Pelvic Pain vs Abdominal Pain

stomach pain

When classifying different types of pain, doctors and physicians will usually describe the pain as coming from a specific part of the body before they start looking at why that pain is occurring. They may describe it as chest, back, abdominal, or pelvic pain. Abdominal and pelvic pain, although common, can become serious very fast. These two pains overlap in their causes, how they are experienced, as well as one able to cause the others. So, we are going to look at both of these types of pain to see what causes them, areas they overlap, and what you can do if you have these types of pain.

Abdominal Pain

Strictly speaking, your abdomen is the area that is bound by the diaphragm (usually where your ribs end), the pelvic bone, and the margins on the left and right of your body.  Abdominal pain can originate from the tissues that make up the abdominal wall. However, abdominal pain is generally understood to be pain that originates from the organs that are found inside the abdominal cavity. These include the intestines, liver, spleen, pancreases, and many others.

Pelvic Pain

Your pelvis is immediately below your abdomen and is characterized by being enclosed by the pelvic bone. The pelvis area contains the urinary system, rectum, prostate gland in men, as well as the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and uterus in women. (Source: PHRC Los Angeles)

Because of their proximity, it can often be difficult to know whether the pain you have is originating from the lower abdomen or the pelvis.

Pelvic Vs Abdominal Pain: Presentation

Pelvic pain will usually present as sharp pain regardless of the cause of the pain. Abdominal pain, on the other hand, can present as either a sharp, dull, or pulsing pain, depending on the organ that is affected. 

Another difference in the presentation of pelvic and abdominal pain is that pelvic pain is usually felt where it originates while abdominal pain can be felt somewhere else in the body. For example, despite the pancreas being towards the front of the body, pain caused by appendicitis is often felt in the back.

Pelvic Vs Abdominal Pain: Causes

Some types of pelvic and abdominal pain are normal such as menstrual cramps in women. However, pelvic pain in men points to something more serious such as prostate issues (enlarged or cancer), digestive tract issues (constipation, indigestion, etc.), UTIs, and STIs. Hernias, although not as common as other causes of pelvic pain, are still serious and can cause a lot of pain and occur when a tissue or organ pushes through a spot in the muscles.

Appendicitis is a very common cause of abdominal pain although it can also cause pelvic pain when left untreated. Appendicitis occurs when the appendix swells due to infection or other factors.

Another condition that can cause both abdominal and pelvic pain is kidney stones and kidney infections. Kidney stones occur when minerals in your urine clump together to form “stones”. Most kidney stones do not cause pain until they grow too large and start moving down the ureter (the tube connecting the kidney and bladder). This grows from abdominal pain in the case of the former and pelvic pain in the case of the latter.

Sexually transmitted diseases and urinary tract infections are a major cause of pelvic pain for both men and women. STIs and UTIs can lead to other issues such as infection of other sexual organs (prostate, testes, uterus, cervix, etc.).

Pelvic Vs Abdominal Pain: Treatment

The treatment of pelvic and abdominal pain is often complicated by the many organs in both of these areas and the fact that abdominal pain is often felt where it is not originating from. A lot of people who have abdominal or pelvic pain will want to self-medicate by looking up the symptoms online and finding the medication that treats their symptoms. 

The problem is that the issue you are experiencing will be there once the effect of painkillers or other medications start reducing. The best course of action is to document your pain thoroughly and see an Austin urologist as soon as possible. The doctor will do the requisite exams and help you pinpoint not only the origin of the pain but also the reason for the pain.

They will then treat the pain and any underlying issue and if they think the pain might recur, they will let you know what you can do in the future to ensure the pain does not reoccur and what to do in case it does.

Both abdominal and pelvic pain can be devastating especially if the onset of the pain is rapid. There are many reasons why you may have these two types of pains, especially because most of your important organs are located in both of these areas. Because pain in one area can cause pain in another and both pelvic and abdominal pain usually overlap, it is always a good idea to see a doctor as soon as possible so they can find out the exact cause for the pain and ensure things do not get worse than they already are.