Chronic pelvic pain refers to pain that lasts for at least six months in the pelvic area. A common cause for concern, it’s estimated that 15 to 20 percent of childbearing women are affected by this condition. Chronic pelvic pain can affect a woman’s physical health, mental wellbeing, and daily living when symptoms persist. Pelvic pain has many possible causes, and symptoms may vary for each person.
Many women suffer from chronic pelvic pain for months before seeking treatment. If your symptoms persist and the intensity of pain increases, it may be time to consult with your doctor for evaluation and treatment.
Pelvic Pain Symptoms
Women who suffer from chronic pelvic pain may experience discomfort anywhere between the hip bones and below the belly button. Chronic pelvic pain has several causes, so symptoms and the type of pain can vary.
The following symptoms are common to chronic pelvic pain:
- Abdominal pain
- Genital pain
- Low back pain
- Hip pain
- Pain when having a bowel movement or urinating
- Painful intercourse
- Pain when sitting
Chronic pelvic pain can include the following types of pain:
- Severe and constant pain
- Pain that comes and goes
- Dull aching
- Sharp pain
- Pressure deep within your pelvis
- Feeling constantly irritated
- Feeling of tearing
Women may be more likely to experience chronic pelvic pain if they have one or more of the risk factors listed below:
- Childbirth or pregnancy was difficult
- Have a history of pelvic inflammatory disease
- Have a history of physical or sexual abuse
- Have had abdominal surgery or radiation therapy
- Experience infertility issues
If your symptoms persist or begin to affect the quality of your life, it’s important to consult with a doctor to be evaluated.
Possible Causes of Chronic Pelvic Pain
Chronic pelvic pain may be caused by a number of conditions. Many times, it can be attributed to a combination of disorders that lead to pain and discomfort. Sometimes the cause is unknown. Below are some common causes of chronic pelvic pain.
Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. Surrounding areas may become inflamed or swollen and lead to scar tissue and lesions.
Musculoskeletal conditions affecting your bones, joints and connective tissues can lead to recurring pelvic pain. Common musculoskeletal conditions include pelvic floor muscle tension, fibromyalgia, hernia, and pubic joint inflammation.
Chronic pelvic inflammatory disease occurs when there is an infection in the reproductive organs. This is often caused by sexually transmitted diseases and may lead to scarring of the pelvic organs.
Ovarian remnant syndrome occurs when small pieces of the ovary are left in the pelvic cavity after surgical removal of the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. These remnants can lead to inflammation and painful cysts.
Fibroids are noncancerous uterine growths in the uterus. In some cases, they can cause heavy menstrual bleeding and pelvic pain.
Irritable bowel syndrome is an intestinal disorder that causes bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. Symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome can be a source of pelvic pain and pressure.
Painful bladder syndrome is characterized by recurring bladder pain and frequent urination. Pelvic pain may occur as your bladder fills, temporarily improving after you empty it.
Pelvic congestion syndrome occurs when enlarged, varicose-type veins around your uterus and ovaries cause pain in the pelvis.
Vulvodynia, or chronic vulvar pain, is a condition without an identifiable cause in which chronic pain, burning, or discomfort is experienced around the opening of the vagina.
Pelvic floor dysfunction occurs when there is a problem with the muscles of the pelvic floor. It can lead to forced contractions of muscles and difficulty with bowel movements. Without treatment, pelvic floor dysfunction can lead to long-term health problems.
How Our Doctors Treat Chronic Pelvic Pain
Finding relief for your pelvic pain begins with an evaluation from your doctor. To find the cause of your symptoms, your doctor will begin with a health history and physical exam. They also may order a number of tests to diagnose the cause of your pain.
These tests may include:
- Blood testing
- Urine testing
- Pregnancy test
- MRI or CT scan
Chronic pelvic pain can be difficult to diagnose, and in some cases, a clear explanation may never be found. The right treatment plan, however, developed between you and your doctor can help minimize your discomfort. Your doctor may recommend a combination of treatments to address your pain.
Depending on the cause of your pelvic pain, your doctor may prescribe medication to help with your symptoms. These medications can include over-the-counter pain medicines or prescription-strength pain relievers. Antibiotics may be used if an infection is present. If a psychological issue is indicated, you may be prescribed antidepressants.
If your chronic pelvic pain coincides with your menstrual cycle phases, your doctor may recommend hormonal medication to help relieve your symptoms. These medications can be taken by pill, injection, or intrauterine devices.
Your doctor may order physical therapy if your chronic pelvic pain is related to a musculoskeletal or nerve issue. Stretching, strengthening exercises, and massage may help relax the muscles and stabilize joints. Your therapist may also include pelvic floor exercises and nerve stimulation therapies to address the underlying issue.
Surgical procedures may be recommended by your doctor to correct an underlying cause of chronic pelvic pain. If you have endometriosis, your doctor may suggest laparoscopic surgery to remove adhesions or extra endometrial tissue causing pain. In more advanced cases, a hysterectomy may be recommended to remove the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries.
Contact Us Today
If you are suffering from chronic pelvic pain, our team of specialists are here to help. The Women’s Health Center at Weiss features a multidisciplinary team of experts who provide comprehensive, compassionate, and innovative care for women’s health concerns.
Our experienced clinicians provide thorough diagnostic exams and individualized treatment plans that are tailored to meet the unique and often complex health needs of each person.
If you have questions or would like to schedule a consultation, call the Women’s Health Center at 773-564-6025.