Pelvic pain is an unfortunately common occurrence that affects nearly 1 in 5 adults at some point in their lives. This type of pain refers to any discomfort felt in the lower abdomen, pelvis, or perineum (the region between the anus and genitals). While there are many potential causes, pelvic pain can seriously impact quality of life when it becomes chronic or recurring. The good news is that relief may be within reach through targeted physical therapy.
What Is Pelvic Pain and Where Is It Felt?
Pelvic pain can occur in women and men, though it tends to be more common for women. This broad term encompasses any ache, tension, tightness, or spasm in the pelvic region. More specifically, sufferers report feeling pain in areas like the lower abdomen, pelvis, perineum, rectum, bladder and reproductive organs. The pain may be dull or sharp, constant or intermittent, remaining in one spot or radiating outward. Sometimes it comes and goes, while other times it persists for months with no relief.
What Causes this Kind of Pain?
There are many possible causes of pelvic pain, including:
- Menstrual cramps
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Bladder conditions
- Bowel conditions
- Muscle spasms
- Nerve pain
- Scar tissue
- Physical trauma from injury, surgery, or childbirth
As you can see, the culprit could stem from the reproductive tract, urinary tract, digestive tract, muscles, nerves or prior medical procedures. Pinpointing the exact cause is crucial for finding the appropriate treatment.
The Pelvic Puzzle - Why Pain Occurs
The intricate pelvic region has many interconnected working parts – bones, muscles, organs, nerves and blood vessels functioning in harmony. Disruption of this delicate balance may cause pelvic pain. Issues with muscles and nerves in seemingly unrelated areas can manifest as pelvic symptoms. Referred pain occurs when an irritated nerve transmits pain signals to another unaffected place.
Other direct sources of pelvic pain like endometriosis or IBS can surely interfere with organ function, but may also stem from pelvic floor dysfunction – overly tight or weak muscles throwing the entire pelvic area off balance leading to poor tissue flexibility and blood flow, driving chronic pelvic pain. In short, the pelvis and surrounding structures all affect one another, so when things become dysfunctional, widespread symptoms can appear. The trick is identifying the root cause.
When to Seek Medical Care
Be sure to consult your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing severe sudden pain, inability to urinate/pass stool, bleeding, fever/vomiting/fainting, pain lasting over 6 months or pain interfering with daily life. Getting properly diagnosed is the first step toward relief. Your provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history potentially order tests before mapping out a treatment plan.
How Pelvic Pain Is Diagnosed and Treated
To get to the root of recurring pelvic pain, your provider may use:
- Physical exam
- Imaging tests
- Minor surgery
Once diagnosed, common treatments may involve pain medication, hormones, antibiotics, surgery, bowel/bladder retraining, stress management or physical therapy.
Physical Therapy offers Active Relief
Pelvic floor physical therapy can be instrumental for resolving chronic pelvic pain. Pelvic floor PTs employ hands-on techniques to reduce spasms, scar tissue, and nerve irritation through soft tissue and trigger point release, manual stretches, biofeedback, electrical stimulation, and dilator therapy. They also prescribe customized exercises to stretch and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles/bones which addresses muscle imbalances and movement impairments – rerouting nerve signals, improving blood flow, relaxing muscles, enhancing mobility and desensitizing tender points over time. Education on lifestyle factors that influence pain levels is also provided. With consistent PT participation, long-lasting pain relief is possible.
Take Control with Pelvic Pain Physical Therapy
If you’re struggling with unexplained pelvic pain, connect with a pelvic floor physical therapist today. They can evaluate your unique case and pinpoint a customized, active treatment plan to meet your needs – resolving the root causes for true healing rather than just masking pain temporarily. You can gain control over stubborn pelvic pain through hands-on manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, education, and self-care strategies.
Benefits of an Interdisciplinary Team
A multidisciplinary approach is crucial when dealing with complex pelvic pain. Your care team may include:
- Primary care provider
This group of experts from different specialties ensures nothing gets missed in the diagnostic process. Your physical therapist plays an especially vital role by assessing movement impairment and working to correct dysfunctional patterns that could be driving pain. Once the root cause has been identified, PTs design targeted treatment plans to resolve pain by helping you fundamentally change the way you move. They also coordinate with other providers like surgeons to ensure manual techniques and prescribed exercises complement additional interventions for maximum benefit. When professionals work together, patients heal faster.