Menstrual cramps can be a nuisance for some women for a few days each month. Others, such as those suffering from endometriosis or adenomyosis, may experience severe, chronic, and even debilitating pain.
However, cramps and abdominal discomfort aren't always period-related, and if you have persistent pelvic pain, you should rule out other causes. This is especially true if your cramps do not improve or worsen at the same time each month. If you suspect that your persistent symptoms aren't caused by your monthly cycle, here are other possible causes.
Kidney stones are frequently associated with back or side pain just below the ribs. However, if a stone passes through the urinary tract, it can cause pain in the lower abdomen or even the vagina. An ultrasound or CT scan can aid in the diagnosis of this common condition, and blood and urine tests may be necessary to rule out other issues.
This condition, known technically as interstitial cystitis, is characterized by pain in the bladder that has no obvious or identifiable cause. Bladder muscles can contract and spasm in the same way that uterine muscles can, resulting in a cramping sensation. Sometimes the pain worsens with bladder filling and improves with bladder emptying, but this is not always the case.
If you have unexplained pelvic pain, your doctor will likely order imaging tests to rule out structural causes such as uterine fibroids, an ovarian cyst, or, in rare cases, a tumor in the reproductive organs. A colonoscopy may also be recommended by your doctor to ensure that you have no polyps in your bowel.
Only about 3% of all gynecological conditions are caused by this condition, and it is not caused by anything a woman does, such as jumping or twisting her body. According to experts, anyone experiencing sudden and severe abdominal pain, particularly if it is accompanied by vomiting, should go to the emergency room right away and be evaluated in a gynecology clinic.
Some women recognize the symptoms of a urinary tract infection right away, such as a constant need to pee and a burning sensation when they go. However, a UTI can be difficult to diagnose at times. Lower abdominal pain and cramping can also be caused by UTIs, particularly in older women.
Untreated sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia or gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease. PID causes structural changes in the reproductive tract, which can lead to persistent abdominal pain, fever, abnormal vaginal discharge, pain or bleeding during sex, and infertility or pregnancy complications.
When a pelvic floor muscle becomes overly tight, the nerves surrounding it can become irritated, resulting in cramp-like pains. Exercise, old orthopedic injuries that did not heal properly, chronic constipation, or even sex can all cause this.
Tight pelvic-floor muscles are also linked to domestic violence or sexual assault. It's very common for women who have been abused to hold a lot of tension in this area and have difficulty relaxing those muscles—which can cause physical symptoms as well as make exams and intimate relations more painful.
Bloating and cramping are common after eating gas-producing foods such as cauliflower, beans, and broccoli. Some people experience chronic bloating as a result of a bowel disorder, food intolerance, or even the way they breathe.
These stomach cramps causes are fairly obvious because they occur quickly and are frequently accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea in addition to pain. Food poisoning is frequently caused by bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli, or campylobacter, which can be found in undercooked meat or contaminated produce.
Similar symptoms can also be caused by a virus contracted through contaminated food or from another infected person.
If you've had abdominal surgery in the past and are now experiencing unexplained stomach cramps, it's possible that scars from the procedure are to blame. Scar tissue can become stuck to the layers of tissue beneath the skin, causing pain in the abdomen.