Pelvic pain is a common problem—one that affects many women at all stages of life. Unfortunately, it’s also a problem that often goes undiagnosed.
“Many women experience pelvic pain for an extended period of time and come to accept it as normal, but any time you’re experiencing persistent pain is cause for concern,” says Melanie Schatz, MD, OB/GYN at the Main Line Health Center in Collegeville.
Symptoms of pelvic pain
Most women expect that, in order for chronic pelvic pain to be serious, it must be debilitating. That’s not always the case.
“Your pain doesn’t need to be overwhelming in order for it to be considered chronic or be symptomatic of a serious condition,” explains Dr. Schatz. “Although many women experience severe, steady pain, others describe their pain as more intermittent and dull.”
Other symptoms of pelvic pain include a pressure or heavy feeling in the pelvic region, dull or aching pain, cramping or sharp pains, and pain during sex, while using the bathroom, or while sitting for extended periods of time. If symptoms like these are interfering with your daily life, or getting worse, make an appointment with your OB/GYN to determine the cause.
Causes of pelvic pain
Pelvic pain can have a number of different causes. Endometriosis, fibroids, irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic inflammatory disease, and even psychological factors like depression, stress, or a history of abuse can cause pelvic pain.
It’s difficult to discern the cause of your pain from your symptoms alone, which is why it’s important to make an appointment with your OB/GYN when you’re experiencing symptoms. Through a serious of tests and examinations, like a pelvic exams and ultrasounds, they can help better determine the cause of your pain.
Treating pelvic pain
Once the cause of your pelvic pain has been determined, you and your physician can work together to determine the best treatment plan for you. There are a number of treatment options available for pelvic pain, including medical, surgical, and therapeutic treatments.
“One treatment may be able to treat your pain, but other women may find that a combination of treatments help alleviate their pain,” explains Dr. Schatz. “Many approaches to pelvic pain treatment involve both a physical and psychiatric approach.”
In addition to medical and surgical treatments like pain relievers, hormone treatments, and hysterectomy, your physician may recommend physical therapy, trigger point injections, and counseling to treat the psychological aspects of pelvic pain.
Although many women maintain that their pain is physical, it's important to treat these psychological aspects, too, says Dr. Schatz.
"Some patients struggle with the idea that their pain is psychological, which makes it difficult to treat," she says. "It's important to be open to the idea that your pain may not be physical."
Regardless of what treatment option you ultimately choose, remember that you don’t have to live with chronic pain. Talk to your OB/GYN about your pelvic pain symptoms.
Main Line Health gynecologists provide expertise in a wide range of services, including contraceptive services, care during perimenopause, and preventative care in the post-menopausal years. Visit our website to learn more about our OB/GYN services.