By Sara Stuart
Pelvic pain can present itself in a number of ways. For Amanda* (name has been changed for anonymity), her symptoms began with her first menses. “I remember being on a cruise to Mexico with my mom and trying to learn how to put a tampon in for the first time. I spent the time either crying or laughing in 5 minute intervals until after an hour I gave up altogether.” Despite the frustration she felt, Amanda was able to successfully insert a tampon three years later, a huge milestone for her. Unfortunately, as is the case for a large amount of people suffering from pelvic pain, Amanda’s symptoms changed over time- and for the worse. “However, it wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that I developed chronic pelvic pain that wasn’t associated with my cycle. I had developed a very specific hot, bloated, localized, shaped like a ball, pain in my lower right abdomen. The pain was constant and things like stretching, coughing, and sneezing made it worse. Then I noticed that the pain started showing up on the other side of my abdomen and the cramps that accompanied my menstrual cycle were now present 3 out of the 4 weeks of my cycle.“ Amanda’s new onset of symptoms stayed with her for quite some time and she began to seek treatment to alleviate her symptoms.
As can often be the case, Amanda had difficulty getting onto the right care plan. “It unfortunately took me several years, several doctors, and several misdiagnoses before I was accurately diagnosed.” Amanda wasn’t put on the right track until one of her friends pointed her in the right direction, to a gynecologist with knowledge of pelvic pain and treatment options. Within the first minute of Amanda’s gynecological exam, she received a diagnosis and options to help her pain! Amanda was ecstatic that she had finally found someone who understood her pain and, more importantly, had a plan to help her alleviate her pain. it wasn’t until Amanda relocated to the San Francisco bay area that she found PHRC. Amanda’s doctor referred her to a colleague who knew that Amanda’s symptoms could be alleviated through pelvic floor physical therapy; the colleague quickly referred Amanda to PHRC.
Amanda knew that PHRC was the right place to help her from the beginning. “I loved my first phone call with PHRC. I was really excited that I was speaking with an agency who knew what I needed, because I sure as hell didn’t. The woman I spoke with was really helpful and super friendly. I had a lot of silly questions that she answered without judgment. “ Often, new patients to PHRC are confused, hurt, and misguided from navigating the healthcare industry themselves. These prospective patients often have a wide variety of questions, mostly aimed at making sure that they have found somewhere that can help them to find the treatment best for their pelvic pain or dysfunction. The path to recovery for pelvic pain and pelvic dysfunction patients is hardly ever easy to find. To help those suffering from pelvic pain and dysfunction, Stephanie and Liz have written a book about treatment options for pelvic pain and dysfunction to help others find the care that they need (click here for a sneak peak at the book, “Pelvic Pain Explained”, which will be released early 2016). Before her first appointment, Amanda’s treating therapist, Malinda Wright, MPT, emailed Amanda to introduce herself and to invite her to ask any questions that she might have. When the day came for Amanda’s first appointment, she recalls that, “… (Malinda) was very warm and inviting”, Amanda recalls of Malinda during her first appointment. Peace of mind came almost immediately as Amanda quickly realized that “… Malinda knew exactly what the cause of my pain was and it’s such a relief that after so many years of trying without success to figure out my problem that Malinda knew how to help me from day one.”
With a stressful full-time job and a full calendar as a graduate student, Amanda has high stress levels in her life. “I’ve learned that, like most people, when I’m stressed I tense up my muscles and I find that by the time I get home and I’ve processed my day my pain can be pretty bad.” Using the tools and techniques that she has learned from Malinda Wright, MPT at PHRC, Amanda is able to take time out of her day to relax and de-stress before going back to work.
As with any journey, recovery from pelvic pain often isn’t a straight line, flare-ups can occur (read here to learn about what to do during a flare). “I definitely have flare-ups”, Amanda recalls. Despite the occasional set back from a flare, Amanda’s quality of life has vastly improved“That being said, my life is actually functional now! Before my weekly visits with Malinda I would never have been able to physically sustain this level of stress at my job so I am happy to have the occasional flare up instead of the constant debilitating pain.” Amanda has some wise words for anyone suffering from pelvic pain or pelvic dysfunction: manage stress wisely. Amanda advises, “…that you take care of yourself by eliminating as much as stress as you can. Hopefully you’ll notice a difference in your pain level.“
Thanks Amanda! Wishing you the best on your journey to recovery from your pelvic pain.
Sara Stuart graduated from UCLA in June 2013. With a life-long passion for helping others, she assists the Los Angeles office with all of their administrative needs. Sara is also an avid writer and reader and contributes to various online publications in her free time.