FAQs on Pelvic Pain – Answered by a Phoenix Pain Clinic
Chronic pelvic pain is defined as pain in the pelvic area that is present for six months or longer. Many people with this condition also experience changes in mood, anxiety, and depression. For many patients, doctors cannot pinpoint the exact cause of pelvic pain, so treatment is often challenging. The pelvic pain specialists in Phoenix at Arizona Pain are experts in pain relief.
How common is chronic pelvic pain?
Studies show that around 10% of women aged 15-50 have some type of pelvic pain, and around half of these women feel less active and depressed due to the condition. For many women with chronic pelvic pain, the doctor is unsure of the diagnosis.
What causes pelvic pain?
The main causes of pelvic pain include:
- Interstitial cystitis – This is a long-term condition where the bladder becomes inflamed and irritated, giving a sensation of having to urinate frequently, along with chronic pelvic discomfort.
- Endometriosis – When the uterine lining grows in places other than the uterus, it can cause irregular bleeding, bowel problems, infertility, and pain.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) – With this condition, there are excessive production of androgens (testosterone). This condition results in pelvic discomfort along with excessive hair growth and other symptoms. The main characteristic of this syndrome is multiple small cysts on the ovaries.
- Fibroids – These growths are inside the uterine wall, and they range in size from pea-sized to potato-sized. This pelvic pain is typically associated with cramping and heavy bleeding.
- Chronic prostatitis – For men, chronic swelling of the prostate gland can lead to pain, difficult urination, and sexual dysfunction.
- Pudendal neuropathy – The pudendal nerve supplies the sexual organs, perineal area, and rectum. This causes pain in the pelvic women, pain with sex, and discomfort when having a bowel movement.
- Ilio-inguinal nerve disorders – The nerves that feed the pelvic cavity often are damaged related to abdominal trauma, surgery, or an injury. This can lead to serious pelvic pain.
- Musculoskeletal problems – Any alignment problems with the pelvic bones can result in pelvic pain. In addition, after an injury has healed, muscle damage can remain.
What symptoms are associated with pelvic pain?
Pelvic pain is described as discomfort in the pelvic area, which is described as stabbing, burning, and heaviness. The pain often ranges in intensity, from mild to severe. It also can be constant or intermittent. Women who experience pelvic pain often describe cramping, bowel movement irregularity, irregular menses, fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and painful urination.
How is pelvic pain diagnosed?
The doctor will use a variety of diagnostic tests and procedures to determine the cause of your pelvic pain. The doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms, take a detailed medical history, and conduct a physical examination. Tests ordered may include blood tests, urinalysis, pelvic ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), laparoscopy, colonoscopy, x-ray, and sigmoidoscopy.
What are the treatment options for someone with pelvic pain?
There are several treatment options for someone with pelvic pain. These include:
- Medications – For those patients with hormonal problems, the doctor may prescribe birth control pills, analgesics, antidepressants, anti-inflammatory agents, and/or muscle relaxants.
- Trigger point injections (TPIs) – For painful trigger points on the body, the doctor will inject a long-acting anesthetic into these regions. This is often done for conditions where muscle contractions are involved.
- Relaxation techniques – These include deep breathing, biofeedback, and massage. Relaxation is good for patients who experience anxiety and mood disorders along with chronic pelvic pain.
- Acupuncture – This ancient Chinese therapy involves insertion of fine needles into the skin and subcutaneous tissue. This stimulates endorphin production and restores energy flow.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) – This is an external device worn on the outside of the body. A small box contains the battery, and wires connect to electrodes placed along the spine. The unit sends mild electrical currents that block pain signals.
- Celiac plexus block – During this procedure, the doctor injects a long-acting anesthetic onto the celiac plexus nerve bundle, which supplies the pelvic area. According to research studies, the success rate of this block is 85-90%.
- Sacral nerve simulation (SNS) – A sacral nerve stimulation device is surgically implanted. The unit delivers mild electric current to the nerves that supply the pelvic region. In a recent clinical study, SNS had a 71% efficacy rate.