Millions of men and women suffer with pelvic pain. As common as back pain and asthma, pelvic pain is something people are very embarrassed to talk about. Let’s start now! Important first steps in handling pelvic pain are becoming aware of possibly clenching (tightening) of your pelvic floor; knowing you aren’t alone; and being more willing to talk about it.
Where and how is pelvic pain experienced?Your “core” includes your abdominal muscles, diaphragm, back and pelvic floor. Peg Maas, PT, DPT, WCS, CLT, a board certified Pelvic Health/Women's Health Specialist at Swedish describes the pelvic floor as muscles, nerves, fascia and other connective tissue. It works hard holding in numerous body parts and is being activated by every movement we make, even our breathing.
Pelvic pain is usually experienced in or near one’s anal area or when you sit, by radiating to the vagina, pubic bone, tailbone and scrotum. Patients describe their pain as burning, tingling, dull, aching or piercing. Maas describes a sudden burst of pain in the night as “a charley horse of the anal muscle.” Pelvic discomfort isolates people and can strain sexual relationships.
Possible causesPelvic pain typically occurs when your pelvic floor is in “overdrive”. Neck pain, TMJ (pain in the joint that connects lower jaw to skull) and headaches—stress, poor posture and poor breathing habits can be a source of pelvic pain. Other causes include post childbirth weakness; constipation and straining; falling on your tailbone; endometriosis; sexual trauma and/or fear of having sex; a sports injury to a hip; hip replacement surgery; or continuing to clench your pelvic floor muscles after hemorrhoid treatment or once gender affirming surgery pain subsides.
Navigating your careTalk with a trained medical professional, such as your primary care physician. A thorough exam and health history can help rule out or identify a health condition causing your pain. A treatment plan will probably include pelvic health physical therapy, possible evaluation and follow-up with a specialist, alternative therapies or a combination of treatments.
Karla Bushmaker, MN, BS, RN-BC, the Nurse Navigator for the Swedish Pelvic Health Program, is available to answer questions and guide you through your care options. Your primary care provider can refer you to Karla or directly to a Swedish specialist. Go to www.swedish.org/services/pelvic-health to learn more.