Chronic Pelvic Pain Symptoms

Symptoms Such as Pain After Eating Can Be Variable and Difficult To Diagnose

woman climbing stairs with pain
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What are the symptoms of chronic pelvic pain? Because there are so many different causes of pelvic pain, the symptoms can be variable and difficult to diagnose.

Chronic pelvic pain is a condition that affects women and men. However, the symptoms are not the same for everyone. In general, symptoms include pain that has lasted for six months or more, often localized in the abdomen or pelvic region.

Chronic pelvic pain symptoms may result from women’s health issues, men’s health issues, nerve disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, digestive problems or even mental health issues.

Here's a look at the most common chronic pelvic pain symptoms by category.

Chronic Pelvic Pain in Women

In women, chronic pelvic pain symptoms may be caused by issues with the reproductive organs, pelvic joint instability or abnormal growths in the uterus.

Therefore, female-specific chronic pelvic pain symptoms may manifest as any of the following:

Common causes of chronic pelvic pain specific to women include endometriosis (often the cause of dysmenorrhea or painful periods), chronic pelvic inflammatory disease and uterine fibroids.

Chronic Pelvic Pain in Men

Chronic pelvic pain symptoms specific to men are usually caused by prostatitis, or swelling of the prostate gland.

Prostatitis can cause any of the following chronic pelvic pain symptoms in men:

  • Difficulty with or painful urination
  • Discomfort at the base of the penis
  • Lower back discomfort
  • Discomfort around the anus or the testicles
  • Pain during ejaculation
  • Blood in the semen

Nerve Disorders

Chronic pelvic pain symptoms can be caused by nerve damage or dysfunction, and may occur in both men and women.

The pudendal nerve, ilio-inguinal nerve, ilio-hypogastric nerve and genito-femoral nerve are all located in the abdominal and pelvic region, and may be damaged after surgery, during childbirth or from neuropathy.

Chronic pelvic pain symptoms caused by nerve disorders may include any of the following:

  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pain during urination or bowel movements
  • Pain when sitting
  • Pain in the lower abdomen or back
  • Pain in the genitals

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is one of the most common causes of chronic pelvic pain symptoms in both men and women.

IBS can cause any of the following:

  • Cramps in the lower abdomen (usually on the left)
  • Problems with bowel function, including diarrhea, constipation and bloating
  • Pelvic pain that is worse after eating, and goes away after a bowel movement
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Painful menstrual periods
  • Abdominal pain that is worse during times of stress, anxiety or depression

Urinary System Problems

Urinary disorders such as interstitial cystitis (IC), bladder tumors or renal obstruction can cause any of the following chronic pelvic pain symptoms:

  • Pain as the bladder fills (goes away after urinating)
  • Pain during urination
  • Urinary urgency and/or frequency
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pain in and around the pelvic area

Chronic Pelvic Pain from Osteitis Pubis

Osteitis pubis is the term for chronic swelling of the pubic bone, and can occur in both men and women who are physically active.

Chronic pelvic pain symptoms from osteitis pubis may include the following:

  • Pain in the pubic area, often worse with activity
  • Pain when squeezing the legs together
  • Pain when climbing stairs or squatting

Chronic pelvic pain symptoms vary not only by diagnosis but by individual, as well. If you have chronic pelvic pain, your symptoms may include many or few of those listed above. This is what makes chronic pelvic pain so difficult to diagnose. If you think you might have chronic pelvic pain symptoms, talk to your doctor about undergoing medical testing.

Sources:

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Pelvic Pain.

National Pain Foundation. Pelvic Pain: Causes.

R.B. Alexander, et al. Treating Men with Chronic Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome. Annals of Internal Medicine. 19 October 2004.

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