Chronic pelvic pain
Chronic pelvic pain
In women, chronic pelvic pain refers to pain in your pelvic region — the area below your bellybutton and between your hips — lasting six months or longer. 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 can be a symptom of another disease, or it can be designated as a condition in its own right.
The cause of chronic pelvic pain is often hard to find. Like many women, you may never receive a specific diagnosis that explains your pain. But that doesn't mean your pain isn't real and treatable.
If the source of your chronic pelvic pain is found, treatment focuses on that cause. If no cause can be found, treatment for chronic pelvic pain focuses on managing the pain.
Chronic pelvic pain exhibits many different characteristics. Among the signs and symptoms are:
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 gynecologic problems may be the source of chronic pelvic pain. However, other diseases can cause pelvic pain, such as irritable bowel syndrome and interstitial cystitis. In addition, psychological factors may contribute to your pain.
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, you may eventually be referred to a specialist in digestive system problems (gastroenterologist) or a specialist in urinary and gynecological problems (urogynecologist).
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
For chronic pelvic pain, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, 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 numerous disorders could be responsible. 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 many 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 underlying cause, your treatment will focus on eliminating that particular cause. However, if you're unable to find the cause of your pelvic pain can be found, treatment will focus on managing your pain.
You will often need to try a combination of treatment approaches before you find what works best for you.
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. If you're depressed and pain is sapping your energy, you may withdraw from social situations.
These self-care measures may help ease your discomfort:
Several types of alternative therapies may reduce pain associated with certain medical conditions. Ask your doctor whether 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 alternative therapies are to relieve your symptoms. He or she can also let you know about any potential risks based on your personal health history.
Last Updated: 2011-02-15
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