Pelvic Pain: Here’s What You Should Know
Pelvic pain refers to the pain that occurs in the pelvic region. This region is the area in your lower abdomen between your hips. Simply stated, any area below your belly button. This area houses your bladder, vagina, and rectum.
This area involves urination, defecation, sexual intercourse and reproduction. Therefore it’s its hard to identify the cause of the pelvic pain. The scope of this blog is to discuss pain due to problems with a female reproductive organs.
Living with any pain can be quite challenging as it can interfere with intimacy, relationships and work.
If you are suffering from pelvic pain it’s important to be seen by your doctor. While it’s not always serious, some causes of pelvic pain require immediate treatment to prevent it from getting worse or causing more problems in the future.
Below is everything you need to know about pelvic pain.
Most Common Causes of Pelvic Pain in Women
Pelvic pain, particularly the chronic type, is often complex. It’s sometimes caused by multiple factors or a single disorder.
In endometriosis, the uterine lining grows outside of the organ. It can extend and attach to the fallopian tubes, ovaries, intestines, and other pelvic structures.
Pelvic pain associated with endometriosis often comes during a woman’s menstruation. The tissue deposits react to the menstrual cycle in the same way the uterus does. They become thick, break down, and bleed each month in response to the body’s hormone levels.
Since the bleeding happens outside of the uterus, there’s no other way for the tissues and blood to come out through the vagina. Instead of leaving the body, they stay in the abdomen where they become cysts and scar tissues.
This refers to the pain at the vulva and vaginal opening. Although the cause is unknown, healthcare professionals treat it as inflammation in the nerves, tissues, and muscles in the area.
Vulvodynia makes it hard and painful to insert a tampon or put on a pair of tight pants. It also makes sexual intercourse uncomfortable.
Most women who have it complain of pain that feels like stabbing, burning, stinging, and rawness. It can happen constantly or intermittently.
These refer to the uterine growths that create that feeling of heaviness and pressure in the lower abdomen. They are noncancerous and can only cause sharp pain when they start becoming deprived of blood supply and they begin to degenerate.
Chronic Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
This condition is often sexually transmitted. It creates scarring in the pelvic organs, causing pain in the long run.
Pelvic Congestion Syndrome
Experts have varying opinions about pelvic congestion syndrome. Some of them believe that the enlarged veins in women with this condition contribute to their pelvic pain. Other experts don’t think the same way.
This is also known as painful bladder syndrome. It’s often accompanied by other symptoms, such as increased urinary frequency and urgency.
Your muscles, joints, and nerves in the pelvic area can also contribute to your pelvic pain. This includes conditions like pelvic floor muscle tension and inflammation of your pubic symphysis or pubic joint.
Diagnosing Pelvic Pain
One of the first things your doctor will do to diagnose your condition is to perform a complete physical exam. He will examine your pelvis and abdominal organ. He’ll also check the muscles, tissues, and organ in your pelvic area to see any abnormalities or tenderness.
After the physical exam, your doctor will require you to undergo specific tests and procedures to determine the cause of your pain. The next steps may include:
- Urine tests
- Blood work
- Pelvic ultrasound
- Pelvic MRI
- Pelvic laparoscopy
If your pelvic pain happens to be a bladder symptom, you may need to see a urogynecologist for proper management. In case it’s a gastrointestinal symptom, see a gastroenterologist so you can receive a proper treatment plan.
Treating Pelvic Pain
The treatment plan you’ll receive will basically depend on the cause of your pain. In general, pelvic pain can be managed through the following treatment options.
To obtain temporary relief from pain, your doctor may advise you to take over-the-counter pain medications. Your options include ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen. If the pain is too intense, you may be given a prescription pain reliever which needs to be taken as necessary.
While pain relievers work in easing the discomfort, they don’t treat or resolve the cause of the pain. You’re likely to experience it again as their effects wear off.
If your pain is due to an infection, you’ll need to take antibiotics. It’s important that you take them as prescribed to minimize the risk of antibiotic resistance.
For pelvic pain that coincides with a certain phase of the menstrual cycle and the hormonal changes that go with it, taking hormone treatments might help. Birth control pills may also be prescribed.
For endometriosis, laparoscopic surgery may be necessary to remove any adhesion or endometrial tissue causing the pain. In this procedure, a slender viewing instrument called laparoscope is inserted near the navel. Other instruments are also inserted through additional small incisions to take away the target tissues.
This is usually done for complicated cases where the uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes are needed to be taken out to prevent complications. If you are given this option, it’s important that you know everything about the surgery before agreeing to it. Your doctor should be able to discuss not just the benefits of doing it but also its risks and potential complications.
Trigger Point Injections
For this, your doctor will determine the exact points of your pain. After finding the specific points, he’ll deliver a numbing agent to ease your discomfort.
Spinal Cord Stimulation
With spinal cord stimulation, a device will be implanted to prevent the pain signal from reaching your brain. This is often helpful but the effects will still depend on the cause of your pain.
As part of your treatment, you’ll be taught ways to cope with the pain. A physical therapist can help you properly and safely perform massages, stretching exercises, and other relaxation techniques to improve your condition and ease your pain.
Your physical therapist may also perform TENS or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation using a special medical instrument. In some cases, biofeedback may also help with muscle relaxation and easing pelvic pain.