As we age we tend to learn more about our bodies. I do not think this is because we get more curious or want to acquire more knowledge, instead I think it is because once we move into our 40s and beyond things just start to hurt and ache and break and we start to look for explanations and answers to our “why me?” questions. How often do you get to leave your doctor’s office after a physical now with a prescription or a warning? For most of us those innocent and naïve days of our early years are gone where we can take for granted that our bodies will do what we want them to do when we want them without paying a price the next day.–more–
I was recently diagnosed with osteopenia, a red flag warning about future bone density issues if I don’t get more proactive now with vitamin D and weight bearing exercises (read that post here) Now apparently it is Diane’s turn. Following a visit to her physicians to discuss excessive cramping, which she had ignored for months because we women tend to throw everything under the I am getting old umbrella Diane was informed that she had pelvic congestion syndrome. Diane called me when she left the office yelling- Oh my God I have a syndrome!! I have to admit this one was new to me- I had never heard of pelvic congestion syndrome, which we will fondly refer to as PCS so after we hung up I turned to the internet.
I found a great resource at www.veindirectory.org- from it I got the following information:
By definition PCS is a condition associated with varicose veins located in the pelvis (which is the lower abdomen and groin area). Varicose veins form in damaged veins because blood, which usually only flows in one direction is able to flow backwards which causes a pooling in the vein- this pooling causes pressure which stretches the vein walls. It is believed that in PCS the varicose veins first form during a pregnancy but then continue to grow. The primary symptom of PCS is constant dull pelvic pain accompanied by a sense of pressure or feeling of heaviness. PCS is normally found in women between the ages of 20-45 and who have had multiple pregnancies.
Treatment for PCS varies based on the severity of the symptoms. The options include surgical, non surgical and holistic. In the past it was found that drugs and hormone therapy were ineffective in reducing the pain associated with PCS so today drug therapy is not usually used to treat PCS; however, pain medications may be prescribed. Another alternative that has had some success is the utilization of antidepressants which can help relieve pain while helping minimize the depression and anxiety brought on by PCS. Some women turn to alternative medicines to find relief. Acupuncture, counseling, trigger point injections, massage and physical therapy have been known to bring some relief. In the most extreme cases surgery may be recommended. This option tends to be a last reort because the results are not guaranteed and the healing following the procedure is often prolonged.
Recently there has been a new radiological method of treating PCS called embolization. Embolization involves plugging the blood vessels so that they do not become engorged with blood anymore, and the varicosities subside with time. The procedure is typically done by an interventional radiologist and takes a few hours. It does not require any anesthesia. There is significant pain, nausea and even fever the first few days after the procedure. The procedure requires an overnight stay in the hospital. Results for this procedure however are still sketchy and less than 60% of the women who elect this path feel a significant difference in their pain levels, and for those that do the diminishment of pain may take 2-4 weeks. A positive aspect of embolization is that there is no incision involved and downtime is minimal.
I am afraid that the gist of it is that for a large number of women who suffer from PCS there is no cut and dried answer as to treatment. I can only say that I hope you keep trying and even if it doesn’t necessarily help the direct discomfort that comes from PCS the massage and acupuncture could at least make you feel mentally and emotionally better prepared to handle it.
photo by John Kasawa