What Does the Pain Mean?
Abdominal pain can sometimes be a mystery. It can come and go seemingly at random and the pain itself can ebb and flow and even change in quality. Where does that leave us? Well, here are some things I’ve seen over and over again through years of working with abdominal/pelvic pain and discomfort.
The pain you are feeling can mean a variety of things. Sometimes it’s just one of the following causing your problems, sometimes it’s a blend. Figuring out what your pain is telling you can sometimes be very easy, and sometimes not. But no matter what is happening for you, here are some things to consider.
ADHESION – Yes, of course abdominal and pelvic pain can mean you have adhesions of any variety at or around where you feel the pain. I discuss adhesions at length through the rest of this site, so I’ll leave it at that for now. Of course, there are other things that can cause abdominal pain, like . . .
INFLAMMATION OF SOFT TISSUE OR ORGANS – Inflammation, especially a big flare of it or a chronic low-grade form of it, can cause abdominal pain. However, not all inflammation is bad and it doesn’t always leave behind adhesions. “Good” or “bad”, there can be a lot of pain in the acute stages when the tissue is really riled up.
Inflammation can be driven by overwork of muscles and connective tissue (hard exercising), by separation of stuck tissues through stretching or massage (this is called therapeutic inflammation and can be uncomfortable for about a day and a half), and by dis-ease states in the body in which the body produces inflammation in order to deal with an actual or a perceived problem. This last one is seen most clearly in autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s Disease, or in non-autoimmune conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. There are a lot of ways that inflammation can cause pain, even in the absence of adhesion and there are various ways to deal with it.
If the adhesion is being caused by external factors such as food, exercise, or stress, then lifestyle changes will likely help you to resolve the pain you are experiencing. This way of addressing the problem is generally the most effective, though it can be very frustrating because it takes time and quite a bit of effort to implement these kinds of systemic changes in your life. However, the benefit of not allowing inflammation to take deep root in your body can be immeasurable and worth every ounce of effort you put into it. Chronic inflammation can cause not just pain but changes in the fundamental health systems of your body. Dealing with it in the most comprehensive way possible will save you a lot of problems in the long run.
I have had to deal with this very issue myself and it took me a full year to learn how to implement and sustain even just some of the changes I wanted to make in order to support a lower amount of inflammation in my body. It’s a life-long process and if you have the time and energy, I recommend taking the long view of it and making the changes slowly but steadily.
DIGESTION – While healthy digestion can be very closely tied to the overall inflammatory processes in your body, it is also its own category. Because of the way that the common food supply has been inundated with things are body isn’t great at processing (additives, preservatives (even “natural” ones), and flavor enhancers) many people have developed strong allergies to original foods like wheat, soy, dairy, corn, and potatoes. These and their derivatives are in almost every form of packaged food – this has caused digestive sensitivities for a lot of people. Food allergies previously unheard of are cropping up all over the place and creating big problems for people in an every-day way. Intestinal pain and stomach pain are common reactions to these allergies.
Because the abdomen houses our internal organs, which process everything we take in, this shows up for a lot of people in belly discomfort, though it certainly can go beyond that as well. With or without adhesion, if you are experiencing abdominal pain, it could be very worth your time to take a hard look at your diet with a qualified professional such as a good Naturopathic Physician.
MOVEMENT . . . OR LACK OF IT – As much as our bodies need movement to be healthy and vibrant, too much intense movement can cause problems as well. Hard exercise or weight-lifting without subsequent manual release of the trigger points and adhesions that result from it can certainly create lasting belly pain. Likewise, sitting for long periods in one position can lock muscles and other tissues into place in a more silent way. Many of the people I have seen over the years have suffered as a result of sitting at their work desks day after day for hours at a stretch. This type of pain often needs to be released manually or through stretching as well though prevention (standing up and stretching and walking around for five minutes every half hour) is the most important part of prevention and pain relief in these situations.
HYDRATION – Badgering people into staying hydrated is one of my central missions in life. I talk about water intake so much because it is SO important. Without adequate water, your blood has a hard time cleaning up toxins and debris and getting them into the elimination systems in the body. Water is also central to having enough energy to get through your day, as blood flow is how oxygen makes its way around your body. If the blood is too thick from dehydration, most of your systems will be struggling. Of course the opposite, too much water, is equally problematic as your blood becomes less effective at carrying nutrients if it is too watered down. This blog post is a very basic guide to drinking water.
EMOTIONAL DISTURBANCES – Whether or not abdominal/pelvic pain is rooted in emotional disturbance, or if the emotions got piled in as a result of the pain, they are going to have to be dealt with eventually. I remember when I was thirteen standing alone in a restaurant bathroom and having an epiphany that my extreme abdominal pain, which often came on in a matter of seconds, was actually a result of my anxiety and fear. That one single time the pain disappeared as quickly as it came – and then I’ve spent the rest of my life learning to work with the whole crazy mess of it. This is just one tiny example of how our emotions can affect our bellies. There are an infinite variety of ways it can manifest and figuring out what your own special brand of it is will help you immeasurably as you try to figure out how to resolve whatever complexities are involved in your abdominal pain.
As usual, there are rarely one-off or easy answers to abdominal pain. It’s a matter of learning new (or old, but hidden) things about yourself and taking the time to really embrace and learn to work with them.
Here’s to working with yet one more piece of the puzzle!