(Image courtesy of Eva Margo Kant, LCSW-R)
The National Institute of Health (NIH) defines chronic pain as pain lasting more than 3 months and it affects more than 100 million Americans today. As a pelvic floor physical therapist, I help patients with both acute and chronic pain, more specifically pelvic pain, on a daily basis. Due to the private nature of pelvic floor issues, sexual dysfunction, or bowel and bladder complaints it can be difficult for patients to feel comfortable talking about their symptoms.
The famous quote, “no man is an island,” rings true for healthcare providers who treat chronic pain as multiple specialists working together is more effective than one. I recently met with Eva Margot Kant, LCSW-R with 12+ years of experience helping people deepen their self-esteem, navigate life’s transitions, and address fears and questions about chronic illness/pain which includes topics of sexuality and sensuality. Eva taught me some great perspectives on how she helps people heal their emotional/sexual wounds and how they can be a source of chronic pain.
Eva runs workshops about sex and disability, sex and aging and trains medical students how to talk about sex with their patients. Her goal is to help people "unpack their feelings" that are attached to physical pain and anxiety. Anxiety increases the output of the limbic system, the emotional flight or fight, and memory areas of our brain which results in pain.
Eva believes that "understanding how the body works is the key to understanding you". Her job is to help people understand what their sexuality is to them and to own how they view and understand it. Eva believes that "the body always remembers." She likened the reflexive blink of an eye that's about to be poked to the feeling a woman with sexual pain feels if her partner demonstrates affection. The woman may fear that any show of affection may lead to sex which is painful for her, so she avoids this.
Eva’s goal is to help patients learn if some physical reflexive tightening may be due to thoughts involving shame, guilt, or embarrassment. She helps clients decide when to disclose to a new partner about their chronic condition. She stressed the importance of self-care with their partner and to feel emotionally safe. People who have chronic pain/illness may go thru life as if they are "holding their breath." Often times Eva finds that partners want to help, they just don't know how. Demystifying chronic pain/illness allows partners to be supportive and an active participant in healing.
Eva’s upcoming book and course work, called “The Holy Trilogy of Sex (c),” guides patients and their partners in sensuality, sexuality, and intimacy; none of which are possible without communication, sensation, and connection. She encourages partners to engage in body mapping: offering each other a “menu” of intimate ideas that can promote togetherness without causing more pain.
As a Pelvic Physical Therapist, I invite my patient’s partner to a session to observe, learn, and understand what my patient is experiencing and teach the partner ways they can help. I work on the physical aspect of pain with my manual, movement and exercise therapies while Eva addresses on the mental and emotional aspects of chronic pain which leads to a more efficient outcome.
EMH Team; Jennifer Jurewicz, Tova Laufer & Charissa Morrisroe with Eva Margot Kant, LCSW-R
If you have chronic pelvic pain consider receiving both physical and talk therapy to get your life back on track. Consider visiting us at EMH Physical Therapy and Eva Margot Kant, LCSW-R if you are in the NYC area. Your pelvic floor with thank you!