It is estimated that 12 to 20 percent of women have chronic pelvic pain, but only a third of them seek medical care. There are many reasons why. Sometimes pelvic pain can be hard to describe, and often it is difficult and embarrassing to talk about. While it isn’t easy to admit to or get help for chronic pelvic pain, no one should suffer in silence or lose hope. Our physical therapists offer trusted, compassionate support that may lessen or eliminate symptoms and give you your life back—without surgery.
At Borgess, we understand that pain, no matter where, when or how that pain happens, is not simply an inconvenience or something that’s “all in your head.” Chronic pelvic pain is a real medical condition. Be assured—our physical therapists will take you and your symptoms seriously. We know that chronic pelvic pain can disrupt personal and family life, sexual intimacy and physical and mental health. By listening to your specific concerns and empowering you with answers, we strive to minimize or eliminate your pain— so you can maximize your quality of life.
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about pelvic pain and the physical therapy services available at Borgess. If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to call us and ask. Our goal is to help you feel as informed and comfortable as possible.
Chronic pelvic pain is categorized as pain in the lower abdomen (belly) and pelvic area that has been present for at least six months. Pelvic pain generally refers to pain in the region of a woman’s reproductive organs, but it can also be a symptom of infection, or can result from pain in the pelvic bone or in non-reproductive organs. The pain can be felt all the time or can come and go, often recurring or becoming more intense every month with a woman’s menstrual period.
Women with chronic pelvic pain may experience:
Chronic pelvic pain can differ from woman to woman. For example, symptoms can be constant or disappear without treatment. Sometimes symptoms can decrease during pregnancy and improve after menopause.
Some common causes of chronic pelvic pain include:
While risk factors for chronic pelvic pain are wide-ranging, they include past sexual and physical abuse, sexual dysfunction, a mother or sister who also has chronic pelvic pain, history of pelvic inflammatory disease, abdominal or pelvic surgery, depression, and a structural abnormality of the uterus, cervix or vagina.
Diagnosis typically begins with a thorough pelvic exam. Your doctor or health care provider may do a Pap test to look for cervical cancer, blood and urine tests to look for signs of infection, a pregnancy test, and/or test you for sexually transmitted diseases. In some cases, medical tests and examinations may reveal a musculoskeletal origin of the pain.
Chronic pelvic pain can be treated with everything from over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers to behavior therapy to surgery. The best way to find the treatment option that works best for you is to receive the right diagnosis from a health care provider. Despite the number of possible causes, more than 60 percent of women suffering with chronic pelvic pain receive no diagnosis. Many women may avoid diagnosis or treatment because they believe the pain or other symptoms are simply part of the normal aging process or inevitable because they’ve had children. Of the women who do seek treatment, many are unfortunately told the pain is “all in their head.”
Physical therapy continues to gain recognition for its effectiveness in treating chronic pelvic pain. Physical therapy may involve a thorough evaluation of the pelvic area, including the pelvis and lower spine, internal and external manual therapy (e.g., massage or trigger-point therapy), application of devices to help relax and / or strengthen the pelvic floor (the muscles that support the uterus, bladder and bowel), and education and training in home exercise.
Physical therapy may be a successful option for:
Borgess staffs the only physical therapists in Kalamazoo board certified by the American Physical Therapy Association as Women’s Health Clinical Specialists. Our therapists have specialized training in rehabilitation for chronic pelvic pain, manual therapy, incontinence, breast cancer lymphedema and many other health issues unique to women. This experienced team of physical therapists can deliver the one-on-one education, guidance and encouragement needed to make a difference for your pain, and in your life.
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