How Scar Tissue Remediation Can Resolve Pelvic Pain and Restore Pelvic Health

Share this episode:

I first came to know Ellen and her pioneering work in scar tissue remediation when she served as faculty in my Somatic Sex Education training at The Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco.  Years later, I was drawn to do a deeper dive and enrolled in the STREAM – Scar Tissue Remediation And Management – training for an in-depth study of the Four Domains of Health and Somatic Recall via hands-on/hands-in palpation.  Her vast knowledge and in-depth expertise of the intersecting domains of our human embodiment and psyche continues to fascinate me.  

Today’s Guest: 

Ellen Heed, CSB, Ph.D., is a somatic educator providing a deep dive into diverse human experience, lived in-body. Her fascination with embodiment comes from a wealth of experience. She danced from three to thirty, then dove headlong into the practices of yoga, bodywork, and craniosacral therapy while teaching anatomy, physiology, and hands-on bodywork to a global audience. After teaching live for thousands of somatic practitioners, Ellen now offers her innovative, inclusive curriculum to online learners. A Certified Sexological Bodyworker, Ellen treats scars from genito-pelvic injuries. Her STREAM Program covers holistic scar remediation, self-care, and assessment for professionals and body-aware individuals. 

We explore: 

$

“Somatic recall – when the body remembered something that the mind did not… and in that remembering, the scar tissue reconfigured in real time…” 

$

How Ellen’s experiences at the Santa Monica Shiatsu Clinic influenced her understanding of psyche and soma – and an integrative approach involving touch, breath and emotions for remediating scar tissue and resolving pelvic pain. 

$

How painful sex, postpartum, due to scar tissue – is still a largely unaddressed epidemic. 

$

How the Four Domains of Health : Biochemistry, Biomechanics, Emotions, and Scar Tissue, are inseparable dynamics and necessary for accurate assessment.  

$

How the healing properties and various applications of Castor Oil can support our pelvic health.  

$

How allowing the body’s story to unfold requires a neutral presence without “trying to do anything” – in order for the scar to be heard.  

$

How trauma in the body of the Mother can be taken on and embodied by the fetus in this case study of transgenerational trauma.

$

How to detoxify the body, re-sensitize intra-pelvic tissues and increase lymphatic drainage from the effects of intra-pelvic radiation.

Rahi: Welcome to organic sexuality, where we explore the restoration of pleasure, the reclamation of sexual sovereignty and the realization of our embodied sexual nature. An invitation to honor the pleasures of your body by embodying the pleasures of your nature. I'm your host, Rahi Chun. I'm a certified somatic sex educator, sexological bodyworker, and creator of Somatic Sexual Wholeness. In this episode, we are joined by Dr. Ellen Heed, as we explore her pioneering work in scar tissue remediation. And in particular, the role scar tissue plays in painful sex postpartum. What roles to The Four Domains of Health and somatic recall play in the successful resolution of scar tissue from the body? Ellen also shares a fascinating case study of resolving trans-generational trauma from the pelvis. I am really, really happy and thrilled and honored to welcome Dr. Ellen Heed to the podcast today. There's so many things I can share about Ellen's work. ...

Rahi: Uh, it's really, really pioneering in the fields of scar tissue remediation and management, as well as somatic psychology. I know Ellen, I was actually first introduced to Ellen during my sexological bodyworker training, where she was one of the teachers in scar tissue remediation. And then I did a deeper dive in the STREAM training. That's her stream, scar tissue remediation management training. And, Ellen's path is really been so diverse. She teaches internationally in the fields of anatomy, cranio-sacral therapy, bodywork, sexological bodywork, uh, certainly scar tissue remediation. She's also a very sought after holistic lifestyle consultant and hands-on practitioner here in Los Angeles - and I'm so thrilled to have you here, Ellen, and, very excited for our listeners.

Ellen : It's good to be here, Rahi. Thanks so much for asking me, I love opportunities to talk about this work because I think that it needs to be articulated and thank you for, for doing so.

Rahi: Mm, wonderful, wonderful. So, you know, there's so much to get into, but I want to start by, um, letting our listeners know a little bit about your journey as a practitioner, as a teacher, really, and the work that you do. And, you know, I was really curious how your path led you to the Santa Monica Shiatsu Clinic and your work with Dr. Medici.

Ellen : A friend recommended I go for a shiatsu treatment at the shiatsu school, not so much for the treatment itself, but in order to be read,, be assessed by the man who was supervising the shiatsu clinic. And because the students who were at the school would work at the clinic and he was supervising to make sure they were, if they had questions about how to work with particular client, he was there for them to ask their questions too. And I went, when he was on duty as the supervisor and I was receiving my psychiatric treatment, you know, just little thumbs and along my spine and down my arms and shoulders. And it was okay. And then, this man walks in and says, stick out your arm. And I stuck out my arm and he started pushing points. He was pushing much harder than the shiatsu therapist.

Ellen : He said - you feel any heat when I press into that point? I'm like, yeah, I feel heat. I feel it all the way up my arm and into my torso. What, what is that? He said - ah, that's interesting. Then he said, I'm going to make you stoned. And I'm like, Hmm, really? You're gonna make me, stoned - do you know who you're talking to... I've taking more drugs than most people and larger quantities than most people. So when you say you're going to make me stoned, I don't think so. Then he peeled the shoulder blade off my back with his thumb. And I swore I just smoked a bowl of the finest opium - being a former opium addict, I can speak to the finest opium. And I was like, Holy Shit! How did you do that? What is that? What, what just happened there? And he said, Oh, you know, you're just moving chi.

Ellen : That's all that's happening. And I'm like, what the heck is this guy talking about? And as I walked out of the appointment, he handed me his card. He said, I'd like to work with you because you, you can move a lot of chi in your body. And to be fair, I had just finished a, a nine week yoga teacher training without Ana Forest where I had had no coffee, no sugar, no alcohol, no drugs, no anything. And I had been sweating - this was in the middle of the summer, and I was sweating gallons and had lost 15 pounds in nine weeks because of just this, the heat and the sweat and the working out. So I was in a very cleansed condition when that's happened. So I think I felt more than I might have had I been in the midst of my usual habits around alcohol, caffeine, sugar, you know, eating too much, sleeping too much.

