Pelvic pain is a problem for many women Veterans. The type and severity of the pain may vary, and the cause of the pain is often unclear.
The pain may be acute (occurs once or every so often), or chronic, causing you to rearrange your life around it. You may think it’s a normal part of life. But it doesn’t have to be.
There is relief for chronic pelvic pain and VA can help you.
What is chronic pelvic pain?
Chronic pelvic pain is when you have pain in your lower abdomen or pelvic area that lasts more than six months. This pain may be consistent but can get worse when you are having your period, urinating, having sex or walking.
It often interferes with your daily activities and affects your quality of life.
Who gets chronic pelvic pain?
About 30% of women Veterans have chronic pelvic pain. Some things that increase the risk of chronic pain include a history of sexual trauma, anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), multiple surgeries, and certain lifestyle habits, such as smoking and substance abuse.
What causes chronic pelvic pain?
The difficulty in treating this pain is that it can be a result of a number of health conditions. Most women with chronic pelvic pain have more than one cause of their pain. The reasons for the pain can include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that affects the large bowel;
- Bladder conditions, such as interstitial cystitis;
- Pelvic floor dysfunction, when pelvic muscles are weakened;
- Endometriosis, in which cells that usually grow in the uterus grow outside of the uterus;
- Vulvodynia, pain in the genital area;
- Pelvic injury or surgery;
- Cysts on the ovaries.
Learn more about these health conditions.
How can you get relief?
The first step toward relief is to find the causes of your pain. Your VA primary care provider can help identify health conditions related to your pain and develop a comprehensive treatment plan. VA offers ultrasounds, blood work, CT scans and colonoscopies to help diagnose your pain.
In addition, addressing sleep conditions, fatigue, mood disorders and mental health concerns are important to finding relief.
You may need a mix of therapies, such as those below, to find relief:
- Pelvic physical therapy;
- Medications to treat specific conditions, such as IBS, endometriosis, or muscle spasms;
- Surgery to treat gynecologic conditions like endometriosis;
- Pain relief treatments such as electrical nerve stimulation;
- Mental health support and treatment;
- Whole Health practices, such as tai chi, yoga and acupressure have also been shown to help reduce pain. Your health care provider may also offer information on self-management.
Don’t suffer in silence. Talk with your VA health care provider about your pain.
To read more blog posts on women’s health, visit https://blogs.va.gov/VAntage/?s=womens+health.