Pelvic Pain

Pelvic pain refers to discomfort or pain in the lower abdomen, pelvis, or pelvic floor region. It can have various causes.

Pelvic Pain
Pelvic Pain
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Your Guide to Understanding Pelvic Pain

What is Pelvic Pain?

Pelvic pain is a broad term that encompasses discomfort or pain in the lower abdomen, pelvis, or pelvic floor region. It can be experienced by both men and women and can have various causes.

In women, pelvic pain can be related to conditions such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), or menstrual cramps. These conditions can lead to inflammation, tissue damage, or hormonal imbalances, resulting in pain in the pelvic area. Additionally, conditions affecting the reproductive organs, such as ectopic pregnancy or pelvic congestion syndrome, can also cause pelvic pain.

In men, pelvic pain can be associated with prostatitis, which is inflammation of the prostate gland. Prostatitis can cause discomfort or pain in the pelvic region, along with urinary symptoms like frequent urination or pain during urination. Other potential causes of pelvic pain in men include bladder disorders, urinary stones, or musculoskeletal issues in the pelvic area.

Pelvic pain can also originate from non-gender-specific causes, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, musculoskeletal conditions, or nerve-related problems like pudendal neuralgia. In some cases, psychological factors like stress, anxiety, or past trauma can contribute to the experience of pelvic pain.

Since pelvic pain can have numerous underlying causes, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and accurate diagnosis. Treatment options for pelvic pain may vary depending on the underlying condition but can include medication, physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, or surgical intervention when necessary.

How can Physiotherapy help treat Pelvic Pain?

Physiotherapy services are a vital resource in alleviating pelvic pain by addressing its underlying causes. Through a comprehensive assessment, physiotherapists identify specific factors contributing to pelvic pain, which may include muscle imbalances, nerve dysfunction, or joint instability. Treatment plans may include a combination of manual therapy techniques such as soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilization, and myofascial release to reduce muscle tension and improve mobility.

Additionally, therapeutic exercises are prescribed to strengthen weak muscles, improve posture, and promote proper alignment. Education on self-management strategies, including relaxation techniques and ergonomic modifications, further empower patients to manage their pelvic pain effectively. With a holistic approach, physiotherapy plays a crucial role in providing relief and improving the overall well-being of individuals experiencing pelvic pain.

What causes Pelvic Pain?

Pelvic pain can be caused by various factors and conditions. Here are some common causes of pelvic pain:

  • Gynecological conditions: In women, pelvic pain can be attributed to conditions such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). These conditions can lead to inflammation, tissue damage, or hormonal imbalances in the reproductive organs, resulting in pelvic pain.
  • Urinary tract issues: Pelvic pain can also be caused by urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder infections, or conditions like interstitial cystitis. These conditions can cause inflammation and irritation in the urinary system, leading to discomfort in the pelvic region.
  • Musculoskeletal problems: Issues related to the muscles, ligaments, or bones in the pelvis can contribute to pelvic pain. Conditions like pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, pelvic organ prolapse, or hip joint problems can result in pain and discomfort in the pelvic area.
  • Digestive disorders: Gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can cause pelvic pain. These conditions can affect the digestive system and cause referred pain to the pelvic region.
  • Nerve-related problems: Certain nerve-related conditions, such as pudendal neuralgia or sciatica, can cause pelvic pain. Nerves in the pelvis can become compressed or irritated, leading to chronic pain in the pelvic area.
  • Psychological factors: Stress, anxiety, or past trauma can contribute to pelvic pain. Emotional and psychological factors can influence pain perception and exacerbate existing pelvic pain conditions.

What treatments might help Pelvic Pain?

The treatment for pelvic pain aims to alleviate symptoms and improve overall well-being. Here are some ways that treatment can help improve pelvic pain:

  • Pain medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with pelvic pain.
  • Relaxation techniques: Practices like meditation, deep breathing, and relaxation exercises can help release tension, ease pain, and promote a sense of calm.
  • Physical therapy: Pelvic floor physical therapy can be beneficial in managing pelvic pain. It involves exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and improve flexibility, helping to reduce pain and improve functionality.
  • Lifestyle modifications: Adopting healthy lifestyle changes, including regular exercise, maintaining good posture, and weight management, can potentially reduce pelvic pain symptoms.
  • Heat therapy: Applying a heating pad or warm compress to the pelvic area can help relax muscles and alleviate pain.
  • Counseling or psychological support: Chronic pelvic pain can have emotional effects, and seeking counseling or therapy can provide coping strategies, support, and help manage any related psychological distress.
  • Alternative therapies: Some individuals find relief from pelvic pain through alternative treatments like acupuncture or transcutaneous nerve stimulation (TENS). However, it's important to discuss these options with a healthcare professional before trying them.

