People with endometriosis often experience pain. Some of the more common pain symptoms include:
- pain before or during a period (dysmenorrhoea)
- pain during or after sexual intercourse (dyspareunia)
- ovulation pain (can consist of pain in the legs, buttocks and thighs)
- pain with bowel movements or when urinating
- pelvic pain that occurs outside of your period.
A common misconception is that pain is determined by how extensive the endometriosis is. But this is not the case. A person can have a large amount of endometriosis throughout their pelvic and abdominal cavity and have no pain, while others can have severe pain but have very little endometriosis.
So, what causes the pain associated with endometriosis? Because every case of endometriosis is different, so is the type of pain and its location. Pain is usually located within the pelvis, but it can also occur in other parts of the body such as the:
Chronic pelvic pain
One of the most common types of endometriosis pain is chronic pelvic pain (CPP). CPP is pain that lasts for more than three months within your pelvis. Non-stop pain for three months or more to a specific area of your body can cause your central nervous system (CNS) to start processing pain differently. In simple terms, this means that you can still feel pain even after the cause of your pain has stopped or healed. For example, if you've had your lesions removed, you may still feel pain.
It’s not uncommon to experience some pain with your period. But, if this pain reaches a point that it stops you from taking part in everyday activities, you need to seek medical help. Early pain management can help prevent it from developing into chronic and debilitating pain.
What is pain?
We tend to think of pain as nothing more than an uncomfortable (painful) physical sensation that passes once the cause of the pain has gone. Like when you knock your elbow or break a leg. However, pain is much more complicated than that. Pain is something that we all experience differently because pain is determined by many different factors. Factors can include how we’re feeling when experiencing pain, our state of health and our past experiences of pain.
Acute PainAcute pain results from tissue damage or inflammation and has a specific cause, such as a cut or broken bone. In the case of endometriosis, pain is usually caused by lesions. Acute pain usually doesn’t last for too long and stops once the tissue has healed, and there is no longer any stimulation to the pain nerves.
Chronic pain is persistent pain that lasts longer than three months. This type of pain is still present after the original cause of the pain has gone. It’s not uncommon in people with ongoing conditions or diseases, such as endometriosis.
Consistent pain lasting longer than three months can change how our CNS processes pain. It can cause the nerve fibres that carry information between the different parts of the CNS to start to behave differently to compensate for pain. This means we can still feel pain, even though our tissue has healed and there is no longer any danger.
Please refer to our pain guide for more detailed information on pain.
- What is endometriosis
- What causes endometriosis
- What are the symptoms
- What are the risk factors
- Myths surrounding endometriosis
- Epworth Endometriosis Patient Guide