Pelvic pain is any discomfort in the area below the umbilicus (belly button) and between the hips (pelvic region). Acute pain last for less than 3 months, and chronic pain last for 3 months or longer. Chronic pelvic pain can have many causes, and it is often associated with other symptoms.
How common is pelvic pain?
According to a recent study, 6-26% of women experience pelvic pain in the United States.
What symptoms are associated with pelvic pain?
When the doctor asks you about your pelvic pain, he may want you to locate your pain. Pelvic pain is often:
- Dull and aching
- Severe and steady
- Sharp and crampy
- Pain that comes and goes
- Associated with heaviness or pressure deep within the pelvis
What conditions occur along with pelvic pain?
Many people who have pelvic pain also report:
- Pain with urinating or having a bowel movement
- Pain during intercourse
- Pain after sitting for long periods of time
What are some common causes of pelvic pain?
Chronic pelvic pain is a complex disorder that often has multiple causes. However, a single condition could be identified as the cause. These causes include:
- Endometriosis – This is a condition in which uterine (womb) tissue grows outside the uterus. These uterine tissue deposits respond to hormonal changes and the menstrual cycle. The blood and tissue cannot exit the body through the vagina, as it is positioned outside of the reproductive tract.
- Tense pelvic floor muscles – This involves spasms and tension of the muscles along the pelvic floor.
- Chronic pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – This condition involves recurrent or long-term pelvic infection that results in scarring of the reproductive tract.
- Ovarian remnant – After surgically removing the uterus, fallopian tubes, and/or ovaries, a small piece of tissue (such as an ovary part) could remain in the pelvic region.
- Uterine fibroids – These benign growths cause pressure and heaviness, but rarely sharp pain.
- Irritable bowel syndrome – This condition causes pain, bloating, and diarrhea alternating with constipation.
- Interstitial cystitis – Associated with the frequent need to urinate, this condition causes pain when the bladder fills.
- Pelvic congestion syndrome – This results from enlarged, varicose-like veins around the uterus and ovaries.
Will the Chicago pain doctor run tests?
If you see a pain management specialist in Chicago for chronic pelvic pain, the doctor will review your medical records. Depending on your primary care provider’s work-up, the specialist may want to run some additional tests. Pelvic pain testing involves:
- Pelvic examination – This is done to assess for abnormal growths, tense pelvic muscles, and signs of infection.
- Laboratory tests – This includes white blood cell count, urinalysis, and screenings for chlamydia and gonorrhea.
- Ultrasound – This uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the pelvis. This test is used to assess the reproductive structures for cysts and growths.
- Imaging scans – Depending on the findings, the doctor may also order a computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to evaluate the pelvic organs and structures.
- Laparoscopy – This is a minimally invasive procedure, where the doctor inserts a tiny tube with camera through a small incision of the lower abdomen. The camera allows the doctor to visualize the organs and structures. This is useful for checking for infection, abnormal tissues, scarring, and chronic inflammatory disease.
How is pelvic pain treated?
Depending on the cause of pelvic pain, usual treatments include:
- Pain relievers – Aspirin, ibuprofen, Ultram, and/or narcotic analgesics.
- Hormone therapy – This may involve injectable medications given to stop ovulation and/or menstruation.
- Antibiotics – Given when an infection is found.
- Antidepressants – Tricyclic antidepressants (amitriptyline and nortriptyline) have been found to help pelvic pain.
- Physical therapy – The therapist will assist you to learn stretching exercises and strengthening techniques. In addition, the therapist may treat you with massage, heat therapy, and/or electrical stimulation.
- Interventional Procedures – one procedure that works great is known as a superior hypogastric plexus block. It’s outpatient and may provide months of relief. In addition, a spinal cord stimulator implant may offer excellent long term relief.
The pain management doctors in Chicago at Premier Pain and Spine offer pelvic pain relief with specialists providing both interventional procedures and medication management. Call us today, most insurance is accepted at our seven Chicagoland locations!