Chronic Pelvic Pain | Digestive Health Program | Loyola Medicine

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Chronic Pelvic Pain

Overview and Facts about Chronic Pelvic Pain

Chronic pelvic pain occurs in the area between the navel and hips, and lasts six months or longer. This pain can be mild or severe and may come and go. It may manifest on its own or result as a side effect of another condition.

Depending on the root cause of chronic pelvic pain, it can be treated by addressing the underlying condition or by treating the symptoms, thus reducing pain and improving the quality of life.

Symptoms and Signs of Chronic Pelvic Pain

When it comes to chronic pelvic pain, the most persistent symptom is pain in the general pelvic area. Often, pelvic pain occurs through the whole pelvic area and doesn’t have a specific “spot” that hurts. Pain associated with the condition is often described as:

  • Dull and aching
  • Heaviness or pressure
  • Intermittent (it comes and goes)
  • Severe and constant
  • Sharp and crampy

You may feel pelvic pain all the time, or during intercourse, when having a bowel movement, or when you sit for extended periods of time.

Causes and Risk Factors of Chronic Pelvic Pain

Chronic pelvic pain can result from various conditions and issues. Some of the most common include:

  • Chronic stress and other psychological factors
  • Digestive health conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), especially if you also experience bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
  • Endometriosis, where uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus
  • Fibroids, non-cancerous uterine growths
  • Interstitial cystitis, or painful bladder syndrome
  • Musculoskeletal problems, including problems with your bones, joints, or connective tissues
  • Ovarian remnant, or a piece left in the body after a hysterectomy
  • Pelvic congestion syndrome, where you have enlarged veins around the uterus and ovaries
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a sexually transmitted disease that causes scarring in the pelvic region

Tests and Diagnosis of Chronic Pelvic Pain

To determine the root cause of chronic pelvic pain, your doctor may need to conduct multiple tests and screenings to confirm or eliminate different options. They may:

  • Ask questions about your pelvic pain
  • Order lab testing
  • Perform a pelvic exam
  • Perform an explorative laparoscopy
  • Perform an ultrasound
  • Recommend imaging testing, including X-ray, CT scan, or MRI
  • Request that you keep a journal of pelvic pain occurrences and other symptoms

Treatment and Care for Chronic Pelvic Pain

The best course of treatment for chronic pelvic pain depends on the cause of the condition. In many cases, treating the underlying condition relieves the pelvic pain. If a cause can’t be determined, your doctor will work with you to reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Depending on the specifics of a case, a doctor may treat chronic pelvic pain with:

  • Antibiotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Hormone treatments
  • Hysterectomy
  • Laparoscopic surgery
  • Massage
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Physical therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Spinal cord stimulation
  • Stretching exercises
  • Trigger point injections