Ellen : So I was sort of lethargic prior to that. So anyway, what happened was I got very interested in this phenomenon. It's like, how do you make, so how do you give somebody a borderline drug-induced experience in their body without the drug. If you can do this, if anyone could do this with their hands, that's really interesting. I had no idea that was possible. So I started to work with Dr. Medici getting bodywork once every six or eight weeks for about a year. And it radically changed my life - radically. The things that I was able to understand about the mind/body, emotional/body connection were so much more powerful than anything I'd done in talk therapy and so much more connected Psyche and Soma than what was coming up, even in the depths of Forrest Yoga. And I was a devoted practitioner - I would go to class six days a week and it was having micro realizations on the map, but I would have macro realizations on the table. And that's when I thought something is different when we're involving touch and breath and working with emotions that I haven't understood was possible in the human experience. And pretty soon I was a student at the shiatsu school. And then soon after that, I became a teacher at the shiatsu school because Dr. Medici realized I was a quick study. And he also saw an opportunity to offload teaching beginning anatomy. After having done it now for 20 years, beginner's anatomy, I'd be happy to offload it too...

Ellen : So basically, he kept handing me curriculum to teach. First. It was anatomy and then it was physiology and then it was pathology. And then I had, by that time studied cranio-sacral, then I began to teach craniosacral and I was teaching pain and orthopedic evaluation. And I just dove head-long into learning everything I could learn about the body, pathology, and integration. The emotional body, the physical body, the biochemical body, even the existential body, really understanding how the interplay from an east-west perspective caused disease and also created opportunities for healing. So, Dr. Medici eventually suggested that I, um, specialize and focus in the pelvic floor, particularly scar tissue remediation and the pelvic floor being female-identified. He thought that people would be more comfortable working with a woman in that capacity, especially other women who'd had birth trauma and he saw birth trauma as - trauma giving birth.

Ellen : In other words, their pelvic floor had been injured in the process of giving birth, he said, nobody sees this as a problem. Nobody treats us as a problem. And it's a big problem. And here's a niche and you can fill it, you should do this. So I took his advice and I began to learn and study and eventually undertook, uh, writing the doctoral dissertation about it because I realized there, so to speak - a hole to be filled in the informational world, that wasn't being addressed, especially an integrative approach to pelvic floor pain, as related to birth a birth injury

Rahi: Yeah, I was really fascinated - and by the way, to our listeners, Dr. Heed's dissertation is being made generously available on her website, EllenHeed.com, where you can really go through, 600 pages if you'd like, but it's so rich, in case studies and, really the four domains. I mean, I love that the efficacy of the four domains, it gets really clear, and also, you know, understanding what a.... kind of an epidemic it is....and unaddressed in our society, unsupported in research, and really - kind of the practitioners that women post-birth, who have sexual pain go to, are unequipped and unknowledgeable about the role scar tissue plays in their pelvic pain.

Ellen : Well, they're unschooled about arousal, so they can't possibly know since they're not trained, to understand what healthy pelvic function actually is, especially in the sexual arena for women. There is no awareness of what scar tissue could do to inhibit that healthy sexual function. So if you're not trained in the reality of, engorgement and lubrication and all of the erectile tissue beds that get affected by scar tissue, as a result of episiotomy even, C-section certainly tearing and, and prolapse, and rectocele, cystocele, you know, those are all the different kinds of prolapses that can happen- all of which will affect sexual function, but if you're not schooled in sexual function, and you're only schooled in pathology, and you're busy creating surgical procedures to address pathology, and we know that's necessary, if you have, you know, cervical cancer, you would want somebody who knows how to address that surgically, for sure.

Ellen : But in the process of that surgery, there are follow-on effects from the scar that could inhibit sexual function. And without remediation of the scar - sexual function can be forever lost - and it need not be, because scar tissue can be remediated. The notion of remediation of scar tissue in it from a holistic perspective. In other words, not cutting out the scar, which is what often happens. People say, well, this scar tissue is a problem. Let's just remove it surgically. What does that do - that produces more scar tissue. Holistic remediation with hands-on work - this was a new idea, and this is what Dr Medici was teaching us to do. As shiatsu therapists at the school. He was saying, when you find a scar in someone's body, this is how you work with it. You apply castor oil, you cross-fiber the tissue, you make it more resilient, more flexible. You increase fluid flow, increase blood delivery to the area around the scar, increase lymphatic drainage from the area around the scar. So the scar then can have more normal physiologic behavior instead of less and less normal physiologic behavior, because scar tissue is dynamic. It doesn't just - once you're healed, the scar is there... - No, the scar proliferates and it continues to proliferate throughout the life of the body, if inflammation is what - if there's a strong inflammatory milleux under the skin.

Rahi: So, um, there's a couple of things I'd like to tease out in what you just shared, Ellen. First, how, you know, well-meaning professional practitioners may be, but just how ill-equipped and not part of the trainin, to address scar tissue, and really the body in a holistic way as the four domains really does. So, you know, one of my best friends is an OB GYN, and she says - Rahi, you know, they don't teach us about pleasure. They just teach us how to deliver babies and perform hysterectomies. Um, Yes, yes. And this is not to, you know, as you shared earlier, you know, medical professionals go through a lot of training and very necessary training to address the issues that they do, but it feels like our society is really woefully ill-equipped to address the issue of scar tissue for pelvic pain, post-birth, and understanding how holistic an approach is necessary to resolve that scar tissue. And that's precisely what your dissertation addresses. Yeah.

