Pain in your lower abdomen or pelvis can range from uncomfortable to debilitating, and can be caused by multiple factors.
The pelvis forms a bony basin that connects the trunk and legs, and supports the intestines, bladder and reproductive organs. Because of the different organs located in the pelvic region, symptoms can vary widely. Pain can be sharp or dull, constant or periodic, localized or affecting other areas. Understanding your pain and possible causes can help you determine if you should see your doctor and, if so, how to best describe your symptoms.
Assessing Your Pelvic Pain
- In addition to being painful, sudden or chronic pain in your midsection can be frightening. The first step is to assess your pain by thinking about:
- Where do you feel pain? Is it in one area or does it radiate to other parts of your body?
- Do you feel pain during specific activities, such as during your period, when urinating, after eating certain foods or when lifting heavy objects?
- Is the pain constant or intermittent? If it is intermittent, how much time passes between episodes?
- Did the pain start suddenly, or has it been gradually occurring?
- How long ago did the pain start?
- What is the effect of pain on your daily life, i.e. does it prevent you from participating in regular activities?
- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests using these words—or other accurate words to describe your pain to your doctor
- Hot or burning
Diagnosing Pain in the Pelvis
Your doctor can determine the source of your pain several ways. During the visit, they will ask about your pain and health history, and will perform a physical exam to check your abdomen and pelvis. Depending on those findings, your doctor may order urine or blood tests, or other lab work and tests, such as an MRI or colonoscopy to get a better view of the pelvic region, including the bladder and bowel.
Treating Pelvic Pain
The cause of your pelvic pain, your medical history and individual needs will determine your treatment plan. However, general treatment options for pelvic pain include:
- Medicines such as pain relievers and muscle relaxers
- Hormonal treatment to help with endometriosis
- Lifestyle changes of diet, activity
- Physical therapy to help muscle and connective tissue pain
- Surgery to remove fibroids or for endometriosis
- Counseling, particularly in conjunction with medical treatment, is effective
What about Chronic Pelvic Pain?
If you’ve had pelvic pain for more than six months, your doctor may diagnose you with chronic pelvic pain. Because so many organs reside in the pelvic region, this diagnosis often leads to eliminating possible problems rather than immediately identifying the source. In addition, women may be reluctant to discuss pelvic pain.
As an example, The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists says that endometriosis affects one in 10 women, making it a common ailment. However, it takes an average of eight years to diagnose the symptoms—due to a delay in women going to the doctor for help and the time it takes doctors to diagnose the disease.
But it doesn’t have to take that long. If you’re having any kind of pelvic pain that is concerning, make an appointment to talk openly with your doctor about your pain, possible causes and treatment options.
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