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5 Types of Pain That May Signal Uterine Fibroids

Out of the 26 million American women who have uterine fibroids, nearly 50% of them may not even be aware of it because they are asymptomatic, per a 2017 review on uterine fibroid management. But that still leaves more than 50% who do know about their fibroids, thanks to the challenging and often painful symptoms they cause.

In fact, pain is one of the key symptoms of fibroids, says G. Thomas Ruiz, MD, ob-gyn lead at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, though he notes that the pain caused by uterine fibroids can manifest in many different ways: from dull pressure to sharp pain to period-style cramping, making it tricky to recognize or distinguish from other conditions that cause similar kinds of pain.

To help you identify uterine fibroid-related pain, here are all the ways you might experience it—and what you can do to feel better.

RELATED: What Are Uterine Fibroids—And What Can You Do If You Have Pain and Bleeding?

Types of uterine fibroid pain

As Dr. Ruiz notes, there are several different ways you might experience the pain associated with uterine fibroids. These are the most common.

Pelvic pain

Johns Hopkins Medicine includes pelvic pain as one of the primary symptoms women with uterine fibroids may experience.

You may also feel dull pressure in the pelvic region, or notice radiating pain in other parts of your body, says Dr. Rose Chang-Jackson, an ob-gyn at Austin Regional Clinic in Austin, Texas: "Many times, fibroids are associated with pelvic pressure symptoms, and sometimes a fibroid is so large, it impinges on other organs and you may feel pain symptoms elsewhere."

Lower back pain

Some fibroids may cause pain in both your lower back and down your legs, says the Mayo Clinic. This is due to the effects on other organs Dr. Chang-Jackson referred to; when fibroids grow large enough, they can compress nerves along the spine that cause back and leg pain.

Abdominal pressure

According to the Cleveland Clinic, a feeling of fullness or pressure in the abdomen is a common symptom of fibroids.

Pain during intercourse

Fibroids can cause pain while having sex; according to UCSF Health, this may be intermittent enough to only occur when having sex in certain positions. Dr. Ruiz says they can also cause pain before and during your period—this may feel like the typical uterine cramping associated with menstruation, but it may last longer or be more persistent if you have fibroids

Rectal and bladder pressure

Depending on their location, fibroids can also cause uncomfortable pressure on your bladder and your rectum, reports the Office on Women's Health.

RELATED: This Woman Had Endometriosis Since She Was a Teen, But Doctors Insisted Her Symptoms Were All in Her Head

What if my uterine fibroid pain becomes severe?

While typical uterine fibroid pain can be quite uncomfortable, severe or debilitating pain that is unrelenting could be a sign that something else is happening with your fibroids, per Dr. Ruiz.

"If you have what's called a degenerating fibroid, when the live fibroid tissue begins to die off from the inside-out, it will feel like the worst pain you've ever had," he explains. "It's a severe, stabbing pain that will probably leave you doubled-over."

Dr. Chang-Jackson explains that fibroids degenerate when they outgrow their own blood supply, essentially starving themselves and dying off. Sometimes these types of fibroids resolve on their own after several days, while others require surgery, explains Brigham and Women's Hospital. If you experience a sudden increase in pain or vaginal bleeding, the Mayo Clinic advises you to see your doctor ASAP.

RELATED:What's Really Causing Your Pelvic Pain?

Other common uterine fibroid symptoms

According to the Cleveland Clinic, other symptoms of uterine fibroids include:

  • Heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding
  • Breakthrough bleeding between periods
  • An increased need to urinate or difficulty voiding
  • Constipation
  • Vaginal discharge
  • A clearly distended or enlarged abdomen
  • Difficulty conceiving, or infertility

RELATED: What Causes Uterine Fibroids? 5 Risk Factors to Know, According to Experts

How is uterine fibroid pain treated?

Treatment options vary widely for uterine fibroids, says Dr. Chang-Jackson, based on their size and location, whether or not they're causing symptoms, and whether or not they are affecting your fertility.

There are surgical procedures to drain or remove fibroids, but unfortunately they often regrow, says the Mayo Clinic, which adds that the only way to eliminate the risk of fibroids for good is to have a hysterectomy.

RELATED: How Having a Hysterectomy at 17 Changed My Life

How can I managed my uterine fibroid pain?

If you're simply focused on managing your pain symptoms, there are a few strategies you can try:

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