Ellen : Yes. I wrote, uh, it was very difficult. I looked at a lot of different programs when I was looking to, um, go for a graduate degree and I couldn't find anything that was as big as what I wanted to write about in terms of integration, biochemistry, biomechanics, emotions, and scars. That's not how things work in education. Things are pigeonholed, and those pigeonholes have impermeable barriers in a lot of cases. So you don't get the kind, you don't see the influence, even though we all see it. It's common sense. You know, if you're dealing with a biochemical issue, it can affect your whole body and the health of the whole body. If you were, you know, allergic to dairy and didn't know, and had a lot of stomach issues and were then feeling, you know, pain, every time you ate dairy, for instance, and feeling bad because of the pain, it could affect your emotional body.

Ellen : It could affect how your emotions are. If you hurt all the time, this is true for babies who have colic. For instance, they're squalling a lot and quite distressed because they hurt. And so you have to figure out, Oh, it's the food that they're eating, that they're reacting to. If we change the food, they'll feel better, but this goes on at a very much more subtle level. And we also have ergonomics and the way we use our bodies and how the clothing that we wear walk around in high heels all day long as part of necessary uniform for work - that's going to, and that creates back pain. Yet you have to wear the shoes because that's part of your uniform and you're going to have back pain all the time - then you're not going to be in a great mood because there's an element of powerlessness about what you have to do to keep your job.

Ellen : And it's tied into survival. And all I'm saying is that these are inseparable elements. They are the fundamental elements of health, and this is how we were educated at the shiatsu school. And I so appreciate you starting -leading with that because we learned a holistic approach to health that is even more holistic than most holistic coaching programs, medical programs, because it includes scar tissue. That's one of the fundamental four irreducible elements of health. You can't be healthy if your scars are unhealthy, if your scars are unhealthy, that means they are continuing to proliferate and continuing to shut down the plumbing of all the tissue around the scar, meaning blood delivery gets interrupted and lymphatic drainage gets interrupted. And that's what every cell in your body needs is adequate blood delivery and adequate lymphatic drainage, because - groceries in and take out the trash. It's that simple. You can't - if the blood can't delivery - the groceries.. deliver the groceries, and the lymph can't take out the trash... what you end up with, is a toxic mess inside the cell. So shiatsu is about increasing circulation and about increasing lymphatic drainage - you're using hands and manual therapy to do so. You can also do that using hands with a scar, you physically manipulate the scar. And when you add castor oil to that physical manipulation, the scar can change more quickly because the castor oil increases the lymphatic drainage from the scar.

Rahi: Right. Right. Okay. So, a couple of things to tease out there too. You know, not only - I mean, I feel like the presence of scar tissue is, is almost a kind of red flag - that there are disruptions in the other areas as well. I mean, the presence of scar tissue is like, Hey, look at my biochemistry, at my emotions, look at my biomechanics because they all, they are all interconnected. Um, and that's, I gotta say - it's one of the things I appreciated most about the STREAM training is how, yeah, I don't know how else to say it, but it just covered all the bases of what, of what can go wrong possibly and how to remedy what's out of alignment in order to address the holistic health of the person.

Ellen : Oftentimes the solutions are very common sensical, you know, in order to increase - improve alignment will improve blood delivery and lymphatic drainage - using an external product like castor oil, or maybe DMSO or some other lubricant to increase the amount of malleability you can get in a tissue. That's going to increase blood delivery in lymphatic drainage. If emotions are creating a posture and the posture is creating tension, and that tension is going to.. it will impact ultimately the fascial body and the fascial body can get stiff. And that stiffening is going to affect blood delivery in lymphatic drainage. And I don't mean to be reductionist about it, but really that's sort of the physiologic basis of disease is poor plumbing. And so if you could increase the, the basic elements, the physical elements for the health of all tissue, then you can increase the health of the whole body.

Rahi: Yes, yes. So you've mentioned Castro oil twice now. And, I feel like, it's a player in this, in this movie that deserves its own spotlight for a moment, - castor oil and the amazing healing properties of the castor seed and how, how well scar tissue responds to the palpation with Castro oil. Um, yeah, I'm wondering, like, I know the history of Castor oil and its healing benefits go all the way back to the Egyptian time. I'd love to hear Ellen some of your initial experiences and kind of like how you came to experience the healing benefits of castor oil in your work with your clients.

Ellen : Well, we were taught to use it in shiatsu school. We were like, we learned how to use a castor oil pack, particularly on the abdomen. We did a lot of work. We did not just, we did not only learn shiatsu - we also learned anma - A .N. M. A. Massage, which is abdominal massage. If you're working in the abdominal, the abdominal area, you will come across abdominal adhesions. And we learned to palpate abdominal adhesions and feel when somebody had a belly that felt like it wasn't moving properly. We did a lot of sweeping hands back and forth and, you know, kind of making a, carving out a diamond between the ribs and inside the bones of the pelvis, and then pushing the intestines and pulling them like kneeding a loaf of bread back and forth. That movement - you could tell very quickly what was moving easily and what wasn't moving easily.

Ellen : If we found something that wasn't moving easily, we'd suggest that our client would do a castor oil pack before they came for their next appointment - in order to soften the tissue because the warmth would help. And the castor oil itself would help if it were done properly. So when I started to work in the pelvic floor, I was fortunate at that time to have, a pharmacologist in my practice who was my client, and he was old school. He was in his seventies at that time. And so, and he also kind of collected remedies in his head as kind of a hobby. He remembered how people used to use castor oil in the old days. And I said, look, do you think you could use castor oil on the mucosal membrane of the vulva? Would that be dangerous? He said, Oh, no, it would be fine.

Ellen : Muscosal membranes, love castor oil, you know, and then he cautioned me to make sure, you know, where your, like your local emergency room is because there'll be that one person in a hundred thousand who goes anaphylactic to castor oil. And I have yet to meet that person, you know, thousands of clients later, nobody has had an anaphylactic reaction to Castor oil.. That doesn't mean it's going to not going to happen, but in general, you can test castor oil on a mucosal membrane, easily enough. You could put a little inside your nose, you could put a little site inside your cheek, and if there's no stinging, burning, itching or other adverse reaction, it's probably safe to use - inside the vulva, the anus or inside the foreskin on a penis. And so now I've taught hundreds of students all over the world about Castor oil to be used on the genitals. And I have yet to hear of any adverse reactions unless it's used too frequently, too frequently could be every day. And I recommend using castor oil no more frequently than every second or third day - so one doesn't sensitize to it.

