Patients ask, “What are the symptoms of pelvic pain and where can I find treatment?”
According to a study, approximately 15 percent of women of childbearing age in the United States have experienced chronic pelvic pain lasting six months or more. With links to multiple conditions, the pain symptoms may be difficult to diagnose. Located in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago, the OBGYN team at Northwestern Women’s Health Associates offers comprehensive feminine health care to patients throughout the Chicagoland area. Our professional team diagnoses and offers treatment for pelvic pain.
What are the symptoms of pelvic pain?
Mild to extreme discomfort is the main symptom of pelvic pain. However, the specifics of that pain such as location or type, and other symptoms vary from patient to patient. For some women, the pain can be severe enough that it interferes with regular activities such as work, exercise, or sex
Pelvic pain may be felt and described differently. The pain can be constant, or it may come and go. It can be sharp and stabbing or dull. It may be felt in a specific spot or it may spread out. Some women experience abdominal or pelvic pain only during their menstrual periods. Others may notice pain during activities or following triggers such as needing to use the bathroom, lifting heavy items, or during sex.
If you experience pelvic pain, a thorough description of your pain can help identify the cause and find a treatment. Use specific terms including when the pelvic pain first started, triggers of your pain, the type and severity of the pain, the location of the pain, and how long the pain lasts.
Causes of Pelvic Pain
Your description of your pain helps your physician determine the underlying cause of the pain. Various conditions may cause chronic pelvic pain. The symptoms of the conditions may be similar, making it difficult to distinguish the cause. The most common causes of pelvic pain include:
- Endometriosis – Cells that normally line the inside of the uterus begin to grow on the outside of organs.
- Adenomyosis – Cells that line the uterus invade the muscle tissue of the uterine wall.
- Interstitial cystitis – Patients have an inflamed bladder that is not caused by an infection.
- Urinary tract infection – Bacteria causes an infection that may affect the kidneys, bladder, or urethra.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease – Often caused by a sexually transmitted bacterial infection, this infection affects the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries.
- Pelvic congestion syndrome – Similar to varicose veins in the legs, blood backs up in the veins in the pelvis causing them to become engorged.
- Ovarian cysts – Tumors or fluid collections that grow in the ovaries
- Uterine fibroids – Non-cancerous tumors grow in or on the wall of the uterus.
- Vulvodynia – Pain in the vulva that has no apparent cause.
Diagnosing and treating pelvic pain
Determining the cause of pelvic pain may involve a lengthy process of elimination since many conditions cause pelvic pain. Your Northwestern OBGYN will review your personal and family medical history and conduct a detailed interview about your pain. You may be asked to keep a journal about your pain to try to pinpoint possible triggers.
Depending upon your symptoms, tests or exams may be suggested.
- Pelvic exam may show signs of infection or abnormal growths. Your doctor can check for areas of tenderness or discomfort.
- Lab tests may include tests to check for infections, bloodwork to examine your blood cell counts, and a urinalysis to check for a urinary tract infection.
- An ultrasound helps detect masses or cysts on the reproductive organs.
- If further testing is needed, imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs help detect abnormal growths in the pelvic area.
- A laparoscopy involves a small surgical incision in the abdomen. A thin tube with a small camera attached is inserted, allowing the doctor to view the pelvic organs and tissues to check for signs of infection endometriosis, adhesions or tumors.
If your Northwestern OBGYN can pinpoint the cause of your pelvic pain, your treatment will focus on the cause. The goal is to reduce your symptoms and to improve your quality of life. Treatments may include medications, physical therapy, trigger point injections, and surgery.
Contact your Northwestern OBGYN for an appointment. Call 312-440-9400.