Chronic pelvic pain can be a debilitating condition. Professor Ashish Shetty, lead consultant in pain management at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, explains what pelvic pain is, and how it can be treated.

Chronic pelvic pain could stem from a wide range of potential conditions. It be related to problems with your bowel, your urological system (for example kidney or bladder pain) or could be related to your reproductive system (for example problems with the uterus, ovarian pain or endometriosis). It is also possible that your pelvic pain has come from muscle strain, damaged ligaments, or problems with your bones. Or another potential reason could be mesh pain which can occur if mesh has been used to previously repair a hernia.

Understand the cause of your pelvic pain

The first step towards tackling your pain is to understand the root cause of your discomfort to see whether the underlying problem can be resolved. Some pelvic pain will disappear on its own after a few days, but it persists, then your GP can advise you on your next steps. Once the cause of the pain in your pelvis has been pinpointed, you will be able to investigate the options available to treat the problem.

Self-help options for pelvic pain

If your pelvic pain becomes chronic pain (meaning it has lasted longer than around three months) it can begin to have a significant emotional effect, disturb your sleep, and impact your day-to-day living and working. However, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the impact.

It is important that you continue to follow a healthy lifestyle while you are dealing with chronic pelvic pain, including a balanced diet and exercise. Remaining active, even on your worst days is key, although exercising at a sensible pace is important. If you push yourself too far on a good day, it can have a negative impact on your pain levels the day after.

At the other end of the scale, you should aim to be at least moderately active on your bad days, as far as your pain will allow. Walking, yoga, swimming and pilates are all low impact activities which may be helpful.

You may also find some relief from alternative therapies, such as acupuncture or massage, although it is advised that you seek someone who is appropriately qualified so that you do not risk further pelvic pain. Mindfulness techniques can also be helpful for some.

Simple pain killers can be beneficial to help manage your pelvic pain on a bad day. If you can manage your pain without medication, it is better not to take anything, but if you are taking regular medication, please seek the advice of a healthcare professional before abruptly stopping your treatment.

Seeking professional help for your pelvic pain

If self-help is not relieving your symptoms sufficiently, then it may be time to seek out the help of a pain management specialist. A pain management consultant will create a bespoke treatment plan to help you to manage your pelvic pain. Your pain management programme will take in to account a range of factors which include the underlying reason for your pain and your own preferences. Options may include medical pain management, such as a pain-relieving injection, electrical therapy or medication, behavioural therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), physical therapy or alternative therapies.

You are able to receive help from a pain management consultant either while investigations are taking place, or if subsequent treatment has not been able to relieve your pain.

At the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery we have world-class experts in neuropathic pain who will work alongside other specialists involved in treating any underlying condition to come up with a management programme that is unique to your needs. Our specialists are experts in the management of complex conditions and will make sure you have all the advice you need to agree a programme that works for you.

Even if your pelvic pain has to become something you live with in the long term, with the right advice and treatment there is every opportunity for you to have a full and active life with effective pain management.

You can search for pain management specialists on our website – just include the word PAIN in your search.