Chronic pelvic pain is more common than you think, with about 30 million women suffering from it in North America. Women who suffer from chronic pelvic floor pain often feel isolated and alone because of the shame of some of the symptoms, especially when intimacy is involved. The condition can often be misdiagnosed with opioid drugs prescribed to relieve pelvic pain in women. Unfortunately, this may lead to dependence or withdrawal symptoms if the drugs are suddenly withdrawn. Let’s look at chronic pelvic floor pain and why opioids are not the answer.
What is Pelvic Floor Pain?
Pelvic floor pain is a condition in women that often gets misdiagnosed, which can be a telling sign that something is wrong with the reproductive organs in your pelvic area. While pelvic pain is often caused by problems in the non-reproductive, internal organs of the pelvis, such as the kidneys or intestines, sometimes there is a problem with one of the reproductive organs in this area. In women, this pain may stem from an infection or inflammation of the uterus (often caused by a sexually transmitted infection), menstrual cramps, or pelvic floor muscles dysfunction. The symptoms of pelvic floor pain include:
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Painful urination
- Urinary tract infections
- Prolonged periods (menstrual cycle)
- Pain passing stool or gas
- Burning or stinging when urinating
- Painful bowel movements
Here’s where it gets dangerous to use opioids for Pelvic floor pain
Many patients suffering from Pelvic Floor Pain (PFP) are placed on Opioid painkillers in the first few days of being seen. This practice is common due to the immediate symptom relief. Due to this symptom control and immediate ability to do things more comfortably, there is a feeling that this ‘opioid solution’ is a good option. Unfortunately, due to a lack of proper pelvic evaluation, diagnosis, and opioid treatment strategies, opioid treatment can be the beginning of a lifelong struggle with opioid dependence.
Opioids were originally meant for end-term patients.
Initially, doctors largely restricted opioid use to terminally ill or had excruciating pain from cancer. Here, the benefit of immediate symptom relief far outweighed the risk of addiction.
The belief was that you could manage most other chronic pain conditions with a combination of non-opioid analgesics and muscle relaxers. However, many physicians became aware of the potential of opioid use to relieve severe chronic pain in non-terminal patients, especially those unable to find relief from other treatments.
So, in the case of chronic pelvic floor pain, opioids are meant for short-term use to help ease the pain. The opioid masks the pain, but it doesn’t provide any healing elements that an actual treatment plan would contain. Therefore, you may feel better but frequent use of opioids renders them ineffective, thus requiring higher doses to achieve the same effect.
What are the outcomes of opioid misuse?
Opioid medications have become a popular choice for treating chronic pain, including pelvic pain, over the past couple of decades. However, this has come with several potential adverse outcomes.
Opioid misuse has become the number one killer in the U.S. Between 2000 to 2014, over 500,000 people have perished due to pharmaceutical overdoses involving these drugs. Oxycodone (OxyContin), methadone, and hydrocodone (Vicodin) are the most commonly misused prescription opioids in the U.S. When a prescription drug like Vicodin is being abused, the patient will begin to use the drug until they try to stop taking it and they may begin to feel a host of negative side effects known as Vicodin withdrawal.
Also, more than 78 people die daily from opioid overdoses.
What is the significance of this information to you?
If you’re struggling with chronic pelvic floor pain, it is essential to educate yourself on the various options available. While there may be no cure for your particular type of chronic pelvic floor pain, doctors can manage it using alternative methods that do not require highly addictive prescription medications or adverse side effects. The American Urological Association, a key stakeholder in the pelvic pain space, reports treating urological disorders and pelvic pain effectively and safely through pelvic physical therapy.
Pelvic physical therapy professionals have been specially trained to perform various diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the pelvic pain you’re experiencing.
Chronic pelvic pain is a debilitating condition that can significantly reduce the quality of life. While there is no one-size-fits-all cure, it’s essential to educate yourself on the various treatment options available to you. You can manage chronic pelvic floor pain effectively through alternative methods such as pelvic physical therapy. Pelvic physical therapy professionals have been specially trained to identify the cause of your pelvic pain and provide an effective treatment plan. Opioids should only be used as a last resort and for short-term relief, as they can lead to addiction and other harmful side effects.