Hi friends! There are many different conditions that can contribute to chronic pelvic pain. Some examples are endometriosis, interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome), irritable bowel syndrome, or vulvodynia. It is common to prescribe pain medications as one of the first treatments, but these medications can cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, and gastritis or can cause addiction (Sharma, 2017). There is an alternative treatment known as Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS).
TENS is a form of electrical stimulation that is easily available and often portable. This TENS unit is an affordable option. Electrodes are placed on the skin and small electrical pulses are delivered. TENS is safe for most individuals but is not safe for certain individuals. It is important to check with your provider to ensure that TENS is safe for you.
TENS is thought to work by increasing local circulation and releasing endorphins to reduce pain (Sharma, 2017). Research has shown that TENS is a good treatment option for many individuals with pain (Sharma, 2017). On average it can provide pain reduction for 18-24 hours (Sharma, 2017).
In addition to chronic pelvic pain, research supports the use of TENS for managing labor pain, overactive bladder, and fecal incontinence.
Although TENS can be helpful in managing pelvic pain, it is recommended to see a pelvic therapist to address any underlying musculoskeletal impairments (like muscle weakness and tightness) that may be contributing to symptoms. Ask your doctor for a referral or find one near you at www.mypfm.com/find-a-pt.
To learn more about your pelvic floor, check out these great resources:
Understanding and Treating Pelvic Pain with Dr. Lauren Trosch, PT, DPT, OCS
Orthopedic Pelvic Assessment and Treatment for the Pelvic Pain Population with Dr. Kelli Wilson, PT, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT
Anxiety, Depression, and the Overactive Pelvic Floor with Dr. Jill Krapf, MD, Med, FACOG
Pelvic Pain Strategies to Empower Patients at Home with Amanda Olson, PT, DPT, PRPC
Written by Emily Reul, PT, DPT
Sharma N, Rekha K, Srinivasan JK. Efficacy of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation in the treatment of chronic pelvic pain. J Midlife Health. 2017;8(1):36-39