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What is Gynecologic Pain?

Gynecologic pain is a discomfort felt in the pelvis or the lowest part of the abdomen in women that may occur from urinary, reproductive, digestive, or musculoskeletal sources. Depending on the source of the pain, the pain may be characterized as dull or sharp, constant or intermittent (on and off), and maybe mild, moderate, or severe in intensity. Gynecologic pain can indicate a problem with one of the organs in the pelvic area, including the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, or vagina.

Causes of Gynecologic Pain

Gynecologic pain may have multiples causes based on the source of the pain. Some of the common causes of gynecologic pain in women include:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease or PID - an infection of the female reproductive organs caused by sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Ruptured or twisted ovarian cyst
  • Appendicitis
  • Kidney stones
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ruptured fallopian tube
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Uterine fibroids - non-cancerous growths in the uterus
  • Ovarian cyst - a fluid-filled sac that develops on an ovary
  • Peritonitis - Inflammation of the peritoneum (the thin layer of tissue that lines the inside of the abdomen)
  • Endometriosis - a painful condition in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside the uterus

Symptoms of Gynecologic Pain

Pain is the primary symptom of gynecologic pain with a variation of pain based on severity being the only difference, such as:

  • Sudden onset of pain
  • Localized pain
  • Slowly-developing pain
  • Cramping or spasm-like pain
  • Pain aggravated by movement

Diagnosis of Gynecologic Pain

Diagnosis includes a complete review of your symptoms and medical history along with a physical exam to look for areas of tenderness in your pelvis and abdomen. To arrive at an accurate diagnosis, your doctor may also order additional tests, including:

  • Blood and urine tests to look for infections
  • X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs to obtain detailed images of the pelvis and abdomen
  • Pelvic ultrasound to view the internal structures of the pelvis, such as the uterus, vagina, fallopian tubes, and ovaries to check for any abnormalities
  • Colonoscopy to view the complete length of the large intestine to identify inflamed tissue, abnormal growths, ulcers, or bleeding
  • Laparoscopy, a minor surgical procedure in which a laparoscope is passed into the abdominal wall through an incision to view the location, extent, and size of any endometrial growths.

Treatment of Gynecologic Pain

Treatment for gynecologic pain depends on the cause of the pain and includes options such as:

  • Antibiotic medicines to treat urinary or sexually transmitted infections
  • Anti-inflammatory and/or pain medicines to treat inflammatory and painful conditions
  • Hormonal treatment to help with the pain connected to menstruation and endometriosis
  • Physical therapy that involves stretching, strengthening, or learning to control and relax pelvic muscles to treat pain related to the pelvic area
  • Lifestyle changes, such as a change in diet, improved posture, practicing yoga, regular physical activity may help some women with gynecologic pain
  • Surgery to treat pain arising out of fibroids, adhesions, uterine polyps, or endometriosis

Allen OB/GYN

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