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Pelvic pain

Definition

Pelvic pain is pain in the lowest part of your abdomen and pelvis. In women, pelvic pain might refer to symptoms arising from the reproductive, urinary or digestive systems, or from musculoskeletal sources.

Depending on its source, pelvic pain can be dull or sharp; it might be constant or off and on (intermittent); and it might be mild, moderate or severe. Pelvic pain can sometimes radiate to your lower back, buttocks or thighs. Sometimes, you might notice pelvic pain only at certain times, such as when you urinate or during sexual activity.

Pelvic pain can occur suddenly, sharply and briefly (acute) or over the long term (chronic). Chronic pelvic pain refers to any constant or intermittent pelvic pain that has been present for six months or more.

Causes

Several types of diseases and conditions can cause pelvic pain. Chronic pelvic pain can result from more than one condition.

Pelvic pain can arise from your digestive, reproductive or urinary system. Recently, doctors have recognized that some pelvic pain, particularly chronic pelvic pain, can also arise from muscles and connective tissue (ligaments) in the structures of the pelvic floor. Occasionally, pelvic pain might be caused by irritation of nerves in the pelvis.

Female reproductive system

Pelvic pain arising from the female reproductive system might be caused by conditions such as:

  • Adenomyosis
  • Ectopic pregnancy (or other pregnancy-related conditions)
  • Endometriosis
  • Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea)
  • Miscarriage (before the 20th week) or intrauterine fetal death
  • Mittelschmerz (ovulation pain)
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Salpingitis (inflammation of the fallopian tubes)
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Vulvodynia

Other causes in women or men

Examples of other possible causes of pelvic pain — in women or men — include:

  • Appendicitis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Chronic constipation
  • Colon cancer
  • Diverticulitis
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Inguinal hernia
  • Interstitial cystitis (also called painful bladder syndrome)
  • Kidney stones
  • Past physical or sexual abuse
  • Pelvic floor muscle spasms
  • Prostatitis
  • Psychological factors
  • Ulcerative colitis

When to see a doctor

If you suddenly develop severe pelvic pain, it might be a medical emergency and you should seek medical attention promptly. Be sure to get pelvic pain checked by your doctor if it's new, if it disrupts your daily life, or if it has gotten worse over time.

Last updated: March 31st, 2017

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