You may have had pelvic pain for too long, but are you new at putting it all together and understanding what it means?
Our new animation video, prepared by Dr Reuben Schmidt from the University of Melbourne, links it together.
And we’re working on a men’s pain version.
The effect of female Persistent Pelvic Pain
Persistent Pelvic Pain has long been unfairly neglected and stigmatised but in recent years, people have started speaking up about pain and more research is being conducted.
With papers like the Pelvic Pain Report, which was published in 2011 suggesting “pelvic pain has suffered from particularly inappropriate stigmatisation and neglect, with resulting disastrous effects on women and young girls,” it is no wonder there is more focus going towards pelvic pain, its effects and its treatments.
Some studies suggest around a quarter of women have experienced persistent pelvic pain.
In his video on Persistent Pelvic Pain from the About Medicine series, Dr Reuben Alexander Schmidt looks further into the condition to help us understand a bit more about what one eighth of the entire world might be going through.
The pain experience is bound up in questions of fertility, sexual dysfunction, and with it, can come debilitating pain. A person with the condition may find it hard to be honest about it, even with friends and family, much less health professionals.
“Without the ability to communicate and share, people can become isolated in their pain experience, increasing their distress, which goes on to worsen the pain,” Dr Schmidt says.
PPP can be considered in terms of four qualities:
1. The intrinsic organ derived pain.
For women, this might include period pain, irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic muscle spasm, vulva pain, endometriosis, bladder issues, and PMS. With so many varying symptoms, it can be difficult to figure out the cause, and frustrating for those looking for a cause.
2. The response from our muscles to this pain.
This can be likened to lower back pain from a bulging disc, for example. The disc itself causes initial injury and the cramping of the muscles in response to the injury contributes significantly to the overall burden of pain.
3. Nerve pathway central sensitisation.
In simple terms, nerve pathway central sensitisation means a heightened pain experience due to physical changes at a neuronal level – a fault in the way the brain processes pain. People with central sensitisation of nerve pathways often experience more pain as a result. Sadly, chronic pain conditions can cause this central sensitisation.
4. Psychosocial consequences
Chronic pain can cause isolation and low mood. If you’re suffering with PPP, you might not be able to continue your job or favourite hobbies. If you are not in a good place mentally, you are less capable of coping with your pain condition. This also extends into the sex lives and intimate relationships of people with PPP. And an adolescent with PPP might not feel comfortable to get into a relationship with someone for fear of what may result.
Living with a pain condition is hard, but it doesn’t mean it can’t become manageable. A range of treatments exists beyond the scope of Dr Schmidt’s video so it’s important to speak to your medical professional. Some treatments are in the hands of the patient, and some in the hands of the treating team.
“Importantly, the earlier the problem is picked up, the better the person’s outcomes will be. It’s critical to step in before the negative spiral picks up strength. Sadly one of the main complaints you’ll hear from people with the condition is that they face interminable delays in the recognition and diagnosis of their condition,” Dr Schmidt says.
In order for a medical team to catch conditions like PPP early, changes need to occur.
Dr Schmidt’s current recommendations include:
- Better education on the topic through medical schools, doctor-training programs, as well as through the community in general.
- Better research
- Better guidelines for treatment
- Less stigma
If you are suffering with a chronic pain condition, seek medical advice to find the best treatment plan for you.