Many diagnoses that live under the umbrella of "chronic pelvic pain" have similar symptoms, confounding the differential diagnosis and development of a treatment pathway. Dr. Charles Butrick, in an article published in 2007, suggested that gynecologists "…be alert to…interstitial cystitis in patients who present with chronic pelvic pain typical of endometriosis." The concurrent conditions of bladder pain syndrome (BPS) and endometriosis have been described as "evil twins syndrome" in the realm of chronic pelvic pain. Bladder pain syndrome. also known as Interstitial Cystitis (IC), is a condition commonly associated with pelvic pain, bladder pressure, and urinary dysfunction such as urgency and frequency. Endometriosis can also cause or contribute to pelvic pain, and a variety of pelvic dysfunctions including bowel, bladder, or sexual dysfunction.
A study published in the International Journal of Surgery reported on the prevalence of these two conditions. Utilizing a systematic review approach, the authors located articles reporting on the prevalence of bladder pain syndrome and endometriosis in women with chronic pelvic pain. Nine observational studies were included, and the range of endometriosis diagnosis ranged from 11%-97%, with a mean prevalence of 61%. The prevalence of endometriosis ranged from 28%-93% with a mean prevalence of 70%. The large variation in these rates were explained as potentially being due to the variations in study quality and sample selection. (The authors point out that the highest rates of prevalence for BPS and endometriosis were noted in the patient groups recruited from specialist clinics and from lists of patients from operating lists.) The study concludes that in women who present with chronic pelvic pain (CPP), screening for bladder pain syndrome is important so that appropriate treatment can be directed to all issues.
If another chronic pelvic pain condition, pudendal neuralgia, is added to the diagnoses of endometriosis and painful bladder syndrome, "evil triplet syndrome" can be experienced by a patient. The various symptoms of each of these conditions can add to the total level of pain and dysfunction experienced by a woman with chronic pelvic pain. Having the tools to evaluate and treat symptomatology and address the chronic aspect of tissue, joint, neural, myofascial, and the processing of pain is a skill that most pelvic rehabilitation therapists continue to work on throughout their careers. Michelle Lyons, faculty member from Ireland, brings her "Special Topics in Women's Health" course to Chicago in a couple of weeks. Within the course, Michelle will be discussing each of these conditions from the standpoint of a multidisciplinary approach, and with the role of the pelvic rehabilitation provider in mind. She will also be sharing up-to-date and practical information about infertility and hysterectomy. If you are interested in joining Michelle and colleagues in Chicago, you still have time to sign up! And if you would like to host Michelle's course in your facility, give us a call or send us a note!