Pelvic Pain: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment
Pelvic pain occurs mainly in the lower abdomen. The pain can be severe or mild depending upon its underlying causes and symptoms. It can either be a sharp or stabbing type of pain in a specific place or a dull ache that spreads.
Pelvic pain is more common in females as compared to males. Most commonly females experience pelvic pain during menstrual cycle and second most common cause of pelvic pain in females is sexual intimation (also known as honeymoon syndrome). This type of pelvic pain can be a sign of problem with organs in your pelvic area, such as uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix or vaginal tract. Whereas in males, the cause can be prostate problem,urinary bladder issues or any type of exertion to the pelvic floor muscles during sexual intercourse.
Causes of Pelvic Pain
Finding the cause of chronic pelvic pain can be a long process and involves several procedures for determining it. Common causes of pelvic pain include-
Menstrual cramps during menstruation or ovulation.
Endometriosis, a condition in which the tissue that normally covers the internal part of the cervix gets inflamed and grow in outer region of the cervical lip leading to swelling of cervix.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the reproductive organs that is often caused by sexually transmitted bacteria.
Adhesions or scar strips that can form as part of the healing process after an injury or surgery.
Interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome), a condition associated with a sudden urge to urinate.
Uterine fibroids or tumors in the uterus.
Pelvic floor disorders, including muscle weakness that makes it difficult to control urination.
Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, a condition characterized by abdominal pain or frequent bowel movements.
Urinary tract infection (UTI or bladder infection), an infection that causes inflammation of the urinary tract and bladder.
Food intolerance or other GI problems.
Vulvodynia or pain in the female external genitals.
Diverticulitis, a condition characterized by inflammation of the large intestine.
Prostatitis, inflammation of the prostate.
STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Appendicitis, or infection of the appendix.
Ectopic pregnancy, where the embryo attaches outside the uterus.
Risk factors of Pelvic Pain
Basically anyone can experience pelvic pain. Some conditions, such as endometriosis, are believed to have a genetic component, but most causes of pelvic pain come from external sources, such as bacteria, or isolated cases.
Some of the factors that can increase the chances of pelvic pain are:
Longer menstrual cycle.
Irregular or heavy menstrual periods.
History of PID, miscarriage, sexual abuse, endometriosis, or sterilization.
Previous diagnosis of anxiety or depression.
Diagnosis for Pelvic Pain
Determining what is causing your chronic pelvic pain often involves a process of elimination, as many diseases can cause pelvic pain.
Tests or exams your doctor might take-
Pelvic exam-This may show signs of infection, abnormal growth, or tight pelvic floor muscles. Your doctor will examine the tender area. Tell your doctor if you experience any discomfort during this test, especially if the pain is similar to how you feel.
Laboratory tests-During a pelvic exam, your doctor may ask a laboratory to check for infections such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. Your doctor may also order blood tests to check your blood count and urine tests to check for urinary tract infection.
Ultrasound-This test uses high-frequency sound waves to create accurate pictures of structures inside your body. This procedure is very useful for finding lumps or cysts in the uterus, ovaries or fallopian tubes.
Other imaging tests-Your doctor may recommend an abdominal X-ray, computed tomography (CT), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look for abnormal structures or growths.
Laparoscopy-During this surgery, your doctor makes a small incision in your abdomen and places a thin tube attached to a small camera (laparoscope). A laparoscope allows your doctor to look at your pelvic organs and determine abnormal tissue or signs of infection. This procedure is very useful for detecting endometriosis and chronic pelvic inflammatory disease.
Pelvic pain is very common and can be associated with menstruation. However, you can reduce your risk of pelvic pain by-
Practicing safe intercourse and using condoms and other barrier methods to prevent the transmission of STIs/STDs.
Use lubricants while having sexual intercourse to avoid high friction that can lead to pelvic pain.
Visit your doctor regularly and discuss any discomfort or other symptoms.
Discussing whether oral contraceptives could be an option for you.
Go for a more fibrous diet to make sure that excretion of stools remains easy and normal as constipation and applying excessive pressure while defecating can cause severe pelvic pain.
Profuse coughing can cause excessive pressure over pelvic muscles that can lead to severe pelvic pain as well as hernia.
Treatment for Pelvic Pain
Treatment for pelvic pain varies depending on the cause, intensity of pain, and how often the pain occurs. Sometimes pelvic pain is treated with medications like antispasmodics and painkillers. If the pain is the result of a problem with any of the pelvic organs, treatment may include surgery or other procedures. Physiotherapy can help if there is simple muscle stretch.
Home Remedies for Pelvic Pain
Pelvic pain is often treated with over-the-counter pain relievers, but be sure to consult your doctor before taking any medication.
In some cases, rest can help. For others, gentle movement and light exercise are more beneficial. Try these tips:
Place a bottle of hot water on your abdomen to see if it helps relieve cramps, or take a warm bath.
Lift your legs. This can help relieve pelvic pain and pain affecting the lower back or thighs.
Try yoga, prenatal yoga, and meditation, which can also help with pain.
Take herbs such as willow bark, which can help relieve pain.
Get your doctor's approval before trying the aboveduring pregnancy.
When to see a doctor?
Normal pelvic pain may not be a cause for concern. If the pain is severe or lasts more than a week, make an appointment with your doctor.
You should see a doctor if you experience-
Blood in urine
Urine with an unpleasant smell
Inability in bowel movement
Bleeding between periods