Symptoms of Pelvic Pain
The type of pelvic pain that females experience varies from patient to patient. The pain may be characterized as acute (recent onset), chronic (longer than 6 months), sporadic, constant, or related to menstrual periods. Some symptoms of pelvic pain include:
- Excessive and abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Severe cramping during menstrual periods
- Pain during intercourse
- Pain during urination
- Pain during bowel movement
- Pain when in certain postures or positions
- Lower back pain
- Nausea or vomiting
Diagnosing Pelvic Pain
Because there are several causes of pelvic pain, it oftentimes may require an extensive workup and several doctors’ visits. This is important to keep in mind when planning for your appointment. During your initial visit, your doctor will typically perform a complete pelvic exam to check for any abnormalities in the reproductive system. The doctor will also ask you questions about your past and present health conditions and the symptoms you are having.
Some diagnostic tests that may be ordered include a blood or urine sample to check for any infection and a pregnancy test.
Imaging that may be ordered include a pelvic ultrasound, an MRI of the pelvis and/or a CT of the pelvis. A pelvic ultrasound is the best tool to diagnose pelvic masses, ovarian cysts, and fibroids. An MRI may be necessary if the doctor suspects you may have endometriosis or adenomyosis, although endometriosis and adenomyosis cannot be diagnosed through MRI. A CT scan may be necessary if your doctor suspects diverticular disease, or a mass in the pelvis, colon, or bladder.
If the doctor suspects you have endometriosis or adenomyosis after completing a MRI, a laparoscopic surgery may be necessary. A laparoscopy is the most common procedure performed in the operating room to diagnose and possibly remove mild to moderate endometriosis. This procedure will allow the doctor to visualize the internal organs to look for endometriosis and other possible problems that may be causing the pelvic pain.
Instead of using a large abdominal incision, the surgeon will use a laparoscope which is a small camera inserted through a small incision in the belly button or lower abdomen. The surgeon will then examine the internal organs to check for endometriosis. If endometriosis, pelvic adhesions or scar tissue are visible, the surgeon will remove it during your surgery. Following the procedure, the surgeon will close the incision(s) with a few stiches. The procedure typically has minimal downtime and the patient usually has little to no scarring.
Pelvic Pain Treatment Options
If your doctor diagnoses you with a specific problem that is causing your pain, you will be treated for that problem. Common treatments for pelvic pain patients in Cleveland include:
- Birth control pills or hormone treatment
- Surgery to remove a growth, cyst, fibroid or tumor
- Medication to treat the problem such as antibiotics for an infection
If the cause of your pelvic pain remains unknown after a complete workup, there are several other treatment options that you and your doctor may explore, including:
- Trigger point injections: This is a procedure performed in the outpatient clinic. The doctor will carefully locate trigger points in the pelvic wall and inject an anesthetic pain reliever. The area where you are experiencing chronic pain should be numbed within a few minutes. The amount of relief provided from trigger point injections varies from person to person. The relief may last anywhere from a few days to a few months, and you may continue getting injections as the pain returns.
- Pudendal nerve block: The pudendal nerve carries sensation from the uterus, labia and vagina, perineum and skin of the surrounding area. The pudendal nerve block is beneficial in women who have pelvic pain that is caused by another injury such as endometriosis, multiple sclerosis, interstitial cystitis or a surgical injury. This is a procedure performed in the outpatient clinic where the doctor carefully injects an anesthetic pain reliever into the pudendal nerve area. The amount of relief provided from a pudendal nerve block varies from person to person, and may last anywhere from days to months. You may continue to receive injections as the pain returns.
- Pelvic physiotherapy: aims to help strengthen and provide rehabilitation the pelvic floor muscle group
- Biofeedback therapy: helps patients to learn to strengthen or relax their pelvic floor muscles
- Nerve stimulation
- Behavioral and relaxation therapy