What is pelvic pain?
Although pelvic pain often refers to pain in the region of women's reproductive organs, it can be present in both men and women and can stem from other causes. Pelvic pain might be a symptom of infection or might arise from pain in the pelvic bone or in non-reproductive internal organs. In people designated female at birth (DFAB), 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 causes pelvic pain?
There are many reasons why you may develop pelvic pain. Possible pelvic pain causes 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 pelvic pain causes in people designated female at birth (DFAB) include:
- Ectopic pregnancy.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
- Menstrual cramps.
- Ovarian cysts or other ovarian disorders.
- Uterine fibroids.
- Cervical cancer.
- Uterine cancer.
- Ovarian cancer.
What are the symptoms related to pelvic pain?
Pelvic pain may be accompanied by other symptoms or warning signs. Some of the most common pelvic pain symptoms include:
Care and Treatment
How is pelvic pain diagnosed?
When diagnosing the cause of pelvic pain, your healthcare provider will review your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam or other tests might also help in determining the cause of pelvic pain. Some diagnostic tools might include:
- Blood and urine tests.
- Pregnancy tests in people of reproductive age.
- Vaginal or penile cultures to check for sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.
- Abdominal and pelvic X-rays.
- Laparoscopy (procedure allowing a direct look at the structures in the pelvis and abdomen).
- Hysteroscopy (procedure to examine the uterus).
- Stool sample to check for signs of blood in your poop.
- Lower endoscopy (insertion of a lighted tube to examine the inside of the rectum and 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 depends on several factors, including cause, the intensity of pain and frequency of pain. Common pelvic pain treatments include:
- Medicine. Sometimes pelvic pain is treated with drugs, including antibiotics, if necessary.
- Surgery. If the pain results from a problem with one of the pelvic organs, the treatment might involve surgery or other procedures.
- Physical therapy. Your healthcare provider may recommend physical therapy to ease pelvic pain in some cases.
Living with chronic pelvic pain can be stressful and upsetting. Studies have shown that working with a trained counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can be beneficial in many cases. Your healthcare provider can offer more information about various treatments for pelvic pain.
How can I treat pelvic pain at home?
If you suffer from chronic pelvic pain, there are a few things you can do to ease symptoms at home. For example:
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium can help reduce swelling that leads to pelvic pain. Acetaminophen can also ease painful symptoms.
- Make time for exercise. Even though you may not feel like moving, exercise helps increase blood flow and may help reduce your discomfort.
- Apply heat. Place a heating pad or warm compress over the area, or take a long soak in a hot bath.
- Stop smoking. Tobacco products can inflame nerves and cause pain. Avoiding these habits can help relieve pain.
- Take supplements. If your pelvic pain symptoms are due to vitamin or mineral deficiency, supplements could help soothe your discomfort. Talk to your healthcare provider before incorporating supplements into your daily routine.
- Practice relaxation exercises. Yoga, mindfulness or meditation can help reduce stress and tension. As a result, chronic pain may be eased.
Can pelvic pain be prevented?
Pelvic pain can’t always be prevented. However, incorporating these recommendations into your daily life can help reduce your risk:
- Don’t overuse. Limit activities that require you to stand or walk for long periods of time.
- Eat more fiber. This is particularly helpful if your pelvic pain is due to diverticulitis.
- Exercise regularly. Staying physically active helps keep your joints and muscles in good condition.
- Stretch your muscles. Warm up before exercising to help reduce the risk of pelvic pain.
- Visit your healthcare provider regularly. Routine examinations can help your medical team detect issues early on before they worsen.
When to Call the Doctor
When should pelvic pain be treated by a healthcare provider?
If you have pelvic pain that developed suddenly, call your healthcare provider right away. You should also schedule an appointment if pelvic pain is so severe that it disrupts your daily life.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is pelvic pain a sign of?
While pelvic pain is often a symptom of urinary tract infections or gastrointestinal issues, it can also indicate a problem with organs in the pelvic area. There are many reasons why pelvic pain may develop. For proper diagnosis and treatment, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.
How do you know if pelvic pain is serious?
While not all pelvic pain is serious, seeking medical care when symptoms are severe is important. You should head to the nearest emergency room if:
- Pelvic pain is sharp, severe or sudden.
- You’re unable to stand up straight.
- There is blood in your pee or poop.
- You’re running a fever.
- You’re pregnant or have been pregnant in the last six months.
When should I be concerned about pelvic pain?
Pelvic pain may be serious if your symptoms developed suddenly or if the discomfort is severe. If you have pelvic pain that lasts for more than two weeks, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Pelvic pain can be concerning and because it’s a symptom of so many conditions, it can be particularly frustrating. Your healthcare provider can help determine the cause of your pelvic pain so you can receive the treatment you need to feel better.
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