How is a Pelvic Pain Doctor Different From Other Specialists?

If you’ve experienced pelvic pain before, you understand how debilitating it can be. It’s especially common in women, but can also occur in men. Pelvic pain can be acute (lasting for a short period of time) or chronic (lasting six months and more). Learning how a pelvic pain doctor is different that other specialists may help you find the care you are looking for.

While your gynecologist or personal doctor can treat acute pelvic pain with medication, chronic pelvic pain is better dealt with by a pelvic pain specialist. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about pelvic specialists, which can lead to a series of misdiagnoses and worsening pain.

If you’re dealing with pelvic pain, or know someone who does, this article will explore pelvic pain and how a pelvic doctor differs from your local specialist.

Understanding Chronic Pelvic Pain (CPP)

Pelvic Doctor - Charity Hill, MDChronic pelvic pain generally lasts for more than six months. It can be very difficult to pinpoint the exact cause because it’s often the result of many things happening at the same time. And with this type of pelvic pain, it’s entirely possible that the original source of pain may have been dealt with (or healed on its own), yet the pain remains.

Unlike cancer or heart disease diagnosis, tests by your doctor may not result in an accurate diagnosis for your pelvic pain. Even a pelvic pain specialist will need to understand your medical history to get a bearing on what the problem might be. And whatever cause, your pelvic doctor identifies could be just one in a series of problems.

In short, CPP is often unexplained severe pain that can directly affect your muscles and nerves. This condition is often characterized by four levels of increasing pain:

  1. Original injury – CPP can be as a result of a current or previous injury resulting from endometriosis, appendicitis, adenomyosis, Crohn’s disease, colon cancer, bladder or bowel infections, cysts, scar tissue or other complications.
  2. Transferred pain – This level of pain occurs when the original injury pain lasts a long time. As a result, the visceral nervous system comes into contact with the somatic nervous system, transferring the pain back to the pelvis and abdomen. For instance, if you have a resolved uterine problem but the pain remains, you’re at this pain level.
  3. Trigger points on the abdominal wall – After the pain is transferred to the pelvic area, the muscle wall of the abdomen experiences tenderness in specific areas. These are trigger points and explain the pain when you or a pelvic specialist pushes down on an affected area. This could be a major source of pain. One of your treatments is directly aimed at relieving the pain and tension caused by trigger points.
  4. Psychological pain – If your pelvic doctor tells you that your severe pain may be more psychological than physical (often called psychosomatic), don’t take offense. Since your nerves and brain are connected to the spinal cord, the state of your mind could lead to increased pain. In such a case, your pelvic doctor may recommend psychological counseling or physiotherapy.

How a Pelvic Doctor Differs From Other Specialists

With an understanding of how chronic pain can vary dramatically from person to person and between men and women, let’s take a look at how pelvic doctors are uniquely equipped to help treat and manage pelvic pain:

1. A Pelvic Doctor Understands All Possible Complexities

Going to your primary care provider for CPP is like visiting your local dentist to get a root canal. You believe they’re qualified to help, but in reality, they lack the necessary specialized training. To have a root canal, you’d need an endodontist and not a regular dentist.

Pelvic Doctor Office Entrance

In the same way, if you experience pelvic pain for more than six months straight, you’ll want to see a pelvic specialist. A pelvic doctor understands exactly how to deal with any problems related to pelvic pain, including musculoskeletal pain, endometriosis, vulvar pain disorders, painful bladder syndrome, and peripheral neuralgias, among others.

2. Primary Physicians May Not Know How to Control the Pain

A primary physician will almost always focus on the most probable causes of your pain, ignoring psychological factors. But managing psychosomatic pain plays a big part in reducing pelvic pain and improving your quality of life.

According to the International Pelvic Pain Society, CPP can lead to depression, trouble sleeping, lack of appetite, anxiety, and general changes in behavior. A pelvic pain doctor is trained to look for these symptoms and recommend suitable treatment immediately.

3. A Pelvic Doctor Will Avoid Unnecessary Surgery

If you look at the common diagnosis of CPP, endometriosis leads the list for women. This is a condition where the lining of the uterus or similar tissue grows in other parts of the body. Research shows that at least 176 million women around the world suffer from this condition.

To treat this condition, surgery is required to remove the tissue. Unfortunately, only a third of these surgeries result in relief. In addition, CPP is the reason for up to 12% of all hysterectomies. Yet 22% of post-hysterectomy patients still report pelvic pain.

For men the pain can be just as prevalent, but less understood and treated. It is estimated that 10-12% of the male population suffers from chronic pelvic pain. But because of the sensitive nature of the issues, there are only 2 million outpatient visits a year. That is less than 1% of the male population suffering from chronic pelvic pain.

These stats demonstrate the elusiveness, sensitivity and misunderstanding around CPP. If you or your doctor are unsure or have been unsuccessful in treating your pelvic pain it is best to contact a specialist.

Always Look Out For Yourself as a Whole

Treating CPP is “like peeling the layers of an onion”. With one solution often comes another problem. This is because the pain can stem from multiple sources or one distinct source, but it’s often nearly impossible to tell the difference.

That’s why you should always consider seeing a pelvic doctor, even if just for a second opinion. These specialists are equipped to help you manage pelvic pain in the best way possible while working towards a long-term treatment plan.

We Are Doctors Who Specialize Pelvic Pain

At Pelvic Rehabilitation Medicine, we only treat pelvic pain and pelvic related conditions. All of our doctors are pelvic specialists, and more importantly, pelvic pain specialists. We treat a wide range of male pelvic pain and female pelvic pain conditions, including Hypertonic Pelvic Floor, Levator Ani Syndrome, Vulvar Pain and Vulvodynia, PGAD, Pudendal Nerve Entrapment, Fibromyalgia and Pelvic Pain, and many others.