Do you avoid using tampon because they are irritating or hurt? Can you just NOT get one in at all? Does going to see the GYNE cause you to be anxious because the exam is painful?
Did you know that tampons shouldn’t hurt? Or that the GYN appointment shouldn’t cause pain? Let’s stop the pain cycle, learn about what is going on and some tools to begin to fix it!
What is really going on
Our pelvic floors are made of a group of more than 20 muscles that work together to support our pelvic, spine, and hips. Generally, they help us to control peeing, pooping, and having sex. They also help to support our hips and spine. Most of us are familiar with “Kegel exercises.” However, it is crucially important, that the muscles of the pelvic floor are able to relax and lengthen.
I talk to my patients about thinking of the pelvic floor like your hand. At rest, your pelvic floor should be like your hand at rest. The muscles aren’t completely off, but they are not tight. When your muscles contract, it should be like your hand in a fist. Then when the muscles elongate or lengthen, it will be like when your hand is open. So, the lengthening is just as important as the contracting and shortening.
Often when we have pain putting in a tampon or having a well woman exam, our pelvic floor muscles have a hard time lengthening and are living in a shortened position. More like in a fist than an open hand. When we try to put in a tampon, it’s like trying push something past a closed door. As you know, this can cause pain. It can also cause anxiety. You know that pain is likely going to happen, which makes the muscles tighten more to protect from the pain. This then causes more pain. What a cycle!
What you can do about it
So how do we break this cycle?? Let’s start with a few simple exercises.
- Breathe into your belly. The diaphragm and the pelvic floor work together. So, breathing into your belly can help to coordinate that system.
- Elongate your pelvic floor. I like to think about this with a blueberry. To contract your pelvic floor, imagine picking up a blueberry with your vagina. To lengthen or elongate those muscles, now imagine rolling the blueberry away or setting it down on the chair.
- Lay down on your back, keep your feet together and let your hips fall out to the side like a butterfly. Breathe into your belly. Practice rolling your blueberry away.
If you continue to have pain or don’t notice a change, it is time to seek help from a pelvic floor therapist. We can help trouble shoot what is causing the pain cycle to continue. Because the pelvic floor muscles also support your spine and hips, sometimes we need to investigate what is continuing to cause the tension in this system. It shouldn’t hurt to put a tampon in, get an exam or have sex. Let’s break the cycle.
We offer a free 15 minute phone consultation with one of our PT specialists to answer questions and see how integrative physical therapy can be beneficial for you. We work to bring an integrative, whole person approach to our practice and will work with your on all the lifestyle factors that can help you reach your wellness goals and reduce your pain.