Rahi: So I want to focus a little bit because you know, the dissertation, which is really fantastic. And again, it's so generous, you're making it available on your website for people to look at because it focuses on post-birth sexual pain, as a result of scar tissue. I'd love to give, um, I mean, you mentioned earlier some of the - if there's any incision, certainly C-section, episiotomy, vaginal tears - there's going to be scar tissue as a result. I I'd love to, I'd love to explore some of the other ways scar tissue can form, because it's not just from an incision or a cut It can, it can form from a variety of ways that people aren't aware of that affect their pelvic bowls.

Ellen : Yes, it can form spontaneously - spontaneously as a result of chronic holding muscular holding. For instance, I was working with a young woman a few weeks ago, who came in because she had painful intercourse. And she said, she'd been, she'd been told she had Vulvodynia. Vulvodynia is a very nonspecific and now outdated term, it's not used anymore. Now it's called penetrated, pelvic sexual dys -. It's like, I forget, it's a long five letter acronym. All pelvic pain syndromes that have to do with penetration have been collapsed into a single definition in the latest version of the DSM, the DSM-5. So now it used to be vulvodynia and vaginismus, vestibular vestibulitis, vulva vestibulitis and on, and on many, many kinds of descriptors for pain in the pelvic floor. Now it's all one category with the exception of lichen sclerosis, which is still a scar producing, inflammatory process that can happen as a part of auto-immunity.

Ellen : That's an auto-immune condition that creates literal scarification of the pelvic floor and takes quite some time to fix, but it is fixable, but - so there's, so lichen sclerosis is an example of spontaneous scarification happening as a result of a chronic inflammatory condition of the mucosa of the vulva. But then this woman who came in, she starts telling me, well, you know, it was hospitalized once for constipation. I'm like, ah, there's something. So when I'm examining her pelvic floor, I've got my fingers in her vagina and it does not hurt. There's no pain with penetration. I've got a lot of lubrication and castor oil, and she's saying same, does it hurt when I do this? She's like, no, it doesn't hurt. Does it hurt? When I pull my fingers out? Yes, it hurts, but I can feel the bottom lip of her vagina is so congested because her anal sphincter is so tight - because of the constipation that goes back, it's idiopathic constipation.

Ellen : That's - I would call it psychogenic constipation that has been with her whole, her whole life that she's even been hospitalized for. And I'm like, you need to make friends with your poop. You've got to change your relationship with your anal sphincter, so it can relax because the pain you're having as a result of referred tension from your anal sphincter doesn't really have anything to do with your vagina. There's no pathology here. It has to do. The only reason it hurts when I pull my finger out, she was complaining - it doesn't hurt when they go in. It hurts when they pull out is because of that gripping, you're gripping your whole pelvic floor tight as a result of this psychogenic habit around poop and the tension that's held there. So that's an example, but that was certainly create congestion, lack of drainage, potentially some scarification in the connective tissue that invests all muscles, including the smooth muscle of the anal sphincters

Rahi: Yeah, so there is a wide variety of ways that scar tissue can form - certainly, when people are penetrated without consent, when they're penetrated when the body isn't ready or wanting it, you know, emotional congestion from their sexuality - they're just such a wide variety. And, I want to shift now if I may, Ellen, because, you know, in your dissertation, you shared how there were really dramatic responses, I think, with your research partner with somatic recall, and I'd love to know your journey or yeah - your journey as a practitioner in recognizing the role that somatic recall - the unintegrated emotions that are held in the scar tissue itself - some of your experiences in recognizing how important and central that role is to relieving the scar tissue.

Ellen : Well, for all of the work we did around understanding the reality of the emotional body in shiatsu school, we didn't ever, I had never had, or was in no way prepared to accept that scar tissue itself could contain emotion. And I wasn't surprised when it happened, terribly surprised, but the effects of what happened to the scar when the emotion was released were jaw-dropping. So what happened was I was, uh, working with a fellow sexological bodyworker, before I, even before I even realized this was before I even knew scar tissue and the pelvic floor was a thing. She came to me, this was back in 2009. I had done a little bit of scar tissue work when people had episiotomies or they'd had C-sections, but I hadn't worked on a birth tear before she was the first person to come in and saying she had had a second degree tear during her birth experience. But it was three months later.

Ellen : And I was surprised to see that her whole vulva was disfigured. Still three months postpartum - was still bruised black and blue - and instead of an up and down introitus, her introitus looked like it was sideways because of the disfigurement and the amount of tension she was holding in the muscles around her vulva. As a result of this, she had a very quick and forceful expulsion of her baby because the cord was wrapped around her son's neck. And the midwives said, you push you push now. And she did. She had a strong pelvic floor muscle. She pushed hard and there was a tear. And then she had this problem. She said, I can't believe how much pain I'm in. It's three months - what gives, why does it hurt? Nobody told me it would hurt this badly. And so we did a little bit of massage with Castor oil.

Ellen : And within that session, the single session, her vulva confirmation returned to normal. The bruising went away in real time. And the disfigurement of her introitus went away in real time. And she was, she looked normal and then she went home and she was really happy about that. And she said, I'm going to use castor oil every single day. And she massaged it. And that's how we learned about sensitization to castor oil and. And I'm like, okay, every other day, let's see if that worked with that did work. And she came back and she for a next session. And, uh, she said, things are still pinchy. They still hurt a little bit. So then I did. So I had just done external Vulva work in our first session. And the next session we did internal Vulva work and I massage castor oil inside. And I could literally feel beads of scar tissue, not beads.

