How often do we hear of patients trying to explain their sexual pain to a partner, only to be doubted, not believed, or guilt tripped into having sex because of the lack of understanding of the condition? I’d say about as often as we hear of the other unfortunate misunderstandings about the nature of painful sexual function, such as people not wanting to be in a relationship for fear of sexual dysfunction limiting their participation, or believing that healthy sex is gone for good. Most of us are familiar with the phrase, “not tonight- I’ve got a headache” yet how often is the truth really that a person has a “pelvic ache?” And do headaches and pelvic pain go together? That is the question posed in research published in the journal Headache.
For 72 women who were being treated for chronic headache, a survey was administered to assess for associations between sexual pain and libido, a history of abuse, and to determine the number of women being treated for sexual pain. Nearly 71% of the women were diagnosed on the International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD)-III criteria with chronic migraines, nearly 17% with medication overuse headache, 10% with both chronic overuse headache and migraine. Below are some of the statistics from the survey.
|Symptom||% Respondents who Experienced Symptom|
|Pelvic region pain brought on by sexual activity||44%|
|Pelvic region pain preventing from engaging in sexual activity||18%|
|Among women who had pain:|
|Reported pain for < 1 year||3%|
|Reported pain for 1-5 years||35%|
|Reported pain for 6-10 years||29%|
|Reported pain for > 10 years||32%|
Although the next statistics should not be so surprising based on prior literature and on our work in the clinics, 50% of the women had not discussed their pelvic pain with a provider. Of the women who had discussed their pelvic pain with a provider, 37.5% were currently receiving treatment, 31% had not received any treatment, 31% had received care in the past, and 1% did not provide an answer. Reasons for not receiving treatment included that no treatment was offered, pain was not severe enough to warrant care, or fear of pursuing treatment due to embarrassment. Unfortunately, rehabilitation was not a significant part of the treatment plan, even though all but one of the women said they would want to pursue care if available.
Other interesting associations were made in the article, which is available as full text in the link above, including rates of sexual abuse, and associations between types of headaches and pelvic pain. The bottom line is that headaches and pelvic pain can occur together, and that based on this research, many women are still suffering for long periods of time without accessing care for pelvic pain. When it comes to headaches, there are many types of headaches, and many other conditions that occur and can cause pain in the head, face, and neck. If you would like to sharpen your clinical tools related to headaches, as well as dizziness and vertigo, you still have time to sign up for the Institute’s new continuing education course on Neck Pain, Headaches, Dizziness, and Vertigo that takes place in Rockville in November.
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