Uterine fibroids, which are non-cancerous, benign tumors that grow in or on the uterus, can go undetected in some women as they cause no visible symptoms. Other women suffer debilitating painful symptoms often accompanied by heavy and prolonged bleeding. Today we are going to focus on fibroid pain: what locations fibroid pain occurs in and why, how to manage fibroid pain, and what fibroid treatment options are available.
Why Do Some Fibroids Cause Pain?
Symptoms vary for each woman and can range from dull aches to sharp pains. The size of the fibroids and their location on or in the uterus plays a part in how painful or debilitating they become.
Uterine fibroids can range in size from that of a small pea to the size of a large melon and women can have only a few or numerous fibroids. There are different types of fibroids and they are classified by their location in the uterus:
- Intramural fibroids grow in the muscle of the uterine wall,
- Submucosal fibroids grow underneath the lining of the uterus, and
- Subserosal fibroids grow underneath the outer covering of the uterus.
Subserosal fibroids grow primarily away from the uterus and can press on pelvic nerves to cause pain. They can also cause sciatica pain that is in the lower back and radiates down the legs. This is the same pain that is experienced by patients that “throw out their back”.
Intramural or subserosal fibroids near the cervix can cause painful sex. These same types of fibroids located in the back of the uterus can press on the colon to cause constipation or painful bowel movements.
Submucosal fibroids growing underneath the lining of the uterus can cause heavy and prolonged menstrual periods. This can cause pain when clots (sometimes the size of a woman’s fist) form and pass through the cervix into the vagina before being expelled. Read more about uterine cramps and submucosal fibroids.
Pain Associated With Fibroids
- Pain and/or pressure in the abdomen and/or pelvic area;
- Bloating or swelling of the abdomen and/or pelvis;
- Pain that radiates into lower back, buttock, hips, and legs;
- Pain during intercourse.
Video: What You Should Know About Fibroid Pain?
Can Fibroid Pain Be Managed At Home?
If the symptoms you are having are minor and are not affecting your quality of life, you may be able to manage them with over-the-counter medications and “home remedies”, such as ibuprofen or anti-inflammatory drugs, a heating pad, light massage, and yoga or stretching.
Lifestyle changes can also help manage fibroid pain. By withholding the elements that cause fibroids to grow, their size can be reduced or kept under control.
Eating a diet rich in plant-based and whole foods, which are nutrient-dense and rich in essential vitamins and minerals. Adding foods that are rich in antioxidants or act as natural anti-inflammatories are excellent choices. Sourcing food from local organic origins and avoiding sugar, caffeine, junk foods, alcohol, etc. will help keep fibroids from thriving.
Make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to the growth of fibroids because vitamin D naturally counterbalances estrogen levels.
Use all-natural or organic products whenever you can. Reduce consumption of excess estrogen through food additives, plastics, and personal care products. Use glass as much as possible for storing and reheating foods and avoid using plastics.
Get enough sleep so your body has time to rest and recharge.
Maintain a healthy weight as excess fat stores more estrogen than your body can use or eliminate. The excess estrogen feeds fibroids. We’ve covered the correlation between weight gain and uterine fibroids in the article“Is Weight Gain a Symptom of Fibroids?”
Acupuncture for Fibroid Cramping
Some women report that they found relief for menstrual symptoms through acupuncture which is based on ancient Chinese medicine. It is done by inserting many tiny needles into various places on the skin. Some research shows mixed evidence that acupuncture helps with menstrual cramps and bleeding but more research is necessary to determine if it would be a viable resource for women with pain from fibroids.
Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) for Pelvic Pain
Some women report relief for menstrual symptoms and pelvic pain including chronic pelvic pain after PEMF sessions. PEMF beds direct pulsed energy waves toward damaged or injured areas of the body. The waves pass through the cells increasing the spin of the electrons contained within them. It’s an option that warrants further study.
Can I Get A Prescription To Help With Fibroid Pain?
Some fibroid symptoms can be alleviated through prescription medication that helps regulate your menstrual cycle by targeting hormones, such as birth control pills, IUDs, and GnRH agonists and antagonists. These medications do not reduce the size or eliminate fibroids, they can only provide temporary relief from the symptoms. Read more about fibroids and IUDs.
What Options Do I Have To Eliminate Fibroid Pain Forever?
Historically, a hysterectomy was recommended to women to rid themselves of fibroid symptoms forever. This involves the near-complete or total removal of the uterus and should be used as a last resort as the uterus provides support to the bladder and other surrounding organs. Hysterectomy causes significant bone loss and recent studies have also linked the uterus to heart health. Removing the uterus eliminates the ability to have a baby and comes with a number of serious risks. A hysterectomy requires a hospital stay and has a lengthy recovery.
Myomectomy is another option that is surgical and invasive. Typically, only a portion of the fibroids are cut out of the uterus and then the uterus is stitched back together. Damage to the uterus and other nearby organs is possible, and if becoming pregnant, a C-section is required. Because the surgeon is unable to remove all the fibroids during a myomectomy, the recurrence rate for return of symptoms is very high (11% per year). Therefore, the majority of patients will require another procedure within 5 years of the original myomectomy. A myomectomy requires a hospital stay and a long recovery time.
Video: Non-Surgical Fibroid Treatment
There is a non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure with a 90% success rate called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). UFE cuts off the blood flowing to fibroids which causes them to die. As this occurs, the fibroids soften and shrink resulting in the resolution of the woman’s symptoms. UFE does not require a hospital stay, yields permanent results, treats all fibroids, and recovery time is about a week. Many patients have conceived and given birth after UFE. A C-section is not necessary after UFE, and a woman can carry a baby full term and deliver vaginally unlike a myomectomy.
Call your doctor if you are experiencing:
- Significant pelvic pain and/or pressure;
- Heavy bleeding or spotting between periods;
- Prolonged bleeding during periods;
- Frequent urination or difficulty urinating.
Fibroid pain and symptoms can be similar to other pelvic disorders, such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, polyps, cysts, or pelvic infection. It is important to consult with your doctor and receive a thorough examination and an accurate diagnosis.
How Long Will I Have Fibroid Pain?
The pain and symptoms caused by uterine fibroids may decrease or completely go away for women after menopause. The problem for women near menopause is that no one knows what age that will occur and how long you are willing to live with the pain and symptoms of fibroids?
If your quality of life is suffering, don’t wait. You can address the fibroids quickly and make sure that you pick the treatment option that is right for you. Get the help you deserve and get your quality of life back from the fibroid experts at the Atlanta Fibroid Center. Dr. John Lipman and his caring staff are waiting for your call at (770) 953-2600. You can also make an appointment online at ATLii.com.