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Women's Health

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Chronic Female Pelvic Pain - Topic Overview

At your first visit, your doctor will do a complete pelvic exam to look for problems with your reproductive system. The doctor will also ask questions about your past and present health and about your symptoms. You may have some tests, such as:

Emotional issues can play a big role in chronic pain. Your doctor may ask questions to find out if depression or stress is adding to your problem. You may also be asked about any past or current sexual or physical abuse. It can be hard to talk about these things, but it's important to do it so you can get the right treatment.

If the first tests don't find a cause, you may have other tests that show pictures of the organs in your belly. These may include:

You may also have a type of minor surgery called laparoscopy (say "lap-uh-ROS-kuh-pee"). In this surgery, the doctor puts a thin, lighted tube with a tiny camera through a small cut in your belly. This lets the doctor look for problems like growths or scar tissue inside your belly.

Finding the cause of pelvic pain can be a long and frustrating process. You can help by keeping notes about the type of pain you have, when it happens, and what seems to bring it on. Show these notes to your doctor. They may give clues about what is causing the problem or the best way to treat it.

If your doctor found a problem that could be causing your pelvic pain, you will be treated for that problem. Some common treatments include:

  • Birth control pills or hormone treatment for problems related to your periods.
  • Surgery to remove a growth, cyst, or tumor.
  • Medicine to treat the problem, such as an antibiotic for infection or medicine for irritable bowel syndrome.

Chronic pain can become a medical problem in itself. Whether or not a cause is found, your doctor can suggest treatments to help you manage the pain. You may get the best results from a combination of treatments such as:

  • Pain relievers called NSAIDs, like ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (such as Aleve). You can buy these over the counter, or your doctor may prescribe stronger ones. These medicines work best if you take them on a regular schedule, not just when you have pain. Your doctor can tell you how much to take and how often. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Tricyclic antidepressant medicine, which can help with pain and with depression.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy or biofeedback, to help you change the way you think about or react to pain.
  • Counseling, to give you emotional support and reduce stress.

You may need to try many treatments before you find the ones that help you the most. If the things you're using aren't working well, ask your doctor what else you can try. Taking an active role in your treatment may help you feel more hopeful.

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