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How Can Stress Cause Pelvic Pain?

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Pelvic pain is often dismissed as a natural occurrence in women, because of its prevalence in conditions such as menstrual periods or pregnancy. This, however, does not signify disassociation with other conditions since it also affects men, and can occur from other issues.

How Is Stress Associated With Pelvic Pain?

Stress and chronic pelvic pain are sometimes correlated. Stressors can affect you in the most unlikely way possible. They affect your mind and body, often influencing your habits and decisions.

Stressors can range from anything, such as an impending interview, a presentation, awaiting exam results, business, career, family, or relationship goals.

For some, unhealthy habits such as substance use, alcohol, drug or smoking are coping skills.

Meanwhile, these actions have consequences on your body that disrupt your body’s hormones and normal processes, resulting in different medical conditions.

Tension and absentmindedness from stress can also trigger or worsen pelvic pain. For instance, a certain position or positioning that is heightened during stress can cause pelvic pain.

Heavy exercises that involve overstressing and overstimulating your pelvic region can as well agitate underlying pelvic pain.

Can Stress Cause Pelvic Pain?

Physical stress increases contraction in the pelvic area. Causes of pelvic pain not related to medical conditions are anxiety and depression. These can further be exacerbated by stress. Stress puts or creates tension and strain on you, which may not be psychologically linked.

Nervousness, agitation, and restlessness are closely linked to stress. When your body undergoes certain changes or adaptations, it also inculcates habits that become a part of you.

Frequently biting your nails, inability to stay calm or still, overworking your body, rigorous exercises can cause reactions that affect your pelvic region. Bowel movements during stress may also be heightened during stress, triggering pelvic pain.

What Is Pelvic Pain?

Pelvic pain is a condition showing a problem with one or more organs of the pelvis area. This involves organs such as the uterus, vagina, bladder, and vulva. Pelvic pain is a discomfort felt in regions such as the lower abdomen, below the belly button, lower stomach, lower back, buttocks and genital area.

Pain and discomfort can range from dull, sharp, or stabbing ache that may be steady, frequent or spread out to other areas. Pelvic pain can be mild with a low occurrence or chronic, lasting over 6 months.

Pelvic pain is often associated with problems such as infections, inflammation, conditions like menstrual periods or situations when pressed or lifting something heavy. There are two major categories of pelvic pain:

Acute pelvic painUsually existing for a limited period and with an identifiable cause.

Chronic pelvic pain – Involving pain that lasts for a long period, usually between 6 months or more.

Types Of Pelvic Pain

Pelvic pain exists mostly in women and the severity of pain may be unrelated to the specific conditions, since there are many conditions with similar symptoms associated with it. Types of pelvic pain vary:

  • Localized pain – sometimes caused by inflammation.
  • Cramping – from spasm in the soft organs like the appendix, intestine, or ureter.
  • Sudden Onset Of Pain – arises from the inadequate circulation of the blood because of blockages.
  • Slowly Developing Pain – sometimes caused by inflammation or obstruction in the appendix or intestine.
  • Pain Involving The Entire Abdomen – this may likely be because of blood or pus accumulation
  • Pain Aggravated By Movement – arising from irritations.

What Are The Symptoms Of Pelvic Pain?

Signs of pelvic pain include:

Menstrual cramps

Cramps may be from intending menstrual period or pelvic pain. Although not all women experience menstrual cramps, symptoms followed by menstrual cramps are constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, frequent need to use the bathroom, mood swings,

Bloating

Feeling full may not occur when you cannot go to the bathroom. Sometimes it may exist even after going to the bathroom.

Painful intercourse

Pain during sexual intercourse can arise from infections, inflammations, and pelvic pain.

Pain in the lower back

This may also happen along with cramps during menstruation.

Constipation

Irregular bowel movement and evacuation from obstructions in the intestine can be frustrating. You feel the need to visit the bathroom, but nothing happens when you do.

Other symptoms associated with but not limited to pelvic pain include:

  • Vaginal discharge or spotting
  • Painful urination
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Infertility
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Pain in the genitals or groin

What Causes Pelvic Pain

There are many causes of pelvic pain linked to either acute or chronic type.

Appendicitis

This is when there is an inflammation or infection, an infected appendix can cause life-threatening problems or result in pelvic pain. Symptoms of appendicitis are nausea, fever, and vomiting.

