FAQs on Pelvic Pain
Chronic pelvic pain is discomfort that persists for 6 months or longer. Female pelvic pain is felt below the belly button, and it varies from woman to woman. Some people’s pelvic pain is mild and intermittent, whereas others suffer with severe, steady pain that interferes with work, sleep, and daily life.
How common is pelvic pain?
Chronic pelvic pain affects around 1 in 7 women in the U.S. One study reported that the prevalence rate of pelvic pain among reproductive-aged women was 39%, with 10% of gynecologist visits are related to pelvic pain.
Who gets pelvic pain?
Women are most often affected by pelvic pain, but it can occur in men. In one study, African-Americans had a higher incidence of pelvic pain than other races.
What causes pelvic pain in women?
Chronic pelvic pain can be caused by menstrual cramps, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, adenomyosis, and ovulation pain. Women who have had pelvic surgery can have adhesions or scar tissue form in the pelvis, which makes pain occur. Experts are not sure of the exact cause of the pain, but after an injury or surgical area of the pelvis has healed, the affected nerves keep sending pain signals to the brain. This is called neuropathic pain. However, for many people with pelvic pain, no cause can be found.
What conditions cause pelvic pain in men?
The three most common causes of pelvic pain in men are:
- Prostatodynia – Also known as chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CPPS), this involves unexplained pain of the groin, genitalia, and/or perineum.
- Chronic prostatitis – Chronic inflammation of the prostate gland occurs in less than 5% of men, but can lead to incomplete urination or prostate stones.
- Proctalgia fugax- This is painful spasming of the pelvic floor muscles, which often occurs after sexual activity.
What symptoms are associated with chronic pelvic pain?
- Pain that ranges from dull to sharp
- Pain that ranges from mild to severe
- Cramping pain during menses
- Pain during sex
- Pain with bowel movements and/or urination
How is pelvic pain treated?
The treatment of chronic pelvic pain depends on the underlying cause. Treatment options include:
- Celiac plexus block – The celiac plexus is a group of sympathetic nerves that supply the abdominal organs. With this block, the doctor inserts a small needle through the back using x-ray guidance. After correct placement is verified, the nerves are injected with a long-acting anesthetic to numb them, or a neurolytic substance is used to destroy a portion of the nerves. The success rate of this block is 85-90%, according to recent reports.
- Ilioinguinal nerve block – Peripheral nerves are located outside the brain and spinal cord. An ilioinguinal nerve is wrapped around the rim of the pelvis and supplies the pubic area and groin. With this procedure, the doctor inserts a needle near the nerve and injects a long-acting anesthetic.
- Transcutaneous nerve stimulation (TENS) – With this pain measure technique, electrodes are positioned on the skin to deliver electrical current to the affected region. The impulses interfere with pain signals and relieve pain.
- Acupuncture – An ancient Chinese technique, this involves the insertion of small needles over the affected region. This measure works by stimulating the release of endorphins and restoring proper body energy.
- Sacral nerve stimulation – For chronic pelvic problems, a device is surgically implanted near the lower back to deliver short electric impulses to the nerves that supply the lower abdomen. One study found that SNS was 71% effective for improving pain scores and decreasing the duration and rate of pain.
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