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My doctor recently diagnosed me with chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CPPS). When first diagnosed, I honestly thought the doctor had no clue what he was talking about. I thought CPPS only affected men. I had no clue that it affects women, too. Since my diagnosis, I’ve been doing my research to figure out what chronic pelvic pain syndrome (female) actually is.
Here’s all that I’ve found out so far.
If you suspect you may have Chronic pelvic pain syndrome (female) or if you’ve had a recent diagnosis, this blog post is just for you.
The information provided in my blog posts is strictly from my own experiences and is not intended to replace medical or professional advice. Do not disregard any medical advice you have received after reading any of my posts. For more, please read my disclosure page.
WHAT IS CHRONIC PELVIC PAIN SYNDROME (FEMALE)
Chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CPPS) is defined as persistent non cyclical pain in the pelvic area that lasts over six months.
The pain can be severe enough to cause significant issues and negatively impact a person’s levels of activity, sleep, and day-to-day life.
As a result, it can also cause mental health issues, disability and decrease a person’s quality of life.
CHRONIC PELVIC PAIN SYNDROME AFFECTS WOMEN TOO!
Chronic pelvic pain syndrome is common amongst women.
It can be very complex in females, with several causes, such as psychological factors, urologic conditions (bladder), musculoskeletal conditions, gynecological or gastrointestinal conditions.
Single conditions can cause chronic pelvic pain, yet it’s still possible for several conditions combined to cause pelvic pain.
Such as endometriosis, IBD, pelvic congestion syndrome, painful bladder syndrome and fibroids.
Aside from the pain itself, chronic pelvic pain syndrome can also have a lasting effect on quality of life, work, and finances.
A study carried out on over five thousand women aged 18-50 found that 14.7% of those women reported they had chronic pelvic pain in the last three months.
The study also had 548 employed women; 15% of them lost paid days of work and 45% stated that their productivity at work reduced all because of chronic pelvic pain.
The same study also found that the cost of treating CPPS was about 880 million dollars annually (USA). This is just one example of how chronic pelvic pain can affect all areas of a woman’s life.
PELVIC PAIN SYMPTOMS – WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE?
Chronic pelvic pain can vary from person to person, but these are some common symptoms someone with may experience.
- Severe and steady pain
- Intermittent pain (pain that comes and goes)
- Cramping or sharp pains
- Pressure, heaviness or a dragging feeling in your pelvis
- Lower pelvic pain
- Pain after long periods of standing or sitting
- Increased pain during or after sex
- Painful bowel movements
- Frequent urination
- Lower back pain
- Aching legs
Please note that these symptoms may result from other conditions, so always check with your doctor to do further investigation.
With any type of pain, it may be hard to know when to visit your doctor.
If your pain is getting worse, has lasted a long time or is disrupting your day-to-day activities, make an appointment to see your doctor.
How to get a chronic pelvic pain syndrome (female) diagnosis
As I mentioned previously, chronic pelvic pain can be very complex and hard to diagnose. It may take a little time and effort before receiving an official diagnosis.
They will probably ask when you first visit your doctor to provide a medical history and a summary of your pain so far.
Your doctor may also have to carry out a physical exam of the pelvic area.
Following this, if your doctor cannot find a definitive reason for your pain, they may want to request further testing such as:
- Urine and blood tests – To test for signs of pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease or a urinary tract infection.
- Pelvic exam – To assess muscles, tissues, and organs in and around the pelvic area. Or to check for any abnormalities or tenderness.
- Ultrasound or MRI – To view and collect pictures of the organs in the pelvic area.
- Smear test (Pap) – To assess your reproductive organs and check your vagina, vulva, cervix, uterus, anus and ovaries for any abnormalities. A smear test (pap) can also test for cervical cancer.
OTHER SPECIALISTS THAT CAN DIAGNOSE PELVIC PAIN
As I mentioned earlier, several conditions can cause pelvic pain, so your doctor may also want to refer you to different specialists such as-
- Pain Specialists – Pain specialists are usually anesthetists who have specialised in pain management. Pain specialists can be helpful in providing wide-ranging options to manage chronic pain.
- Gastroenterologist – Conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome can cause pelvic pain. If your doctor suspects this, they might refer you to a gastroenterologist as they specialise in digestive diseases.
