What Is Pudendal Neuralgia, & Why Could It Lead to Pelvic Pain?

Jul 21, 2017 at 3:00 p.m. ET
Image: Getty Images

Pudendal neuralgia affects the nerve that runs from your lower back, along your pelvic floor muscles, out to your perineum (or the skin between your pubic bone and your tailbone).

According to the Health Organization for Pudendal Neuralgia, common symptoms can range from burning and numbness to feeling a lump or foreign body in the vagina or rectum.

To better understand the pelvic disorder, I talked to Dr. Allyson Shrikhande, who is a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician based in New York City.

“You can have pain with bowel movements,” she explains. “You can have pain with intercourse. The big [side effect] is sitting.”

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Similarly to endometriosis and the like, the causes of pudendal neuralgia are up in the air. The Women’s Health & Research Institute of Australia says the chronic pain disorder could be related to a combination of issues including childbirth trauma, cycling, gynecological or colorectal surgery, injury, straining, past pelvic or perineal trauma, excessive physical exercise, musculoskeletal issues, posture and even stress.

Unlike endometriosis and disorders that deeply affect the uterus, men can also experience pudendal neuralgia. Nonetheless, the disorder does affect women in larger numbers.

“[Pudendal neuralgia] can affect the pudendal nerves during vaginal delivery and pregnancy,” Shrikhande explains. “Gynecological issues such as endometriosis or fibroids can irritate the pudendal nerve as well.”

On average, it takes about six months to diagnose a patient with pudendal neuralgia, she says. Luckily, the disorder can be treated using a variety of different methods.

More: Physical Therapy Could Help With Your Unbearable Pelvic Pain

Physical therapy is a significant one that many physicians will first direct patients to. For instance, as a physical therapist, Shrikhande helps patients sit on different kinds of cushions to help train them to sit without sitting directly on their pudendal nerves.

If physical therapy isn’t effective, medication is the second option patients can pursue. Muscle relaxers and nerve pain medications can help alleviate symptoms, but they can’t heal and cure the symptoms on their own.

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So can pudendal neuralgia be cured completely? Shrikhande says it all depends on the cause. However, there is a strong chance a cure could be far-fetched or at least take years to work toward. In any case, chronic pain management is an important factor in patients' everyday lives. In addition to physical therapy, patients may have to make lifestyle and work adjustments such as dietary shifts and finding unique ways to sit to accommodate their own needs.

By Danielle Corcione

Originally published on HelloFlo.