Chronic pelvic pain (CPP) is a diagnosis that describes pain in the pelvis lasting at least 3-6 months.
Who has chronic pelvic pain?
- About 1 in 7 women and 1 in 50 men men experience chronic pelvic pain
- People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue, and interstitial cystitis are more likely to experience CPP
- A history of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depressive disorder can increase risk of developing CPP
What causes this condition?
- There is no single cause of chronic pelvic pain. Although diagnostic tests can help identify contributors, about half of people will not be able to find one.
- Biological, psychological, and social factors all contribute to a person’s pain experience. No two people are the same, so each person experiences CPP differently.
- When someone has pain for a long period of time, the brain and spinal cord begin to change. This phenomenon is called central sensitization.
- In short, central sensitization lowers the threshold for the person to sense pain in the pelvis. This means that someone can have pain from a stimulus that would not normally be painful.
What can pelvic physical therapy offer to people with chronic pelvic pain?
- Pelvic physical therapists are an important part of a multidisciplinary team. They can assist in diagnosis of CPP, and help rule in or rule out musculoskeletal contributors to pain.
- A pelvic PT visit could include exercise, hands-on therapy, in-depth conversation about coping skills – and everything in between! Someone with chronic pelvic pain might be squatting a barbell or practicing mindfulness techniques. Each person’s needs are unique, and may change between visits!
How is chronic pelvic pain treated?
- Even without finding an exact cause of someone’s pain, we know there are many ways to influence it.
- Prescription medications can be helpful depending on the contributors to pain
- Pain medication, including for nerve-related pain
- Hormonal medications and therapies
- Psychiatric medications like antidepressants can reduce pain as well as be used to address mental health concerns
- Specialists in bowel, bladder, and sexual health can help address specific medical contributions to pain.
- Massage therapists, fitness professionals, mental health counselors/therapists and others are also important parts of the team! They can help you build coping skills, improve function, and manage pain.