Pelvic pain can happen between the belly button and the hips and groin. Long-term (chronic) pelvic pain is pain that lasts for 6 months or more.
Problems in any of the organs, soft tissues, intestines, nerves, bladder, or muscles can cause pelvic pain. Structures in the reproductive organs can also cause pain.
Female Pelvic Organs
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Many problems can cause pelvic pain:
Conditions like depression, can also increase feelings of pain or cause pain with normal action.
For some, the cause of the pain is not clear.
Factors that may increase your risk of pain include:
Pain can be different in each person. It may include:
- A constant pain or dull ache in the pelvic area
- Burning, shooting pain
- Urgent need to pass stool
- Pain that comes and goes
- Pain that ranges from mild to severe
- Pain with certain activities
- Pain with lengthy sitting
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. You may be asked to keep a pain diary. Write down when your pain happens, how it feels, and how long it lasts.
Your body's fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
- Blood and urine tests
- Cultures and swabs
- Tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Images of your body structures may be needed. This can be done with x-rays and ultrasound.
Minimally invasive surgeries may also be done to examine the area.
If the cause is known, it will be treated. This may include counseling, medication, and/or surgery.
Pain management can help with pain that does not respond to treatment or pain with no clear cause. Options include:
Medicine may help manage some pain. You and your doctor will work to find a dose that will decrease the risk of side effects. Options may include:
- Prescription pain medicine for severe pain
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help manage pain and reduce inflammation.
- Hormones for pain of the reproductive system.
- Antidepressants and anti-seizure medications to help manage certain types of chronic pain.
Severe pain that affects daily activity may need a nerve block. An anesthesia medicine is injected near the nerve that signals. This blocks the pain for a short time.
Therapies that may help manage pain include:
- Relaxation therapy—tension can increase feelings of pain
- Biofeedback—to teach your body how to react to pain
Counseling can help manage chronic pain. Stress and tension can increase feelings of pain. Unhealthy thought patterns can also develop which can make it harder to manage pain. Counseling can help you form healthy thought patterns, and teach you relaxation and coping methods. This therapy may reduce feelings of pain and its impact on your life.
Preventing chronic pelvic pain depends on what is causing it. You may not be able to prevent some causes.
Chronic pelvic pain. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/chronic-pelvic-pain.html. Updated April 2014. Accessed June 4, 2015.
Chronic pelvic pain. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq099.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130611T1540053024. Published August 2011. Accessed June 21, 2016.
Chronic pelvic pain. The International Pelvic Pain Society website. Available at: http://www.pelvicpain.org/docs/patients/Patient-Education-Brochure.aspx. Accessed June 21, 2016.
Chronic pelvic pain in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 15, 2016. Accessed June 21, 2016.
Levy BS. The complex nature of chronic pelvic pain. J Fam Pract. 2007 Mar;56(3 Suppl Diagnosis):S16-17.
Reiter RC. Evidence-based management of chronic pelvic pain. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 1998;41(2):422-435.
Last reviewed June 2016 by James Cornell, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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