What is Pelvic Pain?
Pelvic pain can be found in the lower abdomen or pelvis. It can present suddenly in which case it is called ‘acute pelvic pain’. If the pain lasts more than 6 months it is called ‘chronic pelvic pain’.
Pelvic pain is very common and chronic pelvic pain affects up to 1 in 6 women. Pelvic pain has many different causes and so it is important for the doctor to take a detailed history of the problem and to do a careful examination of the abdomen and an internal vaginal examination to help reach a diagnosis.
There are a number of tests to help reach a diagnosis all of which usually include an ultrasound scan of the pelvis, swabs for pelvic infection and sexually transmitted infections and a urine test.
A laparoscopy is often recommended. This is an operation carried out under general anaesthetic. A small cut is made under your belly button and a small telescope is inserted into your abdomen to look at the reproductive organs to see if there is any disease or damage to cause the pelvic pain.
Causes of Chronic Pelvic Pain
- Long-term pelvic pain may have one cause but often is caused by a combination of physical, psychological and social factors. These include:
- Endometriosis: this is a condition where cells of the lining of the womb are found elsewhere in the body, most commonly in the pelvis around the ovaries
- Adenomyosis: this is a type of endometriosis where the cells lining the womb are found in the muscle wall of the womb
- Adhesions: area of scar tissue caused by previous infection, surgery or endometriosis
- Interstitial cystitis: inflammation of the bladder
- Musculoskeletal pain: pain in the joints, ligaments, muscles and bones
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Trapped or damaged nerves
- Previous or on-going traumatic experiences such as sexual abuse
Treatment depends on the underlying cause or causes of pain and may include surgical treatment, medications or complementary therapies.