What is pelvic pain?
Pelvic pain can be a sign that there might be a problem with one of the reproductive organs in a woman’s pelvic area.
Although pelvic pain often refers to pain in the region of women's internal reproductive organs, pelvic pain can be present in either sex and can stem from other causes. Pelvic pain might be a symptom of infection or might arise from pain in the pelvis bone or in non-reproductive internal organs. In women, however, pelvic pain can very well be an indication that there might be a problem with one of the reproductive organs in the pelvic area (uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, and vagina).
What are the causes of pelvic pain?
Possible causes of pelvic pain in both men and women include:
- Bladder disorders (such as urinary tract infections)
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Kidney infection or kidney stones
- Intestinal disorders (such as diverticulitis or colitis)
- Nerve conditions (such as pinched nerves of the spine)
- Pelvis disorders (such as tightness and spasm of pelvic muscles)
- Broken pelvic bones
- Psychogenic pain (pain related to stress or psychological traumas from the past)
Possible causes of pelvic pain in women only include:
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Menstrual cramps
- Ovarian cysts or other ovarian disorders
- Cancer (cervix, uterus, or ovaries)
What are the symptoms related to pelvic pain?
Many symptoms are related to pelvic pain. Some of these symptoms include:
Care and Treatment
How is pelvic pain diagnosed?
When diagnosing the cause of pelvic pain, the doctor will review the symptoms and medical history of the patient. A physical exam and/or other tests might also help in diagnosing the cause of pelvic pain. The specific testing performed will depend on the discussions with your doctor as well as your examination. Some diagnostic tools might include:
- Blood and urine tests.
- Pregnancy tests in females of reproductive age.
- Vaginal or penile cultures to check for sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.
- Abdominal and pelvic X-rays.
- Diagnostic laparoscopy (procedure allowing a direct look at the structures in the pelvis and abdomen).
- Hysteroscopy (procedure to examine the uterus).
- Stool guaiac test (checking of a stool sample for presence of microscopic blood).
- Lower endoscopy such as colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy (insertion of a lighted tube to examine the inside of the rectum and part or all of the colon).
- Ultrasound (test that uses sound waves to provide images of internal organs).
- CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis (scan that uses X-rays and computers to produce cross-sectional images of the body).
How is pelvic pain treated?
The treatment of pelvic pain varies by what the cause is, how intense the pain is, and how often the pain occurs. Sometimes pelvic pain is treated with medicines, including antibiotics, if necessary. If the pain results from a problem with one of the pelvic organs, the treatment might involve surgery or other procedures. Physical therapy can be helpful in some cases. Also, because living with chronic pelvic pain can be stressful and upsetting, studies have shown benefit to working with a trained counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist in many cases. A doctor can provide more information about various treatments for pelvic pain.