What is pelvic pain?
The pelvic area of the human body is the lower half of the torso, located between your abdomen and legs. It is framed by your hip bones (pelvic girdle) and supports vital internal organs including your intestines, bladder and reproductive system.
Male and female pelvic areas are different in their structure, especially due to the fact women have enough space for their womb to expand when they are pregnant, and for their birth canal to support the delivery of a baby.
Pelvic pain can emanate from trauma to the hip bones, or from any of the organs, muscles or ligaments that sit within this area of your body.
In men, that includes their genitals, bladder, urethra (the tube that releases sperm and urine), prostate and kidneys.
Women can experience pelvic pain that has its origin in their kidneys, bladder or urethra (the tube that releases urine), but it could also be linked to an issue in their uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes or female genitals.
What are the symptoms of pelvic pain?
Pelvic pain can appear suddenly (acute pain), or, it can build gradually over time. It can also vary between being an unpleasant ache or severe stabbing pain. If it is a long-term issue (more than six months), this is referred to as chronic pelvic pain.
It may only appear at certain times of the month in women. For both men and women, pelvic pain could happen when urinating or having sex.
There may be other symptoms too. For example, painful sex, problems passing urine, or for women, disruption to your menstrual cycle.
Causes of pelvic pain
As mentioned above, there are diverse reasons to experience pelvic pain.
The causes include infections – such as one present in your bladder and urethra – trauma to your pelvic girdle or muscles, and issues with your reproductive system (such as fibroids or endometriosis for women). There is also the potential for it to be linked to appendicitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or a sexually transmitted infection (STI). In women, it could be pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
A hernia may also present as general pelvic pain. It is important to seek help if you experience severe and sudden pelvic pain, or persistent pelvic pain even if it is mild.
Treatment options for pelvic pain
A number of tests will be carried out to find the best treatment for pelvic pain. This includes questions to help identify the source, a physical examination, and blood tests to find out if an infection is a likely cause.
Depending on the reason for your pelvic pain, treatments could include pain relief medications, antibiotics to combat an infection, or physiotherapy for a muscle or ligament issue. Women may be referred to a gynaecologist for further diagnosis and support.
Both men and women may need the advice and support of a specialist in urology if the pelvic pain comes from their bladder or urethra.