There are a variety of underlying causes of chronic pain, so pursuing a diagnosis often calls for a process of elimination. In the case of chronic pelvic pain, it’s possible a gynecological issue could be to blame. Here’s a closer look at what could be causing your persistent discomfort, and what methods our doctors may use to get to the bottom of it.
Possible Causes of Chronic Pelvic Pain
For roughly one in seven U.S. women, chronic pelvic pain — discomfort beneath the belly button that lasts at least six months — is an unfortunate reality. For up to 11% of women in their reproductive years, this discomfort is caused by endometriosis, a condition in which tissue similar to that of uterine lining grows outside the uterus. Symptoms of endometriosis may include:
- Painful menstrual cramps that worsen over time
- Vaginal pain during sex
- Long-term pain in the lower back
- Intestinal pain, including discomfort during bowel movements
Depending on where endometrial lesions grow, pain could spread even further. For example, lesions that develop on or around the sciatic nerve can lead to leg pain, which may result in a dull throb, leg cramp, or sharp, stabbing sensation.
While endometriosis isn’t uncommon, there are many other conditions that could cause similar pain. There’s one primary challenge with diagnosing endometriosis because there’s a host of other conditions that present symptoms that are similar to it.
Some of the other gynecological conditions that could cause chronic pain include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease: This infection in women is often a result of sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. It can produce symptoms such as pain in the lower abdomen, burning sensation during urination, bleeding between periods, and pain during sex.
- Uterine fibroids: Common symptoms of these noncancerous growths that form in the uterus include heavy, painful periods, bleeding between periods, pain in the abdomen and lower back, and painful intercourse.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that occurs when the ovaries produce excessive androgens, altering the balance of your reproductive hormones. It also can create cysts on the ovaries. Heavy, painful periods may occur in this condition.
As you may imagine based on the above, pinpointing the exact cause of your chronic pelvic pain can be an intricate process. But bear in mind it’s also possible for chronic pelvic pain to be completely unrelated to gynecological conditions, and instead be due to other issues such as sciatica or inflammatory bowel disorder.
How Chronic Pain Is Diagnosed
Your provider may use a number of methods to diagnose your chronic pelvic pain. For starters, they’ll review your health history and ask you a series of questions to get a better idea of what may be causing it. Some other diagnostic measures they may use include a pelvic exam, lab tests, an ultrasound, or other imaging tests. If other conditions have been ruled out and endometriosis is suspected, laparoscopy is the best method for making a formal diagnosis.
Fortunately, there are many treatment options available to treat the common causes of chronic pelvic pain when it’s related to gynecology, including hormonal birth control. If you’re experiencing chronic pain, turn to one of our providers to help uncover the root cause by contacting us online or calling (833) 523-0906 for an appointment.