UK based charity Pain concern is helping abolish the stigma attached to pelvic pain
An estimated 1 in 7 women will suffer genitourinary or pelvic pain at some point during their lifetime. The type and severity of pain varies from woman to woman but the general definition of pelvic pain is anything ‘...below the belly-button and above the legs.’. There are many common causes of pelvic pain (including endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and irritable bowel syndrome) as well as less common causes like vulvodynia and interstitial cystitis. Pain caused by these conditions is considered ‘chronic’ when persistent for 6 months or longer.
Chronic sufferers often find that severe pain interrupts sleep, affects work life and lowers living quality. A 2010 analysis by endwomenspain.org reviewed several studies addressing chronic pelvic pain and found that patients suffering interstitial cystitis reported significant sleep dysfunction, depression, stress and anxiety compared to non-sufferers. Sufferers of vulvodynia experienced increased psychological impairment as well as decreased life quality and feelings of lowered control over their lives’ and bodies.
Despite its prevalence, for many sufferers chronic pelvic pain remains a relatively under-discussed 'taboo'; the same analysis by endwomenspain.org reported that women suffering vulvodynia also experienced ‘social isolation’ and ‘stigma’. The lack of discussion around genital disorders currently happening in society has left individuals feeling unable to seek social support. Less than 25 percent of women reported that they felt comfortable disclosing they suffer vulvodynia to their closest friends, and many who suffered interstitial cystitis reported having perceived lower levels of social support compared to non-sufferers.
Not seeking social support for fear of being stigmatised has limited the understanding, discussion and visibility given to pelvic pain in society. A 2016 study by Julie Aste cites pelvic pain’s ‘invisibility’ in society as a main factor leading to undiagnosed sufferers being unable to recognise, believe or understand their pain and seek treatment. Unfortunately, for those who do get a diagnoses, the perceived stigma prevents women from seeking additional medical care that would help alleviate symptoms and offer guidance and support
UK based charity Pain Concern is helping to abolish this stigma attached to pelvic pain. By engaging in frank discussions about chronic pain, Pain Concern's radio show Airing Pain provides transparent information and support to sufferers. The podcasts contain interviews with healthcare specialists and people living with chronic conditions, who share their patient journeys from diagnosis to the present day and offer advice on pain management.
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