Definition of pelvic pain
Pelvic pain is pain in the lowest part of your abdomen and pelvis. In women, pelvic pain may refer to symptoms arising from the reproductive or urinary systems or from musculoskeletal sources.
Depending on its source, pelvic pain may be dull or sharp; it may be constant or off and on (intermittent); and it may be mild, moderate or severe. Pelvic pain can sometimes radiate to your lower back, buttocks or thighs.
Pelvic pain can occur suddenly, sharply and briefly (acute) or over the long term (chronic). Chronic pelvic pain refers to any constant or intermittent pelvic pain that has been present for more than a few months.
Sometimes, you may notice pelvic pain only at certain times, such as when you urinate or during sexual activity.
Causes of pelvic pain
Several types of diseases and conditions can cause pelvic pain. Often chronic pelvic pain results from more than one condition.
Pelvic pain may arise from your digestive, reproductive or urinary system. Recently, doctors have recognized that some pelvic pain, particularly chronic pelvic pain, may also arise from muscles and connective tissue (ligaments) in the structures of the pelvic floor. Occasionally, pelvic pain may be caused by irritation of nerves in the pelvis.
Female reproductive system
Pelvic pain arising from the female reproductive system may be caused by conditions such as:
- Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea)
- Ectopic pregnancy (or other pregnancy-related conditions)
- Miscarriage (before the 20th week) or intrauterine fetal death
- Mittelschmerz (ovulation pain)
- Ovarian cancer
- Ovarian cysts
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Uterine fibroids
Other causes in women or men
Examples of other possible causes of pelvic pain — in women or men — include:
- Colon cancer
- Chronic constipation
- Crohn’s disease
- Inguinal hernia
- Interstitial cystitis (also called painful bladder syndrome)
- Intestinal obstruction
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Kidney stones
- Past physical or sexual abuse
- Pelvic floor muscle spasms
- Ulcerative colitis
- Urinary tract infection
When to see a doctor
If you suddenly develop severe pelvic pain, it may be a medical emergency and you should seek medical attention promptly. Be sure to get pelvic pain checked by your doctor if it’s new, if it disrupts your daily life, or if it has gotten worse over time.