Although your condition may be diagnosed during your first exam, don't be surprised if you need to have a series of
medical appointments and tests. For many women who have pelvic pain, diagnosing the
cause is a process of elimination that takes a while.
Even if tests don't find any problems, it doesn't mean that there's no physical cause for your chronic pain. Tests aren't yet able to detect all causes.
By Sarah Mahoney
How to quit nitpicking
It's not even noon on a Sunday, and I've been biting my tongue all morning.
When my husband sat down to Web surf two hours ago, I resisted the urge to
remind him that he had promised to clean the basement. I held my tongue again
when our 13-year-old trashed the kitchen while creating his "it's due
tomorrow!" science project. And I even managed to stifle myself when my
teenage daughter left a plate in the sink instead of reaching 18 inches...
It's a good idea to make a calendar or diary of your symptoms(What is a PDF document?), menstrual cycle,
sexual activity, and physical exertion. And keep track of any other things that you think are
important, such as stressful events or illnesses. Bring it with you when you see your doctor.
To begin narrowing down the
list of possible causes of your pain, your doctor will review your
symptom diary and:
your health history. This includes the history of your menstrual cycle and any pelvic surgery, radiation treatment, sexually transmitted infection,
pregnancy, or childbirth.
pelvic exam to look for signs of abnormalities. You may also have a
digital rectal exam. Your doctor may
conduct these exams in a slower, more thorough manner than a routine pelvic exam,
carefully checking for tender areas.
CT scan, which uses X-rays to create pictures of organs
MRI, which uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to create
pictures of organs and bones.
LaparoscopyLaparoscopy. This surgical procedure uses a thin, lighted viewing instrument inserted through a small
cut in the belly. If needed, scar tissue or a growth can
also be removed during the procedure.
CystoscopyCystoscopy, which uses a viewing
instrument inserted through the urethra into the bladder.
For abdominal wall "trigger points." These are specific places on your abdomen that cause pain when pressed.
Your mental health
Chronic pain can have a
wearing effect on the mind and emotions, which can in turn make harder to manage pain.
Your doctor may recommend a
mental health assessment. You'll be asked questions
to find out whether such conditions as
insomnia, or stress are adding to or being
caused by your chronic pain.
For the best chance of recovering from pain, you will need treatment for emotional problems like these, plus treatment for any known physical causes of pain.