When it hurts “down there”, figuring out what’s wrong can be challenging. Millions of women suffer from pelvic pain, but the reasons can vary. Getting a correct diagnosis is never as simple as learning, say, you have the flu or high blood pressure. But, treatment has come a long way from the past where women had to avoid tight jeans and sex. Doctors are much more equipped to sort through the symptoms to find the right cause. Here’s an unpleasant truth: Pelvic pain rarely is caused by only one problem. Causes can range from bladder disorders and STIs to cysts and cancer. You’ll want to talk to your doctor and receive a physical examination to find the cause or causes, and then discuss solutions for your personal situation.
Still, if you’re feeling pain, you need to be your own researcher and advocate. Let’s walk through symptoms for the most common issues, such as vulvodynia and endometriosis and learn how they are treated.
Let’s start with endometriosis. Its symptoms include severe cramps that radiate to your legs and back. About 5 million women have endometriosis, and treatments include ibuprofen, birth control pills, and hormonal therapy to shrink endometrial tissue. In extreme cases, a hysterectomy is necessary.
Three million women have interstitial cystitis which causes bladder discomfort. Women with IC say it feels like the worst urinary tract infection (UTI) with stabbing pains when they urinate. It’s treated with Elmiron, an oral drug developed for IC; however, it may take more than six months to be completely effective.
Many women suffer from pelvic floor tension myalgia. The symptoms feel like an achiness in the pelvis or burning and pain the vagina. Home treatments actually are most effective. Your doctor will teach you how to align your pelvis, and do a stretching and strengthening routine for your core muscles. Injecting Botox can also relieve symptoms by temporarily relaxing pelvic muscles.
Chronic vulvar pain – or vulvodynia – affects six million women. Previous yeast infections may be the cause, but some doctors think childbirth or even horseback riding could cause it. Symptoms include a burning or stinging sensation in the vulva. Many women experience pain during sex, inserting a tampon, or even wearing tight of pants. Remedies could be topical creams, anti-seizure drugs or antidepressants. Surgery that removes nerve endings in the vagina would be a last resort.
Some natural options have been effective for pelvic pain:
For endometriosis, try an organic diet with no dairy containing hormones. As for interstitial cystitis, avoid acidic foods, such as coffee, citrus fruit, and hot peppers, that irritate your bladder.