Q&A: Why pelvic pain can happen during your workout

Q: Why do I feel pelvic pain while exercising? 

A: “No pain, no gain,” is a mantra for many athletes and fitness enthusiasts. However, pelvic pain can stop a workout instantly, and may be a warning sign of a larger issue.

Pelvic pain is felt in the lowest part of the abdomen and in the hip region. It can occur suddenly, sharply and briefly; it can be fleeting or chronic.

Sex, age and body mass index (BMI) all play parts in diagnosing pelvic pain. Elevated BMI can lead to increased pressure on the joints around your pelvic area. The resulting extra stress on these joints can cause inflammation and pain during regular exercise.

Women have a particularly high risk of pelvic pain during exercise. Endometriosis—shedding of the uterine lining into the pelvis or abdomen—may cause pain without menstrual bleeding, as well as hormonal changes during ovulation. Occasionally, vaginal childbirth can cause skeletal changes that lead to lingering pelvic pain.

In less severe cases, pelvic pain can originate from pulled muscles, dehydration or simple fatigue. This often manifests as dull pain, discomfort or pain during urination.

To prevent pelvic pain while exercising, try the following tips:

  • Stay hydrated. More than just drinking water, proper hydration requires limiting intake of sugars and diuretics (such as caffeine), which can leave your body short of fluid.
  • Eat healthy, fibrous foods. Foods high in fiber have a lower glycemic index, which helps prevent inflammation.
  • Healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight will reduce pressure and inflammation around your pelvic bones and lower back and can decrease the chance of pelvic pain while exercising.

Most pelvic pain will resolve two to three days after exercising. If it persists, contact your physician.

Sabina Sharmeen, M.D., is an internal medicine specialist at Mercy Health Associates at Chestnut Street.