- Gynecologist – The reproductive system and gynaecological issues can also cause pelvic pain, so your doctor may suggest that you see a gynecologist.
If you’d like a little more information about diagnosing pelvic pain, check out this really great article by Practical Pain Management.
HOW TO TREAT CHRONIC PELVIC PAIN
CPPS can be managed in several ways. This depends on how severe the pain is, how often the pain occurs, and if there is an underlying cause.
Here are a few things that can manage or treat chronic pelvic pain:
- Pain Relief – Over-the-counter medication, prescribed pain medication and natural remedies such as aromatherapy. Typically, pain relief on its own is not as effective in treating chronic pain.
- Hormones – Conditions like endometriosis can sometimes cause pelvic pain. If diagnosed with endometriosis, they may prescribe hormonal treatments such as the contraceptive pill. Hormone treatments are used to limit the amount of oestrogen the body produces, as it encourages endometriosis tissue to grow and shed. Limiting oestrogen can reduce the amount of tissue in the body.
- Antidepressants – Antidepressants are also a common method used to treat chronic pain (caused by nerve damage) as they can lessen the pain signals sent to the brain.
- CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) – CBT is a commonly used method for pain management. It’s speaking therapy used to help identify and change negative thoughts and behaviours surrounding pain by developing coping skills. The effects will vary from person to person.
- Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy – Pelvic floor physiotherapy is a therapeutic treatment for a range of conditions that affect the pelvic floor, including pelvic pain and prolapse. There is a range of research and evidence suggesting that physiotherapy can help relieve or even cure pain.
- Acupuncture – Acupuncture is a treatment commonly used in Chinese medicine for many pain conditions and disorders. They insert fine needles into acupressure points. Once inserted, they can help reduce inflammation, pain and stiffness by relieving pressure in the body.
- Pain Programmes – Doctors can also refer chronic pain patients to a pain specialist or clinic. There, a pain patient will have several treatment options like pain medication, therapy, group sessions, pain relief injections and Tens machines.
DOES CHRONIC PELVIC PAIN SYNDROME(FEMALE) GO AWAY?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive cure for CPPS, but the right treatments can make the condition more manageable.
Over time, it’s also possible for the pain to improve on its own.
If you suspect that you may have CPPS or have been experiencing pelvic pain, please make an appointment with your doctor.
If you’re worried or not sure what to expect at your doctor’s appointment, keep reading to get an idea of what may happen.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR DOCTORS APPOINTMENT & what to expect
As I mentioned earlier, when you visit your doctor, you’re likely to be asked to provide a medical history and summary of your pain so far.
Your doctor may also need to carry out a physical exam of your pelvic area. If this happens, you can ask for a chaperone to help you feel more comfortable.
Having someone come along with you to your appointment is also a good idea if you’re nervous or need extra support.
To best prepare for your appointment, you can also make a list of questions and bring them with you to your appointment.
Here are a few of the things you can note down before your appointment:
- Where exactly is the pain?
- When did the pain start?
- Has the pain gotten worse?
- How would you describe the pain (e.g. – dull, sharp, stabbing, prickly)?
- Do you have any other symptoms (e.g. fatigue or pain anywhere else in the body)
- A list of any medication or supplements you’re taking (prescribed and over the counter)
Similarly, your doctor will also want to ask you some questions during your appointment.
Here are some questions they may ask:
- When was your last period?
- Are you taking anything for the pain?
- Where is the pain? Is it always in the same place?
- Has the pain gotten better or worse over time?
- Have you recently been pregnant or had any type of surgery?
- How severe is the pain? Does it come on gradually or is it constant?
- Do you experience any pain during urination or a bowel movement?
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR DOCTOR
Your appointment is also an opportunity to ask your doctor questions you may have.
Here are a few example questions you could ask:
- What could be causing the pain?
- Are there any treatments are available?
- What happens next if you can’t find an underlying cause?
- Is there anything I can do to make the pain more manageable?
If you want more ideas for questions, check out my post on questions to ask your doctor about chronic pain.
I hope you found this information useful. I know how hard it is to manage or understand chronic pelvic pain.
Getting a diagnosis, whether it’s for chronic pelvic pain syndrome or conditions causing pelvic pain, can be long.
I hope you can get the right diagnosis and treatment to better manage your pain.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments… 🙂
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