Pelvic pain

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Pelvic and perineal pain
Micrograph showing endometriosis (H&E stain), a common cause of chronic pelvic pain in women.
ICD-10 R10.2
ICD-9 625.9, 789.00
MeSH D017699

Pelvic pain is pain in the area of the pelvis. Acute pain is more common than chronic pain.[1] If the pain lasts for more than six months, it is deemed to be chronic pelvic pain.[2] It can affect both women and men.

Common causes in include: endometriosis in women, bowel adhesions, irritable bowel syndrome, and interstitial cystitis.[3] The cause may also be a number of poorly understood conditions that may represent abnormal psychoneuromuscular function.


Most women, at some time in their lives, experience pelvic pain. As girls enter puberty, pelvic or abdominal pain becomes a frequent complaint.

According to the CDC, Chronic pelvic pain (CPP) accounted for approximately 9% of all visits to gynecologists in 2007.[4] In addition, CPP is the reason for 20—30% of all laparoscopies in adults.[citation needed]


Many different conditions can cause pelvic pain including:

  • Dysmenorrhea—pain during the menstrual period
  • Endometriosis—pain caused by uterine tissue that is outside the uterus. Endometriosis can be visually confirmed by laparoscopy in approximately 75% of adolescent girls with chronic pelvic pain that is resistant to treatment, and in approximately 50% of adolescent in girls with chronic pelvic pain that is not necessarily resistant to treatment.[5]
  • Müllerian abnormalities
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease—pain caused by damage from infections
  • Ovarian cysts—the ovary produces a large, painful cyst, which may rupture
  • Ovarian torsion—the ovary is twisted in a way that interferes with its blood supply
  • Ectopic pregnancy—a pregnancy implanted outside the uterus

Internal hernias are difficult to identify in women, and misdiagnosis with endometriosis or idiopathic chronic pelvic pain is very common. One cause of misdiagnosis that when the woman lies down flat on an examination table, all of the medical signs of the hernia disappear. The hernia can typically only be detected when symptoms are present, so diagnosis requires positioning the woman's body in a way that provokes symptoms.[6]


The diagnostic workup begins with a careful history and examination, followed by a pregnancy test. Some women may also need bloodwork or additional imaging studies, and a handful may also benefit from having surgical evaluation.

The absence of visible pathology in chronic pain syndromes should not form the basis for either seeking psychological explanations or questioning the reality of the patient’s pain. Instead it is essential to approach the complexity of chronic pain from a psychophysiological perspective which recognises the importance of the mind-body interaction. Some of the mechanisms by which the limbic system impacts on pain, and in particular myofascial pain, have been clarified by research findings in neurology and psychophysiology.[1]


Many women will benefit from a consultation with a physical therapist, a trial of anti-inflammatory medications, hormonal therapy, or even neurological agents.

A hysterectomy is sometimes performed.[7]

Spinal cord stimulation has been explored as a potential treatment option for some time, however there remains to be consensus on where the optimal location of the spinal cord this treatment should be aimed. As the innervation of the pelvic region is from the sacral nerve roots, previous treatments have been aimed at this region; results have been mixed. Spinal cord stimulation aimed at the mid- to high-thoracic region of the spinal cord have produced some positive results.[8]


Chronic pelvic pain in men is referred to as Chronic Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CP/CPPS) and is also known as chronic nonbacterial prostatitis. Men in this category have no known infection, but do have extensive pelvic pain lasting more than 3 months.[9] There are no standard diagnostic tests; diagnosis is by exclusion of other disease entities. Multimodal therapy is the most successful treatment option,[10] and includes α-blockers,[11] phytotherapy,[12][13] and protocols aimed at quieting the pelvic nerves through myofascial trigger point release with psychological re-training for anxiety control.[14][15] Antibiotics are not recommended.[16][17]

Differential diagnosis[edit]

