Abdominal and Pelvic Pain
Pelvic and abdominal pain are a lot more common and often inter-related than many people imagine. Unfortunately there are also many possible causes, which makes it challenging for a health professional to find and address the cause of the pain.
Causes of Pelvic Pain
Chronic pelvic pain is a poorly misunderstood problem that sometimes has no apparent cause. If you have experienced pelvic pain for at least three months, you might be suffering from a chronic problem. The cause of your pain may be due to pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. However, even pelvic pain caused by other conditions can lead to tension and pain in the pelvic floor muscles, worsening your symptoms.
A consultation with a pelvic floor physical therapist will help determine whether pelvic floor physical therapy can help you improve.
Common types of pelvic pain include:
- Vaginismus/Dyspareunia: Very tight and painful vaginal muscles and/or pain with intercourse at the opening or deep in the pelvis
- Vulvodynia/Vestibulodynia: Pain, burning, stinging or rawness of the vaginal opening or perineum (tissues around the vagina and anus)
- Interstitial Cystitis or Bladder Pain: Interstitial Cystitis is characterized by 3 or more months of pelvic pain along with symptoms of urinary urgency and frequency
- Low Back/SI Joint/Tailbone Pain: Pelvic pain is sometimes caused by problems with the muscles, joints, and ligaments surrounding the pelvis. Events such as childbirth or a fall onto your bottom can cause malalignment of the pelvic bones.
- Constipation or Bowel Issues
- A number of other health issues affecting the abdomen or pelvis can also affect the pelvic floor and cause pelvic pain. These include endometriosis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, diverticulitis, fibromyalgia, and pelvic inflammatory disease. If you suspect any of these conditions, talk to your doctor to determine the appropriate medical treatment to correct these problems. Even when other treatment is required, pelvic floor physical therapy can help speed up healing and reduce pain.
How Is Pelvic Pain Treated?
The treatment for pelvic pain depends greatly on what is causing the pain, as well as intensity and frequency of the pain. Your pelvic floor physical therapist can diagnose and treat:
- Tension or spasming of your pelvic floor muscles, or trigger points deep in your pelvis that need to be relaxed. Biofeedback is often used to help you gain full control of your muscles so that you can help them relax.
- Alignment issues with the pelvic bones, muscles, and ligaments. Making adjustments to ensure proper alignment is important for reducing pain and dysfunction.
- Possible changes to bladder/bowel habits, posture, or other lifestyle issues
Examples of Effective Therapies
- Physical therapy can be an excellent ally in the fight against pelvic pain. Things as simple as massage and stretching can provide initial relief, especially in the case of chronic pain. Some people also benefit from exercises helping you learn to fully relax your pelvic floor muscles.
- Biofeedback can be very helpful if the pain is connected to tension in the pelvic floor or the inability to contract and relax the pelvic muscles at the proper time.
Coping with Chronic Pain
Long-term pelvic pain generally requires a team approach, and your are part of that team! A pelvic floor physical therapist’s role is to give you the tools you need to manage your pain and control other symptoms that might be worsening the pain.
For example, your North Carolina pelvis health specialist might teach you about relaxation techniques to help release the tension of the pelvic floor muscles. This, in turn, can ease tightness in the pelvis, abdomen and lower back, which combined, could be worsening the pain you are experiencing.