Chronic pelvic pain (CPP) is a common problem that affects an increasing number of women and men. Fortunately there are more treatment options today than ever before.
The pain from CPP is often relentless and may lead to lifestyle changes that affect your daily activities, work and personal relationships. Your entire well-being may be disturbed.
Unfortunately, patients are sometimes told that the problem “is in their head.” This can be frustrating for those living with this disabling pain on a daily basis, who seek answers and an explanation for their symptoms.
At the Center for Pain Medicine, we help patients find relief from CPP.
Characteristics of Chronic Pelvic Pain
CPP is defined as pelvic pain with or without pain in the abdomen, hips, thighs, buttocks and rectum that:
Has persisted for six months or more
Is sufficiently severe to cause functional disability and require medical or surgical treatment
Since the pelvis contains so many different structures, they can all be responsible for causing pelvic pain. Potential sources of pain are:
Reproductive organs, such as the ovaries and uterus
Peripheral and central nervous system
Muscles and fascia of the abdominal wall and pelvic floor
Ureters and bladder
“Referred pain” can occur when pain from a deep internal organ is perceived as radiating from a more superficial area of the body. In women, for example, pain from the uterus may be experienced as pain in the lower abdominal wall, or pain from the vagina can be experienced as pain at the skin over the groin.
“Neuropathic pain” occurs when there is damage to any part of the nervous system (which is comprised of the brain, spinal cord and nerves). If any of the pelvic nerves are damaged, this can give rise to neuropathic pain.
Symptoms of Chronic Pelvic Pain
CPP symptoms vary from person to person. The duration of the pain can be intermittent or steady and debilitating. For some the pain may be extremely severe, while for others it may be a dull ache or a feeling of pressure in the pelvis.
As many as 90 percent of patients with CPP may experience dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse), causing decreased sexual activity. Sitting or standing for long periods, certain positions and even exercise can trigger the pain.
Low back pain can occur, as well as leg pain radiating from the groin. Other symptoms include constipation or diarrhea and irregular or painful menstrual cycles. The pain can be associated with symptoms of depression or anxiety and cause sleep disturbances and fatigue.
It is important to remember that everybody’s pain is unique and does not always fit a specific description.