In men, chronic pelvic pain (category IIIB) is often misdiagnosed as chronic bacterial prostatitis and needlessly treated with antibiotics exposing the patient to inappropriate antibiotic use and unnecessarily to adverse effects with little if any benefit in most cases. Within a Bulgarian study, where by definition all patients had negative microbiological results, a 65% adverse drug reaction rate was found for patients treated with ciprofloxacin in comparison to a 9% rate for the placebo patients. This was combined with a higher cure rate (69% v 53%) found within the placebo group.[18]


Chronic pelvic pain is a common condition with rate of dysmenorrhoea between 16.8—81%, dyspareunia between 8—21.8%, and noncyclical pain between 2.1—24%.[19]

Social Implications[edit]

In the pursuit of better outcomes for patients, numerous problems have been found in current procedures for the treatment of Chronic Pelvic Pain (CPP). These relate primarily with regard to the conceptual dichotomy between an ‘organic’ genesis of pain, where the presence of tissue damage is presumed, and a ‘psychogenic’ origin, where pain occurs despite a lack of damage to tissue.[20] CPP literature in medicine and psychiatry reflects a paradigm where unproblematically observable ‘organic’ processes are causally and sequentially explained, despite evidence in favour of a possible model which accounts for the “complex role played by meaning and consciousness” in the experience of pain.[21] While in the literature of causal mechanisms reference is made to ‘subjective’ aspects of pain, current models do not provide a means through which these aspects may be accessed or understood.[22] Without interpretive or ‘subjective’ approaches to the pain experienced by patients, medical understandings of CPP are fixed within ‘organic’ sequences of the “purely object” body conceptually separated from the patient.[23]

Despite the prevalence of this wider understanding of the biological genesis of pain, alternate diagnosis and treatments of CPP in multidisciplinary settings have shown high success rates for patients for whom ‘organic’ pathology has been unhelpful.[24]