Ellen : They were the size of blueberries, you know, big lumps of scar in the floor of her vagina. And as I massage these lumps disappearing, and she had memories as the lumps disappeared, as the lump disappeared, she would, you know, go into this kind of frozen place and her eyes would get big and maybe one tear would come out. And she said, I'm just remembering that moment in my birth, when I thought I was going to split in half, and I felt so powerless about the pain. I didn't... It had been an orgasmic birth in her narrative of it. That's what she remembered. But her body remembered - Oh, I was frightened. Oh, it hurt. And she has sort of over or overrided that, overridden that the memory of a real pain with the need, for her experience to have been orgasmic. And she wanted to remember the good part of it.

Ellen : Of course there was the big oxytocin rush and she fell in love with her baby. And everything was so wonderful once the baby was born, but the body remembered like - ugh, that moment of tearing, it was like, Oh, what's happening here? And so she had, that was the moment of somatic recall - when the body remembered something that the mind did not remember. And in that remembering the scar tissue reconfigured in real time, in, great immediacy, like, do you feel those blueberry lumps? Yes. I feel those blueberry lumps, they hurt, they feel they're burning and then gone, like gone. And she's like, what just happened? I was like, I don't know what was that. I have no idea. And then she came again for a third session. She brought a film crew because she's that kind of person. So we were being filmed in real time, as I found yet another blueberry sized lump. I was working on it and massaging it. And it happened again, one tear, no more scar tissue. And so then she said, you know what? We've got to go into business. This is really big news. Let's take, you know, let's make an e-course about scar tissue remediation, which we proceeded to do, but this is back in 2009 and people didn't want to use mothers and sexuality in the same sentence in 2009, much less, much less mother's, sexuality, scars, and their remediation. We were just ahead of our time.

Rahi: Yeah. You know, Ellen, I think this speaks to what you share in your dissertation about the incredible paucity and lack of research around scar tissue adhesions within obstetrics. However, there's a lot of research, medical support around scar tissue and adhesions that's non-obstetrics,

Ellen : Tons of research about abdominal adhesions. But nobody's looking for adhesions in the pelvic floor. Nobody thinks that they're - maybe people don't see connective tissue - adhesions happen in connective tissue. They're made of connective tissue. They've studied adhesions extensively in the abdomen because of course they can cause a bowel obstruction, which is quite deadly in elderly people. So yes, there's research to study that, but nobody has studied adhesions in the pelvic floor - as it might interfere with sexual function, I E engorgement and lubrication, because we don't study engorgement and lubrication in people with vulvas, it's just not even part of the education. So nobody's looking for the adhesions that would interfere, interfere with a physical function. It took a sexologist to go in and ask the questions about, well, wait a minute. If adhesions really screw up function in digestion, wouldn't they therefore screw up function in engorgement and lubrication in the pelvic floor. And nobody's going to answer that question because nobody's asked it before. So I asked it and answered it. And my findings with my hand, with my own hands is that yes, you can feel the adhesion. You can feel its dissolution. Usually when the adhesion dissolves, so does the pain from the penetration. So, yes. I mean, I think I answered my own question, I guess.

Rahi: Yeah, yeah.. But you know, it just makes me wonder because you shared, I think you shared that all of the women you worked with, as case studies in your dissertation did not suspect scar tissue to be the culprit in their sexual pain. So it just speaks to how uninformed, as a society we are and how many women post birth after, you know, uh, bringing, bringing life to our planet are walking around with pain that they've just either accepted, they've gone to different medical professionals. No one knows - no one has diagnosed it or assessed it properly. The remedies...

Ellen : ...You're good to go, you know, you have painful sex now it's in your head.

Rahi: Yeah. So, I love what you're speaking to the example of the client who brought in the film crew. It really speaks to how the emotions that she had overridden, you know, she had this really idyllic - she wanted an idyllic image and memory of her birth, which is wonderful, but that the body does feel everything. And until it integrates and really has the space to feel those emotions fully, it will be held and stored in the body. And specifically, you know, during birth, certainly around scar tissue in the pelvis,

Ellen : Specifically stored in the scar itself. Yeah. I mean, who thinks about emotions of the moment when the injury occurred - hanging out in the scar, but I can tell you if you touch a wound, even a healed wound and a resolved wound, sometimes emotions will come up, whether it's intra-vulva, intra-anal, or intra-abdominal, or just talking, you know, put your hands where somebody's broken their leg, then you just hold them there and abide - be with the tissue in a nonjudgmental way - sometimes the emotions that haven't gotten processed from that trauma will, uh, will present themselves.

Rahi: Yeah, it's that unconditional presence, isn't it? With no agenda, but just to be with that part of the body and touch into that, that memory - the story,

Ellen : Yes. Allow the body's story to unfold, but it takes a very neutral presence for that to occur. And by neutral, I don't mean I don't care. What I do mean is I'm not trying to add any information to the system. I'm holding the tissue without judgment, without, without energy, really just presence, not trying to do anything. And I think this is a difference again, maybe between the application of physical therapy and the application of what I'm doing, which I call scar tissue remediation. The scar has to be heard. And that takes time. You have to give, you have to take to listen - without adding any information into the scar itself, which means touching - bare attention and touching, that's it. No trying to "fix" or "doing," - people get so busy wanting to fix something and they never actually hear the problem... they're too busy trying to "fix" it.

Rahi: Sure, sure. Is is how can you listen to this story that is yearning to be told, if you have your own agenda or your own story imposed over it. You know, I want to come to the experience that you had that you shared in your writing, because it also involved an unconditional presence at a client's obturator internus muscle - that unwound trauma that had been held, you know, trans-generationally - it's just so amazing. I would love for you to share that experience. I mean, I've read it, but our listeners haven't read it. And if you can share that, it just really opens up entire new realms of what's possible to heal.

