So, what constitutes pelvic pain? Any pain in the pelvic region, the area between your hips and below your belly button, is considered pelvic pain. There are many reasons you might experience pelvic pain. The pain may travel downward to your legs or around to your lower back. You might feel the pain all of the time or it may come and go, often with your menstrual cycle or following sexual intercourse.
Symptoms of Pelvic Pain
You may have difficulty describing your pelvic pain or even ignore it if it’s occurring during your normal menstrual cycle. However, you should talk to your doctor if you experience any symptoms that bother you including:
- Severe and steady pain
- Pain that comes and goes (intermittent)
- Dull aching
- Sharp pains or cramping
- Pressure or heaviness deep within your pelvis
- Pain during intercourse
- Pain while having a bowel movement
- Pain when you sit down
Causes and Risk Factors of Pelvic Pain
Just as all women are different, physically and emotionally, the causes of pelvic pain vary greatly. Pelvic pain can be caused by a number of gynecological problems or conditions including:
- Pelvic floor muscle spasms
- Chronic pelvic inflammatory disease from scarring caused by previous infections.
- Ovarian cysts
- Scar tissue from past surgeries or injury
The cause of your pelvic pain is often hard to find, but that doesn't mean your pain isn't real and treatable.
Tests to Diagnose Pelvic Pain
Pelvic pain is not something you have to suffer with, no matter your age or lifestyle. The pain may be mild and annoying or it may be so severe that you miss work, can’t sleep or it disrupts your daily life.
To help diagnose your pelvic pain, the doctor will start with a full medical history and physical exam and other exams including:
- Pelvic exam to look for signs of infection, abnormal growths or tense pelvic floor muscles.
- Blood and tissue tests to check for infections
- Imaging tests such as ultrasound, MRI, X-rays, or CT scans to give your doctor a clear picture of your pelvis and internal organs.
- Laparoscopy to allow your doctor to view your pelvic organs and check for abnormal tissues or signs of infection in your pelvis.
Treatment and Procedures for Pelvic Pain
Treatment for your pelvic pain will depend on its severity and any underlying causes. Your doctor will develop a treatment plan that best addresses your individual needs.
Some treatment options for pelvic pain include:
- Pain relievers including over-the-counter and prescription medications
- Hormone treatments to help relieve pelvic pain associated with your menstrual cycle.
- Antibiotics to clear up infections
- Physical therapy and exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to help improve localized or regional pain
- Laparoscopic surgery to remove scar tissue, endometrial implant, or cysts
If the above treatments are ineffective, your doctor may recommend a hysterectomy to remove your uterus.