That is a FANTASTIC question. In GENERAL, pain is a signal our body generates to let us know that our body "is in danger" and makes us stop what we are doing in order to protect us. HOWEVER, those who have been living with persistent pelvic pain can't rely on their pain signals to determine if an activity we are doing is "safe" for them. In a nutshell, the pain signal is reliably unreliable.
So what is one to do when starting an exercise program . . how do we know how far to push ourselves? After attending a fantastic pre-conference course put on by the Section on Women's Health at our Combined Sections Meeting this year, the speaker, Neil Pearson, helped to answer that question, specifically for performing a yoga exercise program. Yoga is a fantastic mode of movement/exercise/mindfulness for people with persistent pain as part of their recovery process.
You should ask yourself these 4 questions when going through a yoga exercise program:
1) Can I keep my breathing relaxed . . .
2) Can I keep my muscles relaxed
3) Answer the questions: Is this safe? and Am I going to pay for this later?
4) Pain levels (Yes, pain is still included. If you use JUST pain as the determining factor, one may never return to movement/exercise which will just perpetuate the persistent pain. Therefore, the MINDFULNESS of the exercise and how your body is responding to the exercise are really important)
It is really important that you are able to say YES to the first 3 questions (and NO to the "am I going to pay for this later" question) and be aware of pain levels to help you better determine if the exercise program you are doing is at a good level for you. If no, then talk with your physical therapist, instructor about how to modify the exercise program for you.
Moving forward . . . must involve movement . . .
-Karen Liberi MS, MPT, WCS
Women's/Men's Health Specialist
Director of Rehab at NWO Center for Pelvic Rehab and Wellness