Ellen : It blew me away. I'd never suspected that a body could hold trauma that didn't occur to that body, but it occurred to somebody upstream from that body. So the story is a woman came to me who had painful penetration, and she lay on the table. Her legs were over my legs, and I could feel the amount of tension in her pelvis. And we talked about that and she said, yes, I've always had a very, very tight pelvis, but this person's very athletic. She works out. She's fairly flexible. There is no reason for the amount of tension I was feeling in her pelvis. And I asked her about that. I said, can you relax your legs over my legs? So I can feel the weight of your legs. And she couldn't. And so when I was inside her vagina, her obturator muscles, those are muscles that you can feel they're about a half inch inside the introitus, right?

Ellen : The entrance to the vagina. And if you press straight sideways into the vaginal walls, you'll encounter the obturator internus muscles. These muscles were so overdeveloped that they felt like tight rubbery rings of calamari intruding from the sidewalls of the vagina, into the vaginal space. And I'm like, well, that's why penetration hurts is because the introitus is occluded by the obturator muscles themselves. They're actually pushing too far in and reducing the space for penetration. Of course, that would hurt. But why are those obturator muscles so tight? That was the question I was asking myself, because it didn't make sense because there was no history of molestation. There was no history of extreme shaming around sexuality, except for the constant beat of the cultural drum about being raised Catholic in a Catholic country, not the U S, but she seemed at ease with it.

Ellen : And it didn't seem like that was really, it wasn't that it wasn't - It wasn't ambient cultural trauma. It wasn't complex. Uh, it wasn't complex trauma and it wasn't specific trauma. It was something else. And I was just like, Whoa, what is this? What is this? And so as she got off the table, she said, I don't know why I have to tell you this. And that's when all of my ears prick up - I don't know why I have to tell you this, but when my mother had me, she had to hold her legs together until the obstetrician got there, because she was in a Catholic hospital, the nuns couldn't catch the baby. She was in high labor. That guy had gone home for the evening and they had to wait for him to come back. So she had to hold the baby in because nobody could catch the baby.

Ellen : And so she, so she did this and I'm like, Oh my God, that's it. Your your obturators have learned that tension pattern when you were born, you were wanting to come out and you couldn't get past the obturators. And somehow that went into your body and I'm just like, how in the world does this happen? I can't even imagine what, you know, - how does the scar disappear instantly in a moment of somatic recall? How in a moment of a mother's stress, does that stress go into the body specifically in the same part of the body of the infant that's being born? Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, what is that? So she worked with this, she left the session. I got a letter from her seven weeks later, this particular person is a rebirther - does a lot of work with breath work, and she had taken a breath journey and she said she could feel, and she also couldn't tolerate hearing the word birth around her.

Ellen : If anyone talked about birth, she'd get faint. She would pass out, she'd even lose consciousness. She actually had to take a class in hypnobirthing to desensitize herself to the word birth. And the idea that when people have babies, you could listen to it without losing consciousness. So she had done that work and she thought she was done with her birth work, but she didn't never understood why she got so distressed or faint. Let alone, literally, vagal shut down is what was essentially having a vasovagal response to just the word of giving birth. That's a big hint that there's something happened around birth, but not birth that she had. She'd never had children. It was her birth. So, you know, she, she had an experience in a breathing journey that she took - of giving birth energetically. She could feel something moving out of her. And when she, after that, she's never had painful sex again. Her body... she completed the thing her mother needed to complete but couldn't

Rahi: Exactly, exactly. That's what I got from reading your writing, Ellen - is that she completed that interruption and allowed the energetic expression of what organically wanted to happen within her mother's body - she was able to release that and complete that within her own body for her mother.

Ellen : Right, right. And she said, her mother underplays how traumatic that birthing experience was - she was one of a number of children and the rest of the births were without incident. And she just likes to tell the story again, the cognitive story, right? The cognitive story, her mother tells is, Oh, it was no big deal. But her father says, yes, it was don't you remember? We had to wait for the doctor to come back and it was so difficult and you had to keep that baby inside of you against your pushing. And that was not easy. And so

Rahi: Well, yeah. And then I'm wondering, what is the fetus going through when its organic impulse is to push out and it's being forced, uh, you know, to kept it kept inside. And as I was reading that, I wondered, you know, the loss of consciousness that your client was experiencing every time there's a mention of birth or pregnancy... Is that a somatic memory of her, you know, like possibly losing consciousness inside the womb when all of her energy is wanting to come out.

Ellen : Indeed, indeed. I strongly believe so. I strongly believe so. So she managed to desensitize to it, but her body was still hanging on to the distress as an attention pattern in her obturator muscles. Um, yeah, quite fascinating. And since I have, since I public, well, not public, I guess you call it publishing. Since I posted that story on social media, I asked for other people who had had similar experiences and I've heard several, I've been getting people, people contacted me to tell me, you know, that happened to me and I also have had painful penetration. And then I also, um, it's very interesting. I spoke to someone recently who was telling me they had uterine cancer and - their mother had to give up the child that can be for them for adoption. Again, Catholic country in the fifties, her mother couldn't keep the baby because she was unwed.

Ellen : So she had to give it up for adoption. And this woman with uterine cancer told me she felt she had been conceived in a poisoned wound because her mother was so distraught around giving that for this child. And then my own story, just to be transparent here. My mother also lost a baby before I was born - and I also had uterine cancer. And I just know that that started with peculiar coincidence. I wonder how many other people have had that experience - of having a mother who had a sad womb or a traumatized womb or some buried emotion because you're encouraged when the next baby comes if something doesn't work out well with the baby, that can before - well, you should be happy. Everything's fine. You've got your baby. What are you complaining about? But who knows what's happening to the baby that's in that womb, you know - in terms of gestation and emotion and the washing of chemical information through the placental body to the baby, I don't know. There's a lot to consider there. I guess I said, I mean, I'm sounding woo-woo to myself - talking about this, but at the same time, I think these things have, I think the world is much more interconnected than we give it credit for. And I think we do have the ability to absorb emotional content in the form at least of cortisol and neuropeptides and neurotransmitters and what they do to our gestational process and the development of our emotional body during gestation. I think that has to be considered...

