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Pelvic Pain: Causes, Symptoms, Physical Therapy Treatment

What is Pelvic Pain?

Pelvic pain is described as an aching or burning pain in the lower abdomen, pelvis, or perineum.  The cause of pelvic pain can be complex, and the symptoms often fluctuate, making a diagnosis difficult.  Both men and women can be affected, however women are most often impacted.  If left untreated, pelvic pain can persist and negatively impact daily function and quality of life.  


What causes pelvic pain?

Pelvic pain may be caused by:

  • Pelvic joint irritation

  • Muscle tightness or weakness of the pelvic floor, trunk and/or hip

  • Uncoordinated muscles responsible for bowel and bladder function

  • Tender points in the pelvic floor muscles

  • Pressure on one or more nerves in the pelvis

  • Scar tissue after abdominal or pelvic surgery

  • Pregnancy or childbirth

  • Conditions affecting pelvic organs such as pelvic organ prolapse, prostatitis or endometriosis

What are the symptoms of pelvic pain?

Symptoms of pelvic pain vary and may include:

  • Pain or heaviness in the hip, buttock, tailbone, lower abdomen or pelvis

  • Pain in the genitals (testicles, penis, vagina, anus, urethra)

  • Difficulty sitting

  • Pain with sexual intercourse, gynecologic exams, or using tampons

  • Bladder and/or bowel dysfunction such as urinary frequency, urgency, bladder or bowel incontinence, painful bowel movements, constipation, inability to control gas, incomplete emptyng

  • Tender points in the muscles of the abdomen, hips, and buttocks

  • Limited motion in the hips and lumbar spine

  • Difficulty walking, performing household chores, or exercising

  • Depression, anxiety, or avoiding social activities

How can physical therapy help?

Pelvic Health Physical Therapists (or Pelvic Floor Physical Therapists) are trained to evaluate and treat possible causes of pelvic and abdominal pain including joint dysfunction, scar tissue, nerve irritation, and muscle tightness, weakness or imbalance.  All care is individualized, provided in a private room, and holistic in nature.  Treatment may include hands on techniques to address muscle tightness or tender points, targeted exercises to improve muscle strength, coordination and flexibility, scar tissue mobilization, and education in ways to reduce stress and pain.  Treatment strategies may include biofeedback, posture training, and breathing techniques and relaxation to reduce pelvic pain, improve function, and enhance quality of life.


Who should be referred to a Pelvic Health Physical Therapist? Get a referral if you have...

  • Pain when sitting

  • Pain during or after sexual activity

  • Pain with bladder or bowel emptying

  • Pain in the abdomen, pelvis, upper thighs, tailbone, or genital region

  • Pain during pregnancy and/or in the postpartum period

  • Pain during gynecologic exams or when using tampons

Looking for a Physical Therapist that specializes in
pelvic pain?

Visit our PT Locator that will allow you to find PTs by zip code and specialty including pelvic pain. Visit

Section on Women's Health
Section on Women's Health
Section on Women’s Health-American Physical Therapy Association (SoWH) is a professional association of more than 3,000 physical therapists. Members provide the latest evidence-based physical therapy services to everyone from childbearing women to peri-menopausal mothers, young athletes to men with incontinence or other pelvic health complications. To learn more, visit

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