Chronic Pelvic Pain: Questions to Ask
Mikio A. Nihira, MD
When you've been diagnosed with chronic pelvic pain, you and your doctor should work together toward your well-being. Don't be afraid to ask any questions you have about your condition and your care. Here are some important ones to start with, but you may have others.
Are you the right person to help me?
Find out what experience the doctor who's treating you has with chronic pelvic pain. You may go to a primary care doctor you like very much and whom you know is a very good doctor. But it might be best if you were referred to someone who has more expertise in diagnosing and treating chronic pelvic pain.
Are there other possible causes for my pain?
Chronic pelvic pain often has multiple causes. In fact, 25%-50% of women who see primary care doctors end up with more than one diagnosis. Ask this question if your doctor doesn't mention any other causes that your symptoms may suggest.
What tests can help diagnose my problem?
The process of diagnosing and treating chronic pelvic pain usually begins with a pelvic exam. The doctor may find something wrong and make a diagnosis right away. Ask if any further testing would be helpful. Sometimes, the answer is no, because more testing may just cause you unnecessary pain, inconvenience, and expense. But if your doctor isn't sure what's causing your symptoms, further testing may be necessary.
What treatments can help me manage my pain?
Knowing the cause and getting relief are two different things. Treatments may take time to work, or maybe your diagnosis was incorrect. Meanwhile, the pain continues. Sometimes, the problem can't be cured. Ask your doctor what can be done to manage your pain. You might consider seeking a pain management specialist.
What's the best outcome I can expect?
Unfortunately, not everyone can expect complete and permanent relief. So, ask your doctor to tell you honestly how well your treatment will work. If you are hoping for a specific outcome, ask if your treatment will succeed.
What should I do if the pain returns?
Even if a treatment works, the solution may be temporary. It's a good idea to come up with a plan in case the pain returns.
What can I do to help with my care?
Taking an active role in your diagnosis and treatment may help you and your doctor find answers -- and the right treatment -- more quickly. There may be things you can do to improve the care you're getting. For example, gathering more information about your medical history can help. In some situations, changing your lifestyle may affect your treatment.
What do you think of alternative treatments?
Many people are interested in exploring alternative and complementary treatments that aren't standard medical practice. Ask your doctor's opinion of them, and find out if your doctor is willing to discuss results you've had. You want to be sure that alternative treatments don't interfere with your medical care and treatment plan.
Where can I turn if I need support?
As many as 20% of all women have chronic pelvic pain, but you may feel alone. If your doctor has treated a lot of women with chronic pelvic pain, you will be able to find the additional resources you'll need. Maybe your family or partner could use some support, too.