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Review
June 15, 2021

Chronic Pelvic Pain in Women: A Review

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Surgery, Gynecology Section, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Orlando VA Healthcare System, Orlando, Florida
  • 2Department of Clinical Sciences, University of Central Florida College of Medicine, Orlando
  • 3Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles
JAMA. 2021;325(23):2381-2391. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.2631
Abstract

Importance  Chronic pelvic pain (CPP) is a challenging condition that affects an estimated 26% of the world’s female population. Chronic pelvic pain accounts for 40% of laparoscopies and 12% of hysterectomies in the US annually even though the origin of CPP is not gynecologic in 80% of patients. Both patients and clinicians are often frustrated by a perceived lack of treatments. This review summarizes the evaluation and management of CPP using recommendations from consensus guidelines to facilitate clinical evaluation, treatment, improved care, and more positive patient-clinician interactions.

Observations  Chronic pelvic pain conditions often overlap with nonpelvic pain disorders (eg, fibromyalgia, migraines) and nonpain comorbidities (eg, sleep, mood, cognitive impairment) to contribute to pain severity and disability. Musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction are found in 50% to 90% of patients with CPP. Traumatic experiences and distress have important roles in pain modulation. Complete assessment of the biopsychosocial factors that contribute to CPP requires obtaining a thorough history, educating the patient about pain mechanisms, and extending visit times. Training in trauma-informed care and pelvic musculoskeletal examination are essential to reduce patient anxiety associated with the examination and to avoid missing the origin of myofascial pain. Recommended treatments are usually multimodal and require an interdisciplinary team of clinicians. A single-organ pathological examination should be avoided. Patient involvement, shared decision-making, functional goal setting, and a discussion of expectations for long-term care are important parts of the evaluation process.

Conclusions and Relevance  Chronic pelvic pain is like other chronic pain syndromes in that biopsychosocial factors interact to contribute and influence pain. To manage this type of pain, clinicians must consider centrally mediated pain factors as well as pelvic and nonpelvic visceral and somatic structures that can generate or contribute to pain.

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