Fibroids are noncancerous tumors that grow on the walls or lining of the uterus. Many women will have uterine fibroids at some point, but most women don’t know they have them since they typically don’t have symptoms.
For some women, the pain from fibroids can be severe. Apart from heavy menstrual bleeding and prolonged periods, fibroids can cause:
- dull, chronic pelvic pressure and pain
- lower back pain
- abdominal swelling and bloating
- pain with periods or sex
They can even make you feel like you need to urinate frequently.
The pain may come and go or occur only during sex or menstruation. It may be sharp or a dull ache. Symptoms can also vary depending on the location, size, and number of fibroids you have.
The symptoms of fibroids may be similar to other pelvic disorders, such as:
If you have pelvic pain that won’t go away, heavy and long periods, and problems with urinating, it’s important to see a doctor for a correct diagnosis.
Q&A: Understanding fibroid pain
What causes some fibroids to hurt?
The pain and pressure symptoms associated with uterine fibroids generally result from the weight of the fibroid itself pressing or resting on the pelvic organs, rather than the fibroid itself hurting. Ultrasound exams are helpful to evaluate the size and location of a fibroid. They can help your doctor to know if the fibroid is responsible for the pain you may be having.Holly Ernst, PA-CAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
You may be able to manage symptoms with over-the-counter medications and home remedies. This is especially true if you only have minor symptoms that aren’t affecting your day-to-day life.
Home remedies include:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, especially during your period
- heating pads or warm compresses
There are also some home remedies that may help reduce other symptoms of fibroids:
- eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats, and avoid red meat, refined carbohydrates and sugary foods as these may worsen fibroids
- consume dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, at least once a day
- limit alcohol
- take vitamin and mineral supplements, including iron and B vitamins, to help prevent anemia caused by heavy bleeding
- exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight
- limit your intake of sodium to reduce your risk of high blood pressure
- find ways to reduce stress, such as yoga or meditation
Acupuncture may help with fibroid pain. Acupuncture is a procedure based on ancient Chinese medicine. It involves triggering specific points on the skin with needles to influence various parts of the body.
Current research shows mixed evidence that acupuncture is an effective treatment for irregular bleeding and painful menstrual cramps. One review found promising support for the use of acupuncture in the treatment of menstrual pain. However, the authors found that results were limited by methodological flaws.
More research is needed to determine if these potential benefits extend to woman with fibroid pain.
Many cases of symptomatic fibroids can be treated with prescription medications that target hormones involved in regulating your menstrual cycle. Examples include:
- oral contraceptives
- progestin-releasing intrauterine devices (IUDs)
- gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists
- gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonists
These medications can temporarily improve symptoms. They don’t make the fibroids go away.
In some cases, the only way to get relief may be surgery to remove the fibroids (myomectomy) or a nonsurgical approach known as uterine artery embolization. Embolization involves cutting off the oxygen supply of the fibroids so they shrink.
Other nonsurgical approaches include myolysis and cryomyolysis. In myolysis procedures like Acessa, a heat source such as an electric current or a laser is used to shrink the fibroids. In cryomyolysis, the fibroids are frozen.
Complete surgical removal of the uterus, known as a hysterectomy, is the most definitive way to cure fibroid pain. Hysterectomy is considered major surgery so it’s typically reserved as a last resort. You’re also unable to have children following a hysterectomy.
Any pelvic pain, no matter how mild, is a reason to see a doctor or gynecologist. You should make an appointment if you have:
- overly heavy and prolonged periods
- spotting between periods
- pelvic pain or pressure that won’t go away or severe pelvic pain that comes on suddenly
- difficulty urinating
- feeling like you always need to urinate, or constantly waking up during the night to empty your bladder
Fibroid pain may lessen after menopause, but it may not completely go away. If you choose to have surgery to remove fibroids, your pain will likely be relieved shortly after surgery, but it’s possible for the fibroids to return later on depending on your age. If you’re close to menopause, you may be less likely to have recurring problems.
Some fibroid removal procedures can also cause uterine scarring that can affect fertility.
A hysterectomy is a permanent solution for fibroids because it removes the entire uterus. However, it’s considered a major surgical operation and recovery can take time.
If you think you have uterine fibroids or you have any sort of pelvic pain that won’t go away, see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Fibroid symptoms vary from woman to woman and depend on a lot of factors, such as the size, location, and number of fibroids.
There are many different treatment options available for uterine fibroids. The treatment you need depends on your particular case. Diet and lifestyle changes are the first plan of action to treat fibroid pain. In some cases, a hysterectomy is the best and sometimes only choice to make the pain stop.
Fibroids can be incredibly painful for some woman, but they’re not cancerous, rarely interfere with a pregnancy, and usually shrink after menopause.