Pelvic pain is no secret to the millions of women who struggle with it on a daily basis. Though the rates of its prevalence among women is comparable to that of asthma and chronic back pain, women suffering from pelvic pain often feel alone in their pain. They are reluctant to talk about pelvic pain, mistakenly thinking they are “the only ones,” and do not seek out support. Particularly in the observant community, in which matters of marital intimacy are shrouded in privacy and modesty, this “modesty” may prevent women with pelvic pain from sharing their struggles.
As physical intimacy is reserved exclusively for the context of marriage, many observant women’s first encounter with pelvic pain occurs in the early stages of marriage. Women may not even report this pain to their health care providers, either out of embarrassment, or by incorrectly assuming that there is nothing that can be done to alleviate their symptoms. Over time, the distress from pelvic pain may lead to feelings of isolation, despair, shame, and may negatively impact self-esteem. Chronic pelvic pain can have an adverse effect on many aspects of a woman’s life, and may lead to the avoidance of marital intimacy.
What is pelvic pain?
Pelvis pain refers to pain in the region below the umbilicus and may radiate into buttocks and thighs. It may present as abdominal, vaginal, sacroiliac, rectal, or groin pain. This pain is non-cyclical in nature. It is considered “chronic” when it lasts for more than six months. It may be experienced dull or sharp, burning, stinging, itching, aching, or a sensation of pressure. Pain may occur intermittently or become constant. It may be present during urination, with exercise, in sitting, with sexual activity, or when wearing tight fitting garments.
If you experience a sudden onset of severe pelvic pain, seek medical attention immediately.
There may be one or more underlying medical conditions that contribute to an individual’s pelvic pain. For this reason, a physician should be consulted for a thorough examination.
Musculoskeletal issues often are major contributing factors to pain in the highly muscular and innervated structures in the pelvis. The pelvic floor itself is made up of muscles and connective tissue that work together to create a “sling” that lifts and supports the uterus, bladder, and rectum. Like other areas of the body that are muscular, stretching, tearing, and straining of pelvic floor muscles can cause pain and dysfunction. Childbirth, surgery, or injury can compromise the integrity of the pelvic floor, resulting in muscle imbalances, compression of structures in the pelvis, muscle spasms, and pain.
A thorough physical exam can uncover the sources of the pain, and will direct the development of an effective individualized plan of treatment. If you are struggling with pelvic pain, I encourage you to seek out treatment and support from experienced health professionals.
Rivki Chudnoff PT, MSPT is a NY/ NJ licensed physical therapist with over 14 years of experience working in both pediatrics and women’s health rehabilitation. Her practice addresses the needs of women in areas related to pelvic pain, sexual dysfunction, prenatal and postpartum related pain, and incontinence. Rivki currently resides in Bergenfield with her family. She can be reached at [email protected]
By Rivki Chudnoff, PT,MSPT