How you can help your GP help you to manage chronic pelvic pain
Many of the girls and women I see with pelvic pain have a number of different problems contributing to their pain. Troublesome period pains, heavy bleeding, stabbing pains in the side, irritable bowel and bladder, vulval itching or burning, and back pain are all common problems, often co-existing in the same patient. Unsurprisingly, fatigue, poor sleep, anxiety, low mood and sexual difficulties work their way into the mix as well. It might be helpful to consider your symptoms under these headings:
Your periods – are they a bother to you? If they are painful, try to describe the location and nature of the pain. Do you get pain like this between periods? What have tried for your pain?
Your bladder – are you happy with your bladder? Do you have problems with frequent bouts of cystitis? Is your bladder painful? Do you have trouble emptying your bladder?
Your bowel – do you have an irritable bowel? What symptoms bother you? Do you have bowel pain? Is this different to your usual period pain?
Your tummy – do you get stabbing pains low down in your tummy? When do you get these pains? Are these different to your usual period pain?
Your vulva – do you have trouble with frequent vulval irritation? Do you self-treat for infections like thrush frequently?
Your vagina – do you have irritation in the vagina? Is sex painful? Are you able to use tampons comfortably?
Your back and hips – do you have much trouble with back pain? Does it hurt to move? Have you had a back injury in the past?
Headaches – are you bothered by headaches? Do you experience severe headaches at period time?
Your general health – are you frequently tired, nauseated or faint?
Your mood – are you having trouble with anxiety and/or depression?
It won’t surprise you to learn that your GP can’t address all these issues in one standard (or even one long) consultation, so try to think what you want sorted out before you go in. It may be best to give your GP a broad outline of your problems, and then arrange a longer appointment time to address each of your symptoms in an orderly way. Remember that you have had your pain a long time and strategies to manage it may also take a long time. Be patient!
Help is on the way…
I'll talk about GP Care Plans and referral options in my next blog. So watch this space!