What Pain in Your Pelvic Area Could Mean

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Cropped image of Caucasian woman holding pelvis in pain or discomfort
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Pelvic pain can be a difficult and frustrating problem for both men and women. For some, it’s brought on suddenly (acute pain), while for others, it can go on for months or longer (chronic pain). Though there are many reasons for pelvic pain, sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint the cause. Keeping a close eye on your symptoms and working closely with your doctor can help you get to the bottom of the pain and find the best course of treatment.

Causes of Pelvic Pain

There are many things that can cause pelvic pain, from digestive to reproductive to urinary conditions. Sometimes you may have more than one condition that is resulting in pain. You may also have pain from problems with muscles, ligaments or nerves that serve the pelvic area. For some, pelvic pain can even be psychological, which can make it more difficult to treat or more painful to live with when no physical problem can be found.

Pelvic Pain in Women

Women often experience pelvic pain due to a variety of reproductive issues. Common causes of pelvic pain in women include:

  • Adenomyosis (when tissue grows into the muscular wall of uterus)
  • Cancer of the ovaries, cervix or uterus
  • Ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg grows outside of uterus)
  • Endometriosis (when tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside of it)
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Ovarian cyst(s)
  • Ovulation
  • Pelvic abscess (swollen, pus-filled area)
  • Vulvodynia (chronic pain in area outside of the vagina)

Pelvic Pain in Men or Women

Causes of sudden (acute) and chronic (ongoing) pain for both men and women include:

  • Broken pelvic bones
  • Hernia (bulging organ or tissue through abnormal opening)
  • Peritonitis (inflammation of the inside lining of the abdomen)
  • Psychogenic pain (due to stress or past trauma)

When to See a Doctor for Pelvic Pain

If you’re experiencing pelvic pain, the first step is to make an appointment with your doctor, especially if your pain is interfering with daily activities or gets worse over time. If the pain comes on suddenly and severely, you should seek immediate medical treatment. For some women, your doctor may refer you to a gynecologist for further evaluation.

To diagnose the cause of your pelvic pain, your doctor will want to know:

  • Where the pain is located
  • When it happens and how long it lasts
  • What the pain feels like, such as sharp or dull
  • What was going on when it started

  • If it came on suddenly or gradually

Treatment for pelvic pain depends on the cause, but your doctor may prescribe:

  • Anti-inflammatory or pain relief medicines
  • Birth control pills
  • Counseling to help cope if no physical cause can be found
  • Nutrition or environmental changes
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Surgery

Because pelvic pain can be caused by so many varied conditions, an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward effective treatment. Talk to your doctor about your pelvic pain so you can address any underlying conditions and find lasting relief.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Dec 3
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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