There are many things you can do to manage your persistent (chronic) pelvic pain. In addition to your treatment plan, you can try practical strategies.
Learn about pain
Good bowel habits
Look after your emotional wellbeing
Practical ways to manage your pain
You can learn about pain, for example, where it comes from, what makes it better or worse and how it affects you physically and emotionally. This will help you to take control and try different things to reduce your pain. Read more on our Learn about pain page.
Physical activity is an important part of staying healthy. But many people who have persistent pelvic pain avoid moving, as they fear it will make their pain worse. Even low-impact activity, such as swimming or walking, can help to reduce your pain sensitivity. Discuss a tailored physical activity plan with your healthcare team.
Mind-body practices, like yoga and stretching, can help you manage your pelvic pain.
If you have pelvic pain, your muscles may become tense – particularly your pelvic floor, abdominal and hip muscles. When your muscles stay tight, it can lead to painful muscle cramps.
A pelvic floor physiotherapist can recommend different exercises to help you relax and coordinate your pelvic floor muscles, and gentle stretches for your stomach and muscles on the outside of your pelvis. These exercises can also reduce pain and may improve bladder, bowel and sexual function. Read the Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia fact sheet about easy stretches to relax the pelvis.
Yoga or guided relaxation exercises can reduce tension in other areas of your body, which may also reduce stress and pelvic pain.
Pacing means doing enough physical activity to improve your pain without causing a pain flare. It’s a fine balance – and it may take time to learn your limits. It can be helpful to keep track of your activities and responses to see if you can find where your limits are. This approach will help you manage your energy and pain levels in the long term.
When you have learnt to pace yourself, you will be able to gradually increase your activity. It’s important to note how increases in activity affect your pain. Keep in mind there may be some discomfort if you work muscles you haven’t used for a while. This is normal and shouldn’t stop you from doing these activities. The soreness will reduce as your muscles get stronger.
You can pace yourself by:
If you are having a good day, don’t be tempted to overdo it.
You shouldn’t experience pain flares during this process. An increase in discomfort that goes away after 30 minutes is normal. You may have muscle soreness for a day or so – this is not a pain flare.
It can be helpful to work with a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist while you are learning how to pace yourself. If you fear that movement will make your pain worse, talk to your physiotherapist or a psychologist or counsellor.
The food you eat may influence your persistent pelvic pain. A dietitian can help you develop a plan, especially if you have a condition like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or painful bladder syndrome that may be affected by the food you eat. Research suggests an anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce persistent pain levels.
Try to eat more: fish; lean meat; eggs; vegetables; fruit; potatoes; raw nuts and seeds; coffee and tea; extra virgin olive oil.
Try to eat less: refined sugars; red meat; processed meats; processed foods like biscuits and cakes; food preservatives; fatty acids (found in some oils).
You will also benefit from limiting alcohol intake and drinking more water.
Read more about the anti-inflammatory diet.
The following links provide more information about different diets and healthy eating for certain conditions:
Good bowel habits are important if you have persistent pelvic pain, especially if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
You can try:
It’s also important to have the right posture when doing a poo. Try:
These habits can help you to do soft poo so you don’t need to strain. This will reduce pressure on your pelvic floor muscles and supportive structures.
Persistent pelvic pain can affect your emotional wellbeing. It can cause stress, anxiety, depression, problems with your sleep, sexual dysfunction and strained relationships. You can talk to a counsellor or psychologist about ways to look after your emotional health and manage pain. And you can try different strategies to care for your body and mind.
When you are stressed, your body releases chemicals that are similar to the ones released when you feel pain. These chemicals can ‘turn up the volume’ on your pain and make it worse. Learning how to reduce and manage stress is an important part of managing persistent pain.
It can be hard to get a good night’s sleep when you have persistent pelvic pain, but there are practical things you can do to improve your sleep and quality of life. For example:
You can also try different apps and digital programs. For example:
Persistent pelvic pain can make you feel emotionally drained and withdrawn. It’s important to seek support from people close to you. It can be helpful to talk to your friends or family about your pain. Find ways to connect that work for you (e.g. a phone call).
If you have a partner, they might not understand what you’re going through. You can tell them about your pain, what causes it and what makes it better. If your pain is affecting your sex life, try to communicate openly with one another. A psychologist, sex therapist or relationship counsellor can help.
There are many practical things you can do to help manage your pain.
Warm baths and heat packs can provide relief from cramping and muscle spasms.
Massage therapy can relieve tightness and pain in soft tissues, whether it be targeted treatment or massage for relaxation. Massage therapy has also been found to relieve pelvic pain for people with endometriosis. Research suggests that massage can increase your awareness of your body and where you hold tension. This can help you make changes that will result in less muscle tightness, less stress and reduced pain.
Deep breathing (belly breathing) brings more oxygen into your body and slows your heart rate. It can help you relax your pelvic floor muscles and other muscles in your body. When you focus on your breath, it can distract you from unhelpful thoughts and sensations such as pain.
You can also focus on calming images or a word that helps you relax while you practise your deep breathing.
A TENS machine is a small, battery-operated device with sticky pads called electrodes. These electrodes are attached directly to your skin. When the machine is turned on, it sends small electrical impulses to the pads. This causes a tingling feeling. TENS changes the signals that go to the spinal cord and brain. It also helps the body release endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain relievers.
This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at May 2023.
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