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Women with chronic pelvic pain may not find relief with commonly used medication

The researchers said that gabapentin should no longer be considered in the treatment of chronic pelvic pain where no cause has been identified. @Shutterstock

According to a new study, the effects of a commonly prescribed medication for pelvic pain has little to no effect on women.

Chronic pelvic pain affects up to 24 per cent of women across the world to varying degrees. This pain occurs in the area below your belly button and between your hips. Sometimes, it may last for as long as six months or even longer. There are many causes behind this. It may indicate some underlying health condition also. But sometimes, your doctor may not be able to identify the cause of the pain. In this case, treatment usually focusses on reducing the symptoms and improving quality of life.

A new study from the University of Edinburgh, Birmingham, Oxford and Nottingham in the UK has found that the effects of a commonly prescribed medication for pelvic pain has little to no effect on women. The drug -- gabapentin -- that is regularly used to treat chronic pelvic pain in women has been found to be no more effective than a placebo, according to a study published in the journal The Lancet. Gabapentin is used to manage many forms of chronic pain. In two separate surveys, 74 per cent of general physicians and 92 per cent of gynaecologists said that they would consider prescribing the drug for chronic pelvic pain.

Instead of reducing pain, Gabapentin induces side-effects

Researchers tested the drug's effectiveness in treating chronic pelvic pain through a randomised clinical trial involving 306 women with the condition and no known underlying cause. As part of the study, 153 women received gabapentin and 153 received placebo for 16 weeks. Neither group nor the prescribing clinicians knew what they were receiving. The women were asked to rate their average pain and worst pain, using a scale from zero to ten, on a weekly basis. The scores were then averaged for the drug and placebo groups. The team found that there was very little difference between the reported pain in both groups. However, the group that received reported experiencing more side effects - including dizziness, drowsiness and changes of mood - than the placebo group.

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Other therapies may help instead

The researchers said that gabapentin should no longer be considered in the treatment of chronic pelvic pain where no cause has been identified. According to the team, other avenues of treatment should be explored, such as different drugs, physiotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. They are confident that gabapentin is not effective for chronic pelvic pain in women where no cause has been identified. However, they do admit that more research is needed to explore if other therapies can help instead.

Different kinds of pelvic pain

If you suffer from chronic pelvic pain, you may experience a severe and steady pain, or it may be intermittent. Sometimes, there may be a dull ache, or you may feel sharp stabs of pain or cramping. You may also experience pressure or heaviness deep within your pelvis. Pain during intercourse, while urinating or passing stool and when you sit for long may also happen. You may also experience mild pain after standing for a long period of time.

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