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Pelvic pain is a common complaint among women and can be caused by a number of pelvic conditions. Its nature and intensity may fluctuate, and its cause is often obscure. In some cases, no disease is evident.

What is Pelvic Pain?

Pelvic pain can be categorized as either acute, meaning the pain is sudden and severe, or chronic, lasting over a period of months or longer. Pelvic pain may originate in genital or extragenital organs in and around the pelvis, or it may be psychological, which can make pain feel worse or actually cause a sensation of pain when no physical problem is present.

The following are examples of the different types of pelvic pain most commonly described by women and their possible cause or origin. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

Sudden Stabbing Pain in Pelvic Area Female Symptoms

  • localized pain: may be due to an inflammation
  • colicky pain: may be caused by spasm in a soft organ, such as the intestine, ureter or appendix
  • sudden onset of pain: may be caused by a temporary deficiency of blood supply due to an obstruction in the circulation of blood
  • slowly-developing pain: may be due to inflammation of the appendix or an intestinal obstruction
  • pain involving the entire abdomen: may suggest an accumulation of blood, pus or intestinal contents
  • pain aggravated by movement or during examination: may be a result of irritation in the lining of the abdominal cavity

Who is at risk for Pelvic Pain?

The pelvis is a complex region that houses many important structures including the bladder, urethra, uterus, ovaries, vagina, bowel and a complex muscular support structure. Dysfunction in any of these areas may contribute to pain in the pelvis. In women, common nerves innervate these regions and inflammation or irritation of one structure can flare other surrounding structures. Although pelvic pain is common in women, it is also found frequently in men. Men and women both share supportive pelvic floor muscles and spasm or inflammation of these muscles are a frequent cause of pelvic pain and urinary and bowel dysfunction.

What can cause Pelvic Pain?

Pelvic pain may have multiple causes, including:

Sudden Stabbing Pain in Pelvic Area Female

  • Inflammation or direct irritation of nerves caused by acute or chronic trauma, fibrosis, pressure or intraperitoneal inflammation
  • muscular contractions or cramps of both smooth and skeletal muscles
  • psychogenic factors, which can cause or aggravate pain

What are the symptoms of pelvic pain?

Depending on the cause, pelvic pain may be mild, moderate, or severe and can be a symptom on its own or be part of other medical conditions.

It might be a dull aching pain, or sharp and stabbing, steady or come and go like cramps. It also might only be present during certain activities, such as sex or urination.

What are pelvic pain care options?

Treatments for pelvic pain will vary widely depending on the cause of the pain. They can range from over-the-counter treatments for mild pain, dietary changes, antibiotics, hormonal therapy, or surgery.

What Does Endometriosis Pain Feel Like?

Pain associated with endometriosis can vary widely from patient to patient. Some women experience no symptoms; some experience severe pelvic pain or pressure. The first sign or symptom for others is having difficulty getting pregnant.

Tamer Seckin, MD, founder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America (EndoFound) and the author of The Doctor Will See You Now: Recognizing and Treating Endometriosis, indicates the following symptoms:

  • You may experience cramping and intense pain with menstruation; think throbbing contractions or sudden, sharp, stabbing pains that may leave you breathless. Shireen Hand, a blogger for Endometriosis News, described it as an “electric shock.” It may start before menstruation and not let up for several days. Some women refer to them as “killer cramps.”
  • You may feel a dull, throbbing pain around the time of ovulation.
  • GI distress in common, including bloating, gas, and cramps, sometimes accompanied by diarrhea and constipation. Symptoms are worse around menstruation.
  • Pain during sexual activity can feel like sandpaper, along with sharp pains that radiate toward the abdomen, notes Hand.
  • You may have painful bowel movements or urination due to irritated tissue.
  • Neuropathy may cause sciatica (a sharp, burning, radiating pain down your leg, inner thigh, or back) that can make walking or even crossing your legs uncomfortable.

Don’t Wait to Talk With Your Doctor

It takes on average 3 to 11 years from onset of symptoms for women to receive a correct diagnosis, according to past research, so don’t wait around if you are having issues. (5) Although endometriosis is incurable at this point, there are treatments that can help manage pain and other symptoms. For some women, endometriosis symptoms go away on their own once they’ve reached menopause.

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