What Is Pelvic Pain?
Pelvic pain is felt in the lower abdomen, pelvis, or perineum and is considered to be “chronic” when it lasts for more than 6 months.
Pelvic pain can be caused by:
Pregnancy and childbirth, when changing hormone levels can affect the muscles and cause the joints to become more “loose”
Pelvic joint problems
Muscle weakness or imbalance within the muscles of the pelvic floor, trunk, or pelvis
Lack of coordination in the muscles that control the bowel and bladder
Tender points in the muscles of the pelvic floor
Pressure on one or more nerves in the pelvis
Weakness in the muscles of the pelvis and pelvic floor
Scar tissue after abdominal or pelvic surgery, such as a C-section or episiotomy (incision), or as a result of a tear in the vaginal area
Pelvic organ prolapse, a shift in the position of the pelvic organs
Pelvic Floor – Female
Pelvic Floor – Female: See More Detail
How Does it Feel?
The pain in your lower abdomen and pelvis may vary; some people say that it feels like an aching pain; others say that it feels like a burning, sharp, or stabbing pain, or even pins and needles. In addition, you may have:
Pain in the hip or buttock
Pain in the tailbone or pubic bone
Inability to sit for normal periods of time
Pain in the joints of the pelvis
Pain with sexual intercourse
Tender points in the muscles of the abdomen
Reduced ability to move your hips or low back
Difficulty walking, sleeping, and doing physical activities
Urinary frequency, urgency, or incontinence
Painful bowel movements
Constipation or straining with bowel movements
With pelvic organ prolapse, there also might be a sensation of pelvic heaviness or a feeling like you’re sitting on a ball, due to the pelvic organs bulging at the opening of the vagina.
How Is It Diagnosed?
Your physical therapist will perform an examination to identify the causes of your pelvic pain and any joint problems, muscle tightness or weakness, or pinched nerves. Your therapist also will determine whether you should be referred to a physician for additional tests.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
Based on the examination results, your therapist will select from treatments designed to reduce muscle tightness, improve your muscle strength, and improve how you use your muscles—which in turns helps reduce your pain and increase your ability to perform your roles in the home, in the community, and at work.
Strengthen Your Muscles and Make Them Work Better for You
Your physical therapist will:
Teach you how to do relaxation exercises.
Show you how to “find” the right muscles and use them correctly.
Use pelvic-floor exercises to help you strengthen your muscles so that they can properly support the pelvic organs. Pelvic-floor exercises include “kegels,” in which you gently squeeze the sphincter muscles and squeeze the buttocks, thighs, and stomach muscles.
Instruct you in exercises to stretch and strengthen other important muscles and retrain them so that they work together normally.
Depending on your symptoms and level of discomfort, your physical therapist may decide to use biofeedback to make you aware of how your pelvic-floor muscles work and how you can control them better. Electrodes attached vaginally or rectally will provide measurements of muscle activity and display them on a monitor, and the therapist will work with you to help you understand and change those readings. The therapist also may use electrical stimulation to improve your awareness of your muscles and increase muscle strength.