Rahi: Absolutely. Absolutely. I, yeah, I'm just, it really opens up such a wide, it kind of a new terrain of consideration,for practitioners when working with clients. And in this situation it was so clear because like, you know, there were no instances of sexual trauma, violation, you know, et cetera. She had never given birth before. So, you know, what was it? And, you know, the unwinding of that, you know, as you describe in your writing, the unwinding of the tightness in her introitus, as well as her whole double whole, I think side of her body, it was when you first laid your finger at her OI. Uh, and then the result of her being able to have pleasurable sex and orgasms afterwards, which was never, it sounds like was not kind of, even a possibility before.

Ellen : No, it's certainly it was the, you know, she... she approached me about a session and then didn't come in for years and then finally did come in. And she took a long time to think about whether she wanted to do this in her vaginal exploration a very long time to think about it. But then she did come in and it did, um, propagate a process in her where she could figure out what to do with it herself. But she it's always that moment of, I don't know why I'm telling you this, that element of surprise, that's the time, you know, to the practitioners out there - to really perk up your ears because this is the body speaking, it's not the cognitive. The minute the brain says, I don't know why - that's the cue. The body has got something to say.

Rahi: Right, right. You know, as I read it, I was so curious, whether her mother was still living and if there's any sense of how the mother's embodiment may have shifted.

Ellen : That's an interesting question. Wow. Uh, I don't know, perhaps I'll, I'll ask her

Rahi: God. I'm so curious, Ellen. I would love to,

Ellen : Okay. I hadn't considered that question, but boy, would that be something spooky action at a distance, right. Her mother is, and she's on another continent. So very interesting to know. Yeah. Yeah. Very interesting.

Rahi: Yeah, because if that energetic interruption has been completed, my guess is that her mother will have felt it and, um, yeah, it would be a great follow-up article.

Ellen : Yeah. It would be, Ooh, Ooh. I keep thinking about this.

Rahi: Yeah, yeah... the possibilities of it. Um, what, what really struck me - there's so many things that has struck me over the years of, you know, since our STREAM training and having our supervision groups, you know, since then have, you know, really kind of,, I mean, I don't want to over-simplify by saying they're simple processes, but you know, I remember you sharing with me - it is a simple procedure of De-sticking the uterus from a C-section scar. You know how it, it doesn't take a long time. And yet so many women who've had C-sections and subsequently have had their uterus's stuck to their C-section scar so that their cervix can't, you know, get out of the way of an incoming person or object experiences sexual pain as a result... Such a simple remedy of applying Castor oil and just, you know, massaging that area of where the uterus sticks to the C-section. Um, I feel like there's so many kinds of simple remedies like that. Um, if, if we just, you know, if this information was more mainstream,

Ellen : That would be great. You know, I'm hoping that through processes, that social media makes available such as your podcast, such as blogs and Facebook posts and all the ways that people have available to talk about these processes, these possibilities, that more and more people will hear them and wake up and eventually a paradigm, you know, it's sort of a bottom up seepage of this information into the zeitgeist and the culture. And I think it has to come that way, because it's so far outside of the existant medical paradigm, but eventually it will just seem like common sense. And even the medical paradigm will say, well, of course, you know, this is the way it is. And it's been, we've understood this. Okay, that's good. As long as it gets out there and can be helpful to people, that's really the idea. That's the important part.

Rahi: Absolutely. Um, Ellen, before we bring this to a close, I had a colleague reach out to me, because one of her friends had cervical cancer and had endured radiation treatment. And it made me think back to being supervised by you of one of, two of my clients who had cervical and uterine cancer, but it was the effect of the radiation that really made their tissue intra-vaginal tissues, dry and brittle and painful, and how you, how there are ways to, you know, clean the blood, clean the liver, and use Castor oil to moisturize and bring sensitivity to regenerate that tissue. For people out there who may have endured radiation, intra-vaginally, or intra-pelvicly, you know, of course each human being is unique and their kind of history of biochemistry and emotions and trauma, but are there some general guidelines that you can provide to give people some hope and some guidance as to how to start addressing re -sensitizing their tissues?

Ellen : Well, certainly the application of castor oil is first and foremost. Removing the radiation from the body is another one. And that gets into mud baths - really bathing in clay, getting certain kinds of very absorptive clay and being in a bathtub up to your ears, you know, sinking down deep in the water and letting the water just pull any ambient radiation - toxicity out of your tissues. You could, one could not you, but if you had, it doesn't, it sounds counter-intuitive, but doing a clay pack on an area, not a mucosal membrane, but certainly on the perineum and over the lymph of the pelvis to help it drain - is going to help remove any toxic byproducts of the radiation treatment. So, clay pack over the skin of the groin on either side of the, of the vulva from the outer lips to the hip bones, from the sitz bones to the hip bones, and up in that groin, break of the leg area, certainly making a slurry of clay mixed with water till it's about the, uh, texture of peanut butter, and then drying, letting the clay dry.

Ellen : It will pull a lot of toxins out and that whole area needs to be detoxified as a result of not just the radiation, but any artifacts of chemotherapy that might've been applied, et cetera, et cetera. So castor oil on the mucosal tissue, clay on the skin tissue, and then castor oil after the clay - to then increase lymphatic drainage, because you've pulled everything out that can come out in the clay, but then you need to re-lubricate the lymph kind of juice it up again, so it can continue to move fluid through. And castor oil is very good for that. So that would be like a half day process. That's sort of like a spa day at home. Castor oil on the mucosal tissue, like intra- vaginally on the cervix, or what's left of the cervix, all around between the inner and outer lips, just massage it on liberally and let it soak in.

