The picture on the left is what we are usually find of our pelvic floor. We see all of the muscles and where our organs pass through them nested in a ring of bone.
When we are taught to visualize our pelvic bowl mostly as muscle tissue, it is easy to see how we get stuck in the idea that stretching and/or strengthening will solve all pelvic problems. If vaginismus is caused by tight muscles, than stretching will cure all the pain. Kegels for everything else!
This is a partial image that belies the truth of your pelvis's function.
The right-hand picture is far more accurate. All of the white covering the usual images of striated muscle is fascia. Fascia is the connective tissue that spans our entire body creating our tendons and ligaments, wrapping around and through muscle, composing the majority of our bone structure, and providing the matrix through which all of our blood vessels and nerves travel.
It is the tension in this tissue that creates that tight, "I need to stretch" feeling. It is in this tissue that "muscle knots" form.
And it is controlled by our autonomic nervous system - the system that controls the unconscious operations such as our heart beat and gastric functions.
This is a big deal.
When we look at our pelvises through their fascial structure, it becomes clear why many of the traditional methods of treating pelvic floor disorders have such a high fail rate (60-70%). For example, a primary technique for treating dyspareunia (technical name for painful sex) is trigger point therapy - that thing where your massage therapist finds that really sore spot and then presses on it. Addressing the knot in this fashion will produce results and reduce the pain for a short time. The pain returns because the underlying reason your fascia is tensing and guarding is not resolved by forcing the structural symptom to release.
So what is the underlying reason? And how do you treat it?
This brings us back to the domain of the autonomic unconscious.
Unconscious stresses have a significant impact on how our bodies function. All the stuff that you thought you forgot about, or shoved under the proverbial rug, or chose to ignore get tallied up in your body affecting your breathing, your digestive processes, your heart rate, your biochemical releases, and, of course, your fascia. They will do so until they are resolved or you teach your nervous system that these stresses are obsolete.
There is no true 1:1 correspondence of what type of stress will affect what part of the body. You are a whole person, not a stack of compartments, and how your body compensates for stressors is individual. However, there are some correlations.
If you are experiencing painful sex, explore the questions
How do you feel about sex? How did you feel about sex before the pain? What is your opinion of yourself? How long have you had that opinion? If it has changed, when? Are there things you blame yourself for or about which you feel guilty? What are your regrets? How do you feel about your body? How safe do you feel in your current relationship? How do you feel about being single? What messages about sex and your body did you receive growing up? What did you internalize? What are your beliefs around sex, relationships, and yourself?
The patterns you find in your answers will give you a good direction to start exploring the unconscious causes of your pelvic pain.
Want to explore these deep patterns fully and kill the root? Work with me in Immersion.
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