  1. ^ a b Marek Jantos (2007). "Understanding Chronic Pelvic Pain". Pelviperineology 26 (2): 66–69. 
  2. ^ "Chronic pelvic pain". ACOG. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Ortiz, DD (Jun 1, 2008). "Chronic pelvic pain in women.". American family physician 77 (11): 1535–42. PMID 18581833. 
  4. ^ Hsiao, Chun-Ju (3 November 2010). "National Ambulatory medical Care Survey: 2007 Summary". National Health Statistics Report (Centers for Disease Control). Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  5. ^ Janssen, E. B.; Rijkers, A. C. M.; Hoppenbrouwers, K.; Meuleman, C.; d'Hooghe, T. M. (2013). "Prevalence of endometriosis diagnosed by laparoscopy in adolescents with dysmenorrhea or chronic pelvic pain: A systematic review". Human Reproduction Update 19 (5): 570–582. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmt016. PMID 23727940.  edit
  6. ^ Brody, Jane E. "In women, hernias may be hidden agony" The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 18 May 2011.
  7. ^ Kuppermann M, Learman LA, Schembri M et al. (March 2010). "Predictors of hysterectomy use and satisfaction". Obstet Gynecol 115 (3): 543–51. doi:10.1097/AOG.0b013e3181cf46a0. PMID 20177285. 
  8. ^ Hunter, C; Davé, N; Diwan, S; Deer, T (Jan 2013). "Neuromodulation of pelvic visceral pain: review of the literature and case series of potential novel targets for treatment.". Pain practice : the official journal of World Institute of Pain 13 (1): 3–17. doi:10.1111/j.1533-2500.2012.00558.x. PMID 22521096. 
  9. ^ Luzzi GA (2002). "Chronic prostatitis and chronic pelvic pain in men: aetiology, diagnosis and management". Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology : JEADV 16 (3): 253–6. doi:10.1046/j.1468-3083.2002.00481.x. PMID 12195565. 
  10. ^ Potts JM (2005). "Therapeutic options for chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome". Current urology reports 6 (4): 313–7. doi:10.1007/s11934-005-0030-5. PMID 15978236. 
  11. ^ Yang G, Wei Q, Li H, Yang Y, Zhang S, Dong Q (2006). "The effect of alpha-adrenergic antagonists in chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials". J. Androl. 27 (6): 847–52. doi:10.2164/jandrol.106.000661. PMID 16870951. ...treatment duration should be long enough (more than 3 months) 
  12. ^ Shoskes DA, Zeitlin SI, Shahed A, Rajfer J (1999). "Quercetin in men with category III chronic prostatitis: a preliminary prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial". Urology 54 (6): 960–3. doi:10.1016/S0090-4295(99)00358-1. PMID 10604689. 
  13. ^ Elist J (2006). "Effects of pollen extract preparation Prostat/Poltit on lower urinary tract symptoms in patients with chronic nonbacterial prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study". Urology 67 (1): 60–3. doi:10.1016/j.urology.2005.07.035. PMID 16413333. 
  14. ^ Anderson RU, Wise D, Sawyer T, Chan C (2005). "Integration of myofascial trigger point release and paradoxical relaxation training treatment of chronic pelvic pain in men". J. Urol. 174 (1): 155–60. doi:10.1097/01.ju.0000161609.31185.d5. PMID 15947608. 
  15. ^ Anderson RU, Wise D, Sawyer T, Chan CA (2006). "Sexual dysfunction in men with chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome: improvement after trigger point release and paradoxical relaxation training". J. Urol. 176 (4 Pt 1): 1534–8; discussion 1538–9. doi:10.1016/j.juro.2006.06.010. PMID 16952676. 
  16. ^ Alexander RB, Propert KJ, Schaeffer AJ et al. (2004). "Ciprofloxacin or tamsulosin in men with chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome: a randomized, double-blind trial". Ann. Intern. Med. 141 (8): 581–9. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-141-8-200410190-00005. PMID 15492337. 
  17. ^ Nickel JC, Downey J, Clark J et al. (2003). "Levofloxacin for chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome in men: a randomized placebo-controlled multicenter trial". Urology 62 (4): 614–7. doi:10.1016/S0090-4295(03)00583-1. PMID 14550427. 
  18. ^ J. Dimitrakov; J. Tchitalov; T. Zlatanov; D. Dikov. "A Prospective, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study Of Antibiotics For The Treatment Of Category Iiib Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome In Men". Third International Chronic Prostatitis Network. Retrieved 4 September 2009. The results of our study show that antibiotics have an unacceptably high rate of adverse side effects as well as a statistically insignificant improvement over placebo... 
  19. ^ Latthe P, Latthe M, Say L, Gülmezoglu M, Khan KS (2006). "WHO systematic review of prevalence of chronic pelvic pain: a neglected reproductive health morbidity". BMC Public Health 6: 177. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-177. PMC 1550236. PMID 16824213. 
  20. ^ Grace, Victoria (2000). "Pitfalls of the medical paradigm in chronic pelvic pain". Best practice & research. Clinical obstetrics & gynaecology 14 (3): 527. 
  21. ^ Grace, Victoria (2000). "Pitfalls of the medical paradigm in chronic pelvic pain". Best practice & research. Clinical obstetrics & gynaecology 14 (3): 533. 
  22. ^ Grace, Victoria (2000). "Pitfalls of the medical paradigm in chronic pelvic pain". Best practice & research. Clinical obstetrics & gynaecology 14 (3): 535. 
  23. ^ Grace, Victoria (2000). "Pitfalls of the medical paradigm in chronic pelvic pain". Best practice & research. Clinical obstetrics & gynaecology 14 (3): 536. 
  24. ^ Grace, Victoria (2000). "Pitfalls of the medical paradigm in chronic pelvic pain". Best practice & research. Clinical obstetrics & gynaecology 14 (3): 537. 

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