Ellen : Then clay pack over the lymphatics, at the groin in over the skin, and then a castor oil pack over the lympth on the skin. And that would be a really excellent treatment. And if you did that three days a week... I had a client who had anal cancer and her, - it had such a huge impact down the whole back body line, in terms of scarification that spread. She had gotten to the point where she could scarcely walk because how tight her hamstrings were as a result of the radiation on her anus. So I had her do castor oil packs on her anus and all down the backs of her legs. And it brought her back into normal range of motion with no pain. So certainly castor oil. And she also did anal tampons inside her anus, you know, menstrual tampons, but soaked in castor oil intra-anally as to help with the lubrication of the rectum, because it was hard for her to poop because yeah, cause just the tissue was not, it's the self-lubricating properties of the tissue were limited as a result of the radiation treatment, but castor oil certainly helped to bring that back into a more normal function.

Rahi: Yeah, yeah. It reminds me of, you had supervised me on a client who had seven or eight surgeries after removing her vaginal mesh and the organic tampons dipped in castor oil intra-vaginally, in her situation, really allowed for those tissues to absorb the properties that increase blood flow and lymph flow, and instrumental as a prelude to the palpation and bringing life and sensitivity back to the tissues.

Ellen : Yeah. Castor oil is, is really remarkable. It's a remarkable gift of nature and we're lucky to have it easily available and it's inexpensive, so it's a

Rahi: Easily available and that's the mind-blowing thing. It's just so easy, you know? I mean, yeah. I just, I,

Ellen : You can get it from whole foods. You'd just make sure it's organic and you're, you're going to be okay.

Rahi: Yeah. Yeah. Ellen, thank you so much for just pioneering this work for really, being an artist as well as a scientist and for sharing the, you know, research, the depth and wisdom that you bring, I think is really, really profound and such a gift. Um, so the dissertation is available on your website

Ellen : If they want to, if, and just to be kind, if people want to read the dissertation without, you can only turn one page at a time, you can't skip around the dissertation of somebody wanting to read it in a way where they, it was more easily navigable. Um, they can, people can email me and I'm happy to share my dissertation for anyone who's got the intestinal fortitude to weigh in. It's, you know, it's deep academic writing and not for the faint of heart, but it there's good comments, dissertation. I'm proud of it.

Rahi: Wonderful. That's very, very generous of you. Um, so people can email you from your website. Sure.

Ellen : Yeah. Okay.

Rahi: Okay. Great contact@ellenheed.com. And before we wrap up,Ellen, um, you know, I'm asking all my guests, if there's a somatic contemplation or practice that you can recommend to listeners that would just really nourish and encourage them to deepen their sexual embodiment. Wow. It could be a breathing, could be a touch, could be,

Ellen : I think a good one is just to, uh, for people well, for people of people, anyone with a pelvis - to drape one's hands over the pubic bone. And if there's a penis there that just separate your fingers, you know, the Vulcan salute - so on either side of the penis, but just to drape hands and let them relax, really just let them relax and breathe and feel the heel of the hand on the pubic bone, and to feel the fingers cupping over the pubic bone. And there's something so comforting about that cupping motion - to feel that not just the top surface of the pubic bone, but the bottom surface of the pubic bone. There's something kind of completing in a three-dimensional way about that. That's sort of soothing to the nervous system I find. And I think we can cup our own pubic bones, uh, as well as have them cupped by practitioners. But I think it's great to cup your own, and just be with your breath, be with your awareness, and see what comes up. You could ask. Is there anything I need to hear from my body in this contact?

Rahi: That's beautiful.

Ellen : Be interesting to see what comes up.

Rahi: Yeah. It makes me wonder what could happen over a series of days. If one did that, you know, in the morning - it's such a simple practice and yet, that intentional listening for what the pubic bone and the pelvis has to say - have to tell us, the stories that they have to share

Ellen : Worlds of information inside the pelvis... I keep discovering more and more information that goes back - we don't know how far

Rahi: That's very exciting. Cause it's like, you know, it's kinda like, you know, Star Trek - going into the vast unknown. I mean, you know, that's exciting. Exactly. The final frontier. Right. Right. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for your time today, Ellen. I really, really appreciate it. And, yeah, for our listeners, I'll have those links on my show notes. And again, you can go to, EllenHeed.com for more information on Ellen's work.

: How did it feel to make such gentle contact with your pubic bone? Is it - or any other part of your body where there might be scar tissue, or a past injury calling out for your attention after listening to this episode?

: In the next episode with Keli Garza, we explore a non-touch method for bringing soothing and powerful nourishment into the pelvis and womb-space to restore the organic flow of sexual energies through the time-tested practice of perennial steaming. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, share with your tribe or leave a review. You can also download the free organic sexuality ebook@organicsexualitypodcast.com Until next time, take good care.

Featured Episodes

With some of the wisest Somatic Sexologists in the Field.

Dr. Aline LaPierre

Creator of Neuroaffective Touch Therapy and author of Healing Developmental Trauma

Mike Lousada

Creator of Psychosexual Somatics Therapy and author of Real Sex

Susanne Roursgaard

Psychotherapist/Sexologist/Mid-Wife and Creator of The Gaia Method

Devi Ward Erickson

Founder of The Institute of Authentic Tantra Education

 

Dr. Liam Snowdon

Co-Founder: Somatic Sex Educators Association

Kimberly Anne Johnson

Author of The Call of the Wild & The Fourth Trimester

Dr. Ellen Heed

STREAM: Scar Tissue Remediation and Management

 

Kris Gonzalez, L.Ac.

Founder of The Way of Yin

About the Show

We explore the restoration of pleasure, the reclamation of sexual sovereignty, and the realization of our organic sexual wholeness. We engage with leading somatic therapists, sexologists & sexological bodyworkers, and holistic practitioners worldwide who provide practical wisdom from hands-on experiences of working with clients and their embodied sexuality. We invite a deep listening to the organic nature of the body, its sexual essence, and the bounty of wisdom embodied in its life force.

Rahi Chun
Creator: Somatic Sexual Wholeness

Rahi is fascinated by the intersection of sexuality, psychology, spirituality and their authentic embodiment. Based in Los Angeles, he is an avid traveler and loves exploring cultures, practices of embodiment, and healing modalities around the world.