Women's Health: Pain in Your Pelvic Area?

Chances are good that at some point during her life a woman will develop a condition affecting her pelvic area, located between her belly button and groin. Although pelvic pain in women is often assumed to be a problem with the reproductive system, females of any age can experience discomfort in this area. That is because the urinary tract and gastrointestinal system also inhabit the pelvic area along with the uterus, ovaries and vagina.

What could possibly be causing your pelvic condition? First, is it important to understand the anatomy of the pelvic floor.

The organs of the pelvis include the bladder in front, the uterus and vagina, the intestines, and rectum in back. The pelvic floor is the group of ligaments, tendons, muscles, connective tissue and nerves that perform like a hammock in holding these organs in place. They are important for bladder and bowel control and a weakening of these structures can cause incontinence and painful intercourse, among other conditions.

Almost one-quarter of women have a pelvic floor disorder, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Pregnancy is a common cause, along with advancing age, being overweight, or traumatic injury.

“Because pelvic pain in women can be attributable to one or more conditions, it is important to get a correct diagnosis,” says Kathleen Wilder, M.D, an OB/GYN at Columbia River Women’s Center. “Some women may also indeed develop more than one pelvic floor disorder, such as urinary incontinence with pelvic organ prolapse.”

Some of the more common conditions affecting women’s pelvic health include:

  • Menstrual cramps - One of the most typical causes of pelvic pain, cramps affect about half of all women during their periods.
  • Endometriosis - The endometrium is the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus. When theses tissues grow outside of the womb, it is called endometriosis and can cause mild to severe pain.
  • Ovarian cysts – An ovarian cyst occurs when an ovary’s follicle fails to release an egg or becomes clogged, causing potential plain and bloating.
  • Uterine fibroids – Growths of smooth muscle cells and connective tissue in or on the walls of the uterus are called uterine fibroids. They may cause pain, bleeding, or no symptoms at all.
  • Urinary tract infections – UTIs are caused by bacteria that enter the urethra, the tube that transports urine from the bladder. They can cause a burning sensation when urinating, dark or cloudy urine, fever, chills and fatigue.
  • Pelvic organ prolapse – When the pelvic floor weakens and can no longer support the internal organs, they can drop or press into the vagina.
  • Bladder problems – Urinary incontinence is the leaking of urine. Women may feel the urge to urinate too often or leak when they laugh, cough or sneeze.

“The treatments for pelvic disorders vary and depend on the cause and severity of the condition,” says Dr.Wilder. “For example, endometriosis and uterine fibroids can be treated with medications and hormone therapy or may require surgery in more severe cases. Physical therapists can also help women with a variety of pelvic conditions, such as urinary incontinence, painful intercourse and chronic pelvic pain.”

According to Gina Clark, PT, DPT, a certified pelvic health physical therapist at MCMC Outpatient Therapy, “Physical therapy can help by focusing on strengthening the pelvic floor muscles to help improve the function of the organs within the pelvis. We create treatment and exercise plans, specific to each patient’s health needs.”

If you or someone you love is experiencing any of these conditions, call Columbia River Women’s Center at 541-296-5657 or MCMC Outpatient Therapy at 541-296-7202.