02 Apr Pudendal Neuralgia and Yoga – Vanessa’s story
Vanessa was told she had Pudendal Neuralgia, which had given her seven years of excruciating pelvic pain that made it impossible for her to sit. Pudendal neuralgia is inflammation and compression of the pudendal nerve in the pelvis. While considered rare, it can occur after childbirth or trauma to the pelvis.
Vanessa attended Yoga for Pain (now available as a self-led course you can do at home) and learned to manage her pain, reduce visits to the physio, and do things she never dreamed possible.
Like many with pain conditions that become chronic, Vanessa was also diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Fibromyaliga is widespread generalised pain accompanied by symptoms such as fatigue. Pain affected Vanessa’s sleep, limited how much she could use her body and reduced her capacity to enjoy time with her family.
Vanessa was seeing a specialist women’s health physiotherapist to help her manage tight pelvic muscles and other symptoms. Vanessa’s physiotherapist thought Yoga for Pain could help Vanessa learn to move and stretch safely without causing more pain, and to develop internal body awareness so as to relax the right muscles.
Vanessa also realised yoga would help her find more “me-time”.
Yoga when you have been through physical trauma
Mindful movement in yoga teaches people with pain to move within their capacity, manage stress and nurture their emotional health. In cases of pudendal neuralgia, yoga can increase awareness and control of the pelvis, including the pelvic floor.
But someone who has been dealing with chronic pain can tend to overdo movement on the good days and avoid exercise completely when they have a pain “flare-up”. Their sense of body awareness is diminished and the emotional response that generally accompanies the physical discomfort can affect mood, sense of self and confidence (particularly where the pelvis is affected).
My experience teaching yoga to people with persistent pain is that the effects are the same whether the pain is physical or emotional. I have seen again and again the importance of helping people with pain to develop the body awareness and self-awareness to practice yoga according to their physical and emotional capacity.
I realised it would be critical to help Vanessa develop confidence in herself, to know that she could practice yoga and move in a way that would not cause her more pain.
Yoga without a pain flare
At a one-to-one session I introduced Vanessa to the concepts of body awareness, effortless movement and intentional practice. She began group classes with very gentle and mindful movement, and with complete permission to rest whenever she needed.
The safe environment in the Yoga for Pain group classes allowed Vanessa to come every week, even when she wasn’t feeling her best. (Research shows the benefits of yoga happen when we practice regularly.)
With regular yoga practice Vanessa began to attempt more complex postures and sequences. She noticed that yoga also increased her flexibility.
Twelve months later and Vanessa now practices yoga regularly at home with her family, and attends the “Pain-Friendly” Gentle Yoga group classes every week. She hasn’t needed to see her physiotherapist for six months.
At class recently she found herself trying out the jump-through from downward dog to sitting:
“I astounded myself! Such a powerful session for me today. Doing things I never thought was possible of doing with this sore body of mine”
How yoga helps with pudendal neuralgia
A carefully crafted yoga practice helps you to be mindful not just of your physical capacity but of your emotional and mental needs. This allows you to build your skills in positive movement; to find confidence in your ability to self-manage your pain; and to develop a regular yoga practice that gently allows you to meet your body as it is, on that day, in that moment.
Through Yoga for Pain, someone with pudendal neuralgia learns to subtly relax and control the pelvic muscles to reduce their physical pain. They also learn to relax and release what they know about their entire wellbeing.
Learn this yourself in Yoga for Pain as a self-led course you can do at home.
“I have made the important connection that exercise is vital for chronic pain! With regular walking and yoga I have noticed a reduction in pain levels. As appealing and instinctive it is to lie in the foetal position in bed when in pain – it is actually the worst thing to do. Start with gentle movement and notice the difference.” (Vanessa)
Busch et al Exercise Therapy for Fibromyalgia, Curr Pain Headache Rep, 2011 Oct