When to See a Doctor for Pelvic Pain
Your pelvis is located in the lower part of your trunk or torso, below your belly button. This is where you find your bladder, bowels, and reproductive organs. Pelvic pain can affect both men and women. The pain can be acute (sudden, short-term) or chronic (lasting for more than 3 to 6 months).
Often pelvic pain can be managed at home, but it’s important to understand the different causes of pelvic pain and when you should see a doctor to be evaluated and treated.
Pelvic pain has a variety of causes because the pelvis holds many different systems, including your reproductive organs, lower urinary tract, and bowels. There is also connective tissue that keeps everything in place.
Some causes of pelvic pain in women include:
- Uterine fibroids
- Menstrual cramps
- Early-term miscarriages
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Ovarian cysts
- Ruptured ovaries
- Twisted fallopian tubes
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Pelvic pain in men could be caused by:
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia
Both men and women can experience pelvic pain from causes including:
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Kidney stones (can project from the back to the pelvis)
- Interstitial cystitis or irritable bladder
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Other bowel conditions, like diverticulitis
If you are experiencing pelvic pain and you know it’s not serious, there are some things you can do at home that might relieve the discomfort. However, if you are unsure of what to do, speak with your doctor for guidance. Some things you may want to try at home, provided your doctor has not told you to avoid these treatments, include:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen
- OTC laxatives, exercise, and increase in fiber and fluid consumption for constipation
- Relaxation exercises, which can include yoga and meditation
- Heating pads or hot water bottles. If you suspect an infection like appendicitis, do not apply heat. Go to your doctor, an urgent care clinic, or an emergency department for immediate treatment.
It can be tough deciding when you should see a doctor about a problem that isn’t an obvious emergency. That being said, any sudden increase in pain or change in the type of pain could be a sign of a medical emergency or the possibility that one will occur. Other signs it’s time to seek professional treatment include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Foul-smelling or cloudy urine
- Blood in your urine
- Blood in your stool
If the pain is severe, go to the closest urgent care or emergency department. Loss of consciousness is another medical emergency. If someone loses consciousness, call 911 immediately for help.
See your doctor promptly if:
- You are unsure of why you have having pelvic pain.
- The pain does not go away, despite home care efforts.
- The pain changes in intensity or frequency.
- The pain goes away but comes back.
Treatment for pelvic pain will depend on the cause. Your doctor may also prescribe medication or other therapies to help relieve the pain as well.
The type of doctor or other healthcare professional you see for pelvic pain depends on whether it’s an emergency and the cause of the pain.
If your pelvic pain is not an emergency, your first visit should be to your family doctor or primary care provider. Your doctor will examine you and may order some tests. If it’s determined that your pain requires a specialist, you will be referred for further evaluation. Keep in mind that in many cases, insurance companies require a referral before patients see specialists, so it’s best not to go directly to a specialist without checking your insurance company’s policy.
If you visit an emergency department, you will be seen by an emergency room doctor who will assess your situation and decide if you can be treated there or if you need to see a specialist.
Specialists and other professionals you might see for pelvic pain include:
In some cases, pelvic pain is a sign of a serious illness like cancer. If this is the case, an oncologist will become part of the treatment team.
Pelvic pain can affect your quality of life. If you can’t treat it on your own, chances are your doctor will be able to point you in the right direction for pain relief, or help provide you with tools to cope with the pain when it is present. Speak with your healthcare team about the best approach for your situation.