involve having to deal with intense pain quite regularly. It is important to give voice to this pain and explain our symptoms to anyone close to us. And while it is essential we arm ourselves with the right tools to manage this pain, it is equally key to allow space for plenty of self-love and acceptance.
Have you heard about the new tampon technology currently being tested to detect endometriosis?