Updated: Sep 5
Living with pelvic pain can be profoundly challenging to deal with on several levels. An individual’s sexual functioning, psychological well-being, and quality of life can be drastically impacted. Having pain in this most intimate area of the body is further complicated by the lack of discussion surrounding it. There are many reasons why pelvic pain is not openly discussed. One common reason cited is the sensitivity surrounding this particular area of the body, whether it be the individual’s own discomfort, or the discomfort of others (i.e., doctors, partners, friends, etc.). Unfortunately, this reality can lead to the individual in pain shutting down, suffering in silence, not speaking up, not following up, and/or hoping things will just resolve on their own.
For both women and men, the etiology of pelvic pain problems can be elusive, making it difficult to correctly diagnose and treat. Bergeron, Rosen, & Morin (2011) cite that pain affecting a woman’s sexual and reproductive health, in particular, can often be misunderstood, misdiagnosed, or even ignored. Some common pain conditions noted in women are vaginitis, vaginismus, dyspareunia, pelvic floor dysfunction, and pain associated with/as a result of a hysterectomy, menopause, cancer, and/or trauma. For men, chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CP/CPPS) is one of the most commonly reported genital pain conditions (Pereira, Oliveira, & Nobre, 2018).
For both men and women, significant sexual dysfunction is cited as the most frequent complaint for chronic pelvic pain: it can present as a decrease in sexual desire, a decrease in arousal/erection, premature ejaculation, and/or a decrease in orgasmic function. Other factors involved in this dysfunction are multifactorial and contextual, and may be related to comorbidity with depression, the use of anti-depressant medications, and relationship satisfaction, amongst others (Rosenbaum & Owens, 2008).
Getting the right help and support can decrease the impact pelvic pain has on your overall well-being: the use of medications, physical therapy, and mental health counseling are a few proven methods in reducing pain. How you conceptualize your pain is critical, as it largely informs your outlook, and ability to take the next steps. With the right knowledge, tools, and skills set, relief is possible.
Bergeron, S., Rosen, N., & Morin, M. (2011). Genital pain in women: Beyond interference with intercourse. Journal of Pain, 152(6), 1223-1225. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2011.01.035
Pereira, R., Oliveira, C. & Nobre, P. (2018). Sexual functioning and cognitions during sexual
activity in men with genital pain: A comparative study. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 44(3), 238-248. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2015.111358
Rosenbaum, T. & Owens, A. (2008). The role of pelvic floor physical therapy in the treatment of pelvic and genital pain-related sexual dysfunction. J Sex Med, 5(3), 513-523. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2007.00761.x.