Intestinal Obstruction

Blockages in the intestine cause constipation, abdominal pain and swelling, loss of appetite, difficulty passing gas and during bowel movement. It is usually caused by complications from abdominal surgery or inflammatory bowel diseases.

Painful Ovulation

Ovulation is the period eggs are released from the ovary. Releasing eggs along with blood and fluid may cause pain and discomfort that varies from woman to woman and last for a few minutes or hours. Pelvic pain is usually experienced during this period.

Ectopic Pregnancy

This is when the embryo grows outside the uterus. Accompanying symptoms include nausea, vaginal bleeding, dizziness, and pelvic pain. Ectopic pregnancy is treatable in early detection, however, it may require surgery if there is heavy bleeding or a ruptured fallopian tube.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

PID is an infectious and inflammatory disease, usually from sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhoea. PID can cause infertility if left untreated, it also damages the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes. Symptoms are abnormal discharge, pain during urination or intercourse, and pelvic pain.

Urinary Tract Infection

UTI involves the kidney and may cause painful urination, frequent urination, bloody or cloudy urination, lower pelvic pressure besides pelvic pain.

Vulvodynia

Also known as vaginal pain, it involves throbbing, aches, or burning pain around the vulva and vaginal opening. Symptoms include itching sometimes.

Other causes of pelvic pain are:

  • Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
  • Menstrual Cramps
  • Ovarian Cysts
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Kidney Stones
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Risk Factors Of Pelvic Pain

Pelvic pain has a higher prevalence rate in women than men, within the age of 15 to 73 years. It affects 1 in 100 women and impacts individuals physically, psychologically, and socially. Not only do pelvic pain effects include these, but it also places sufferers at a higher risk of infertility in long-term pelvic pain. Certain factors can increase your risk of having pelvic pain, such as:

  • Smoking
  • Longer cycles
  • Irregular or heavy menstrual flow
  • Presence of premenstrual flow
  • Strained physical exercise
  • History of sexual assault
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Duration of bleeding
  • Circumcision
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Presence of endometriosis
  • Previous miscarriage
  • Childhood physical or sexual abuse

Diagnosis Of Pelvic Pain

There are procedures to be carried out before the treatment of pelvic pain, this is done to determine the best treatment method suitable for your condition. Pelvic pain diagnostic procedures include blood tests, pregnancy tests, ultrasound, x-rays. Your doctor or physician will also ask a series of questions such as:

  • Where and when you feel pains
  • Duration and how long the pain lasts
  • What the pain feels like, is it a sharp, dull, throbbing or stabbing ache
  • Circumstances that influence the pain
  • How the pain starts and goes, did it start suddenly or in series
  • Also, if you feel the pain is related to your menstrual cycle, sexual activity, or underlying medical conditions.
  • Relation of pain to other activities like eating, sleeping, physical movement

How To Get Relief From Pelvic Pain

Treatment processes range from behavioral therapies, medication, or surgery depending on individual lifestyle, condition, and cause of pain. Recommended processes are:

Antibiotic Medications

These are medications usually bought over the counter to soothe the pain; they are mostly used in acute pelvic pain. Visit your health centre or doctor for prescriptions.

Anti-inflammatory or pain medications

They are mostly to help ease and manage pain and discomfort.

Relaxation Exercises

Workout routines to help relax your pelvic floors. They are safe, natural, and effective during pregnancy.

Physical Therapy

Here, a variety of approaches are used to change, and manage pain.

Surgery

Mostly done in conditions involving chronic pelvic pain, or pelvic pain associated with severe medical conditions.

Conclusion

There are many causes of pelvic pain with symptoms ranging from mild to chronic, depending on the type of condition. This can be frustrating, especially in cases of recurrent episodes and although mild pelvic pain can also result in chronic pain, it may also trigger stress and anxiety.

For pain and discomfort associated with abnormalities, visit your doctor or health centre for early intervention and to reduce the risk of triggering other medical conditions. Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques to help combat and manage stress and its excesses.

[lightweight-accordion title="Article Sources"]
1. National Institute of Health What causes pelvic pain
2. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine:
Factors predisposing women to chronic pelvic pain: systematic review
3. Beaumont Health, Michigan: What you need to know when the pain is down below
4. On Health: Abdominal Pain Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis
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