You Deserve Pelvic Pain Relief!
During last week’s Let’s Chat, we talked about something that isn’t usually covered by healthcare providers but is irrefutably important: pelvic pain. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that suffering through pain is part of womanhood. Periods, childbirth, menopause… having a uterus seems like it comes with a lifetime subscription to discomfort. So when we experience physical pain, we grin and bear it, convince ourselves it’s not that bad and we can wait it out. We power through. But all women deserve to age without unnecessary suffering.
Impacting Women’s Lives
Dr. Bitner recalled a heartwarming and pivotal moment in her journey helping women. While walking downtown, a woman pulled up at the stoplight near her, and yelled, “Doctor! Are you Dr. Bitner? I can’t thank you enough.” The woman went on to tell her how she had heard Dr. Bitner talking about pelvic pain on tv, while she’d been suffering from chronic pelvic pain and awful periods. Dr. Bitner’s philosophy of women deserving treatment empowered her to find her voice and advocate for her own healthcare. She spoke up to doctors and didn’t stop until solutions were found. She was able to go back to work, provide for her kids, and get her life back.
As you can see, resolving pain can have a huge impact on women’s lives. We hope that learning about the potential causes of pelvic pain, it gives women the initiative to talk to their doctors about their issues. Dr. Bitner discussed with us four of the most common root causes of pelvic pain and explained the treatment options.
Common Causes of Pelvic Pain
Endometriosis is a fairly common condition that affects about 1 in 10 women. The lining of the uterus migrates outside the uterus, and endometrial tissue grows there. It can cause inflammation, scar tissue, and it can make the fallopian tubes stick to the ovary, which can create a blockage and cause infertility. The growth of endometrial tissue is fueled by estrogen, so hormonal treatments are given. Estrogen blockers lower estrogen, birth control levels the hormones out, and an IUD suppresses the endometrium. Surgical removal of excess endometrial tissue is also an option. Dr. Bitner advised patients to come to their doctor prepared with details of what makes symptoms better and worse.
Painful periods can also cause pelvic pain! When the uterine lining sheds during menstruation, it releases chemicals known as prostaglandins, which control inflammation and the swelling of blood vessels. Fibroids also create prostaglandins, so uterine fibroids make the pain worse. Common over-the-counter medications like Ibuprofen are anti-prostaglandins and help with period pain.
High tone pelvic floor dysfunction is a condition where pelvic floor muscles are too tight. Women who are affected may experience bladder or rectal urgency due to the fact that the muscles are tight and feel like they’re spasming or create a pressure sensation. It’s treatable with pelvic floor physical therapy, which trains the pelvic floor muscles to relax. Muscle relaxers such as Valium are also helpful to take before intercourse.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be a culprit for causing pelvic pain. It causes constipation or diarrhea, along with cramping and bloating. It can be rooted in low serotonin levels or high stress. Symptoms can be made better through lifestyle changes! Probiotic bacteria and fiber are important to integrate into your diet.
Also, ovarian cancer can be hard to diagnose. If your pelvic exams are coming back normal but you still have pain, ask for an ultrasound, just to be safe.
Take Away Tips
So what questions should we be asking our healthcare providers in regards to pelvic pain? Dr. Bitner advised the following:
- What is your expertise and training in pelvic pain?
- Can we talk about the details of my pain and your thoughts about the reason for it?
- How are we going to figure out the cause and what will we do with that information?
- What are my options to feel better?
- What are the side effects and consequences of treatment?
Dr. Bitner wanted to send an important message to all women with this week’s episode: If you have pain, do not suffer in silence. Also, it’s a major red flag if a doctor is offended when you ask for a second opinion. Humility is as important a trait in the medical field as any other. We’d love to help you find a solution for pelvic pain. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions!