Chronic pelvic pain in women
Chronic pelvic pain in women
Pelvic pain in women refers to pain in the lowest part of your abdomen and pelvis. If asked to locate your pain, you might sweep your hand over that entire area rather than point to a single spot. Chronic pelvic pain is pain in your pelvic region — the area below your bellybutton and between your hips — that lasts six months or longer.
Chronic pelvic pain can be a symptom of another disease, or it can be a condition in its own right. The cause of chronic pelvic pain is often hard to find. If the source of your chronic pelvic pain can be found, treatment focuses on that cause.
Some women never receive a specific diagnosis that explains their pain. But that doesn't mean your pain isn't real and treatable. If no cause can be found, treatment focuses on managing the pain.
Chronic pelvic pain has many different characteristics. Signs and symptoms may include:
In addition, you may experience:
Your discomfort may intensify after standing for long periods and may be relieved when you lie down. The pain may be mild and annoying, or it may be so severe that you miss work, can't sleep and can't exercise.
When to see a doctor
Several conditions may be the source of chronic pelvic pain. Sometimes, chronic pelvic pain may develop for no apparent reason and without any definitive source or cause. In addition, psychological factors may contribute to your pain. The emotional distress that may result from dealing with pain that has no good explanation over a long period of time often in itself makes the pain feel worse.
Some causes of chronic pelvic pain include:
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a doctor who specializes in conditions affecting the female reproductive tract (gynecologist). Depending on the suspected cause of your pain, he or she may refer you to a specialist in digestive system problems (gastroenterologist), a specialist in urinary and gynecologic problems (urogynecologist) or a specialist in musculoskeletal pain (physiatrist or physical therapist).
What you can do
Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions you've prepared in advance, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Figuring out what's at the root of your chronic pelvic pain often involves a process of elimination because many different disorders can cause pelvic pain. In addition to a detailed interview about your pain, your personal health history and your family history, your doctor may ask you to keep a journal of your symptoms.
Possible tests or exams your doctor might suggest include:
Finding the underlying cause of chronic pelvic pain can be a long process, and in some cases, a clear explanation may never be found. With patience and open communication, however, you and your doctor can develop a treatment plan that helps you live a full life with minimal discomfort.
Treatments and drugs
If your doctor can pinpoint a specific cause, your treatment will focus on eliminating that cause. However, if the cause of your pelvic pain can't be found, treatment will focus on managing your pain.
Pain rehabilitation programs
Lifestyle and home remedies
One frustrating aspect of chronic pain is that it can have a major impact on your daily life. When pain strikes, you may have trouble sleeping, exercising or performing physical tasks.
Anxiety and stress may worsen chronic pain. Effective stress management techniques not only help reduce your stress levels but also may help ease stress-triggered pain. Use or learn strategies for managing stress, such as:
Some types of alternative and complementary therapies may reduce pain associated with certain medical conditions. Ask your doctor if you should consider trying these approaches, and whether he or she can recommend a trusted practitioner.
Depending on your medical history, life situation and test results, your doctor may be able to tell you how likely these therapies are to relieve your symptoms. He or she can also let you know about any potential risks based on your personal health history. Examples of therapies include:
Last Updated: 2013-05-18
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