Chronic pelvic pain is a common problem, affecting roughly 1 out of every 7 women at some point during their lives. In a paper titled "Musculoskeletal Causes of Chronic Pelvic Pain: What a Gynecologist Should Know," the authors point out that 10% of all gynecological visits relate to this condition. It doesn't just affect women, though. Experts estimate that between 2% and 16% of men experience chronic pelvic pain syndrome, or CPPS. In this article, we'll discuss some common musculoskeletal causes of chronic pelvic pain and point you toward some resources that could help you find relief.
What is chronic pelvic pain (CPP)?
Chronic pelvic pain (CPP) is defined as pelvic pain lasting longer than three months. CPP is often caused by inflammation, injury or infection within the pelvis. Symptoms vary from person to person. In women, it often manifests as a sharp, stabbing sensation, similar to menstrual cramps. Men may experience pain in their testes, penis, or pubic area. Both genders may experience incontinence, as pelvic pain often weakens the pelvic floor muscles that allow us to control our bladder. Pelvic pain is often associated with injuries or ailments in the reproductive organs, such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts or pregnancy complications. In many cases, an infection or injury to those areas of the body causes inflammation that later inflames the joints or muscles. However, in many cases, CPP actually stems from the muscles and joints. We'll explain more below.
Common musculoskeletal causes of chronic pelvic pain
Here are a few musculoskeletal conditions that can lead to chronic pelvic pain:
- Sacroiliac joint dysfunction — Sacroiliac joint dysfunction is a condition that causes inflammation in the sacroiliac joints, which are located at the base of the spine and connect the lower spine to the pelvis. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction can stem from injuries, arthritis, infections and other conditions. When the inflammation caused by this condition extends into the pelvis, it can cause chronic pain.
- Symphysis pubis dysfunction — SPD, also known as pelvic girdle pain, occurs when the ligaments around the pelvic bone are overstretched. This allows the pelvic joints to fall out of place, which can lead to inflammation and pain in that area of the body. SPD is a common cause of pelvic pain in women who've recently given birth, with one study showing that 31.7% of women experience it.
- Weak pelvic floor muscles — The pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, bowel and uterus. However, pregnancy and conditions like obesity or chronic constipation can cause the pelvic floor muscles to weaken. When those muscles weaken, the organs above can start to become a heavy burden for your pelvis to support. Over time, this can lead to significant pain in your pelvic area.
- Joint hypermobility — Hypermobility disorder (HMD) is a condition that causes the joints of your body to move too easily. It occurs when the connective tissue around the pelvis is unable to keep the pelvic bone in place. This can be caused by a number of things, including genetic factors, traumatic injuries or overuse. It can lead to chronic pelvic pain as the bones in that area of the body slip out of place and grind against each other.
- Irritable bowel syndrome — IBS, a condition that affects up to 15% of U.S. adults, is another potential cause of chronic pelvic pain. While the root cause of IBS is unknown, it is often accompanied by muscle contractions in the intestines that can push up against the pelvic floor. People with IBS are also more likely to develop gastroenteritis, which causes an overgrowth of bacteria that may lead to infections in the pelvic area.
Can physical therapy treat pelvic floor pain?
Yes, physical therapy can be an effective treatment for pelvic floor pain in some patients. Your physical therapist will work with you to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. As a result, these muscles will have an easier time supporting the organs above them, and you may achieve pain relief. Your physical therapist may also apply manual therapy techniques to relieve any muscle or joint tension that’s causing your pain. Whether your chronic pelvic pain stems from a postpartum ailment or another musculoskeletal condition, you may find it worth your time to seek the help of a professional physical therapist.
Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch PT for chronic pelvic pain
At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you address your chronic pelvic pain. Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform. Contact our team today so we can help you find the most effective physical therapy services for your injury or condition.