I’m finally admitting to myself that I suffer from chronic pain. For some reason—whether it’s pride or denial—I refused to admit that I lived with constant aches until I was truly, utterly exhausted.
When I first looked into writing this piece, I had just undergone my LEEP—a procedure that removes cells on the cervix that a doctor finds “abnormal” and could potentially lead to cervical cancer. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time meditating on my pain that lives in my pelvis, in my abdomen; the pain that causes my cervix to ache. At the time, my doctor’s advised me to change my diet, avoid smoking, and live an overall healthy life to rid any cells that could become cancerous cells. Terrified, I began a vegan lifestyle in hopes of being able-bodied again (admittedly I’ve fallen a bit off of this lifestyle track).
By the time the doctor’s called me to inform me that my follow-up biopsy cleared me of any cancer—a few months after the initial procedure—my pelvic pain had immensely subsided. But from September to December, I was hunched over, slightly aching, and experiencing slight internal pain. After intercourse, I was bed-ridden, cradling my stomach as if I had just been punched in the cervix. I began to wonder: what holistic practices could help ease the pain on my wounded cervix, or other pelvic pain disorders that so many women live with every day?
Pelvic pain is typically linked to several disorders like endometriosis or vulvodynia, so researchers cannot accurately give a number for how many people are suffering from pain. The National Pain Foundation says that 61 cases of chronic pelvic pain go undiagnosed as it’s viewed as a “taboo” topic amongst patients.
Chronic pelvic pain exists below the bellybutton and between your hips. Typically, it lasts longer than six months. Symptoms of pelvic pain include: steady pain, dull aching, intermittent pain, sharp pain, pain during intercourse, pain while having a bowel movement, pain when you sit for long periods of time. Moreover, pelvic pain affects you mental health—it’s a debilitating experience, it rocked my every-day life and left me feeling quite emotionally numb.
Andrew Cook, an endometriosis and pelvic pain expert told US NEWS, “the whole communication up and down the spinal cord changes and it gets hypersensitive,” and as a result, it affects the whole body.
For people who visit a doctor, pain medicine, hormone treatment, antibiotics, or antidepressants may be prescribed. In rare cases, a hysterectomy or surgery may be a form of treatment. I wasn’t interested in seeking out anymore solutions from a doctor as most of my pelvic pain was the result of doctor’s ignoring my symptoms or misdiagnosing me. In alternative medicine, acupuncture is incredibly popular to ease pain in the body. During a session, a practitioner will insert tiny needles at definite points on the skin. The relief from acupuncture comes from the release of endorphins.
Jennifer Dubowsky, an author and licensed acupuncturist with a practice in downtown Chicago says that many of her clients come in with complaints of “back pain, arthritis, joint pain, headaches and migraines, anxiety, depression, allergies, insomnia, fertility, P.M.S., sinus infection, and digestive disorders.”
Claretha Yeager, an acupuncturist and owner of Jade Path Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine says, “Acupuncture is great at regulating the nervous system, which is the boss of what happens in the body.” She explains, “Because of the dynamic folding and unfolding during embryological stages of development, many connections throughout the body and brain are mapped. When using acupuncture to influence physiology, for example to alleviate pain, we are tapping into these connections to help reset the brain-body connection. Acupuncture helps the body release endorphins, beta-endorphins, enkephalins, and serotonin which are pain relieving hormones that make the body feel good.”
Western medicine agrees that acupuncture is beneficial as it promotes well-being and relieves physical pain. Acupuncture points are typically on the hands, feet, and limbs.
For people suffering from pelvic floor pain, acupuncturists recommend using the method in conjunction with other holistic remedies for relief. Jennifer says, “I use acupuncture points near the nose, on the thumb, and SP6, a common gynecological point. I also needle the lower back/ sacrum. Sometimes I add electric stimulation with the local needles to further relax tense muscles. Cupping the low back is helpful, as is Chinese herbal medicine. With regular treatments, many women are relieved to find that their painful symptoms are greatly reduced or eliminated.”
She also recommends physical therapy, eliminating spicy foods, caffeine, and sugar, avoiding tampons, soaking in lukewarm or cool water with epsom salt, and using a lubricant during intercourse.
“Acupuncture can be used to help reset and relax muscles that are in spasm or dysfunction,” explains Claretha. “Because Chinese Medicine does not operate on a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, your TCM practitioner will ask you questions to understand the root of your symptoms and may address other causes (like stress for example) as well.”
In conclusion, Claretha explains that acupuncture helps a variety of concerns and issues. Initially, people seek out the practice for pain relief, but Claretha explains that it “really shines as a preventative modality and can not only help you get better, but it can help maintain health as we age.”
In addition to home remedies, meditation, and other holistic practices, acupuncture can enforce relief for people with a cervix who are living with severe or mild pelvic pain.