Signs of Pelvic Pain:

Pelvic pain can manifest in different ways, and the signs may vary depending on the underlying cause. Here are some common signs and symptoms associated with pelvic pain:

  • Persistent or recurring pain: Pelvic pain is characterized by ongoing discomfort in the lower abdominal area that lasts for an extended period. The pain may be sharp, dull, cramp-like, or achy.
  • Pain during intercourse: Many individuals with pelvic pain experience pain or discomfort during sexual activity. This pain can range from mild to severe and may occur before, during, or after intercourse.
  • Changes in menstrual cycle: For women, pelvic pain can be accompanied by changes in their menstrual cycle. This includes irregular periods, heavy or prolonged bleeding, or increased pain during menstruation (dysmenorrhea).
  • Urinary problems: Pelvic pain can also be associated with urinary symptoms such as frequent urination, urgency, pain or discomfort during urination, or difficulty emptying the bladder completely.
  • Bowel disturbances: Some individuals with pelvic pain may experience bowel-related symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, or a sense of incomplete bowel movements.
  • Painful urination or bowel movements: Pelvic pain can be exacerbated during urination or bowel movements, causing discomfort or a feeling of pressure in the pelvic area.
  • Fatigue and emotional distress: Chronic pelvic pain can take a toll on one's physical and emotional well-being. It can lead to fatigue, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, and reduced quality of life.

Symptoms of Pelvic Pain:

Pelvic pain can present with a variety of symptoms, depending on the underlying cause. Here are some common symptoms associated with pelvic pain:

  • Persistent or recurrent pain: Pelvic pain typically involves ongoing discomfort in the lower abdominal area that lasts for a significant period. The pain can range from mild to severe and may be described as cramping, stabbing, dull, or achy.
  • Pain during sexual intercourse: Many individuals with pelvic pain experience pain or discomfort during sexual activity. This can make sexual intercourse painful or uncomfortable.
  • Changes in menstruation: For people who menstruate, pelvic pain can be accompanied by changes in their menstrual cycle. These changes may include irregular periods, heavy bleeding, or increased pain during menstruation (dysmenorrhea).
  • Urinary symptoms: Pelvic pain can be associated with urinary issues such as frequent urination, urgency (a strong urge to urinate), pain or discomfort during urination, or difficulty emptying the bladder completely.
  • Bowel disturbances: Some individuals with pelvic pain may experience bowel-related symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, or a feeling of incomplete bowel movements.
  • Painful urination or bowel movements: Pelvic pain can be aggravated during urination or bowel movements, causing pain or discomfort in the pelvic region.
  • Fatigue and emotional distress: Chronic pelvic pain can have a significant impact on a person's physical and emotional well-being. It can lead to fatigue, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, and reduced quality of life.
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When is the right time to see a Physiotherapist for Pelvic Pain?

It is recommended to see a physiotherapist for pelvic pain when you are experiencing persistent or worsening symptoms that are affecting your daily life. If you have tried self-care measures such as rest, heat or ice therapy, and over-the-counter pain medications without significant improvement, it may be time to seek professional help.

Additionally, if you have been diagnosed with a specific condition like endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or interstitial cystitis, consulting with a healthcare professional in physiotherapy clinic can provide specialized care and tailored treatment options.

If your pelvic pain is accompanied by other concerning symptoms like fever, severe abdominal pain, heavy bleeding, difficulty urinating, or sudden changes in bowel habits, it is important to seek immediate medical attention from a doctor or go to the emergency room.

Meet our Lead Registered Physiotherapist

Brittany Pereira

Brittany Pereira

Registered Physiotherapist

Registered Physiotherapist with a degree from the University of Toronto

Brittany enjoys working with patients across age groups and backgrounds to help them move better, get stronger, understand their bodies and ultimately, feel more confident. She combines her knowledge and clinical experience to best serve her patients.

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Physiotherapist Brittany Pereira working with client at Anchor Health and Performance Clinic Mississauga
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