What is chronic pelvic pain? — Chronic pelvic pain is internal pain in the area bellow the belly button that lasts 6 months or longer. It often involves the sex organs. Sometimes the pain is tied to problems with the intestines (or the bladder.
These are the internal organs that make up a woman’s reproductive system.
This drawing shows the organs in the body that process food. Together these organs are called “the digestive system,” or “digestive tract.” As food travels through this system, the body absorbs nutrients and water.
What causes chronic pelvic pain?
Chronic pelvic pain can be caused by several medical conditions, including:
- Endometriosis – This is a condition in which cells that should exist only in the uterus begin to grow outside the uterus. Women who have endometriosis often have very painful periods. They also sometimes have problems getting pregnant.
- Chronic pelvic inflammatory disease – This condition happens after a related condition called “acute pelvic inflammatory disease” (PID). Acute PID is often caused by an infection that you catch during sex. Some women have pain long after the acute infection. They also often have problems getting pregnant.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – This is a condition that affects the intestines and causes both pain and problems with bowel movements. Women with IBS usually also have constipation, diarrhea, or both.
- Painful bladder syndrome and interstitial cystitis – These are conditions that cause the bladder to hurt when it is getting full. Women with these conditions often feel better when they empty their bladder, so they go to the bathroom often.
- Pelvic floor pain – Pelvic floor pain involves the muscles in the pelvic area, which can become tight and tender.
- Fibromyalgia – This is a pain disorder that causes pain in several parts of the body, not just the pelvic area.
Are there tests I should have?
If you have pelvic pain, your doctor will probably give you a regular pelvic exam. He might also order some blood or urine tests. Depending on your situation, you might also have:
- Pelvic ultrasound – This test uses sound waves to create an image of your pelvic organs. Doctors can use this test to spot fluid-filled sacs (called cysts), abnormal growths, and other problems.
- Laparoscopy – This is a procedure done in an operating room. The doctor makes a small incision near your belly button and inserts a device called a laparoscope. Then the doctor looks through the laparoscope to see if he or she can find the cause of your pain.
How is pelvic pain treated?
That depends on what is causing your pelvic pain. Possible treatments could include:
- Pain medicines
- Birth control pills
- Change in diet
- Physical therapy to help loosen or relax the muscles in the pelvic area
- “Talk” therapy or other types of counseling, which can help you learn ways to cope and manage the pain
- Surgery to remove the cause of the pain, if possible
Some women benefit from treatment at a pain clinic. Pain clinics offer special treatments for pain, such as:
- Pain medicines that come in shots
- Acupuncture, which involves having needles inserted into your skin
- Devices that block pain using mild electrical shocks
- Biofeedback, a technique that helps you learn how to control certain muscles
- Relaxation exercises