Chronic pelvic pain is a complex and challenging subject in the medical community. When it comes to identifying symptoms of pelvic floor problems in men/people with penises, many people are given a diagnosis of prostatitis and given solutions that may not actually help relieve the symptoms. But a majority of the time, prostatitis is not actually the issue. In this blog, we’ll discuss why pelvic pain and other symptoms are commonly mistaken as prostatitis. But first, to understand the confusion and cause of misdiagnosis, let’s discuss what prostatitis is.
What is Prostatitis?
Prostatitis is when the prostate gland becomes swollen or inflamed; which causes pelvic, lower back, and groin pain, as well as pain with urination, ejaculation, bowel movements, or sitting. The prostate gland is responsible for creating the fluid that is mixed with sperm cells to make ejaculate fluid, as well as helping expel this fluid out during ejaculation.
It may be helpful to visually see the anatomy of the body to better understand how multiple areas in the region are affected when the prostate gland is inflamed or swollen. As you can see in the graphic below, the position of the prostate gland is very close to many other surrounding organs, such as the bladder, and is laying within the layers of the pelvic floor muscles. Because of this, other areas besides the prostate gland itself may display symptoms of pelvic floor problems in men/people with penises.
There are four types of prostatitis:
- chronic prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain syndrome
- chronic bacterial prostatitis
- acute bacterial prostatitis
- asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis
With these types of prostatitis, there are a range of symptoms (or none at all). Here are the symptoms of the different types of prostatitis:
Chronic prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain syndrome: This is not an infection, but the prostate is enlarged and the nerves of this area are inflamed. This causes symptoms such as difficulty urinating or ejaculating, pain with urinating or ejaculating, and pain in the bladder, testicles, penis, or perineum.
Chronic bacterial prostatitis: This is an infection of the prostate that comes and goes over a period of time. The symptoms include frequent or painful urination, painful ejaculation, and pain in other areas such as the bladder, testicles, penis or perineum.
Acute bacterial prostatitis: This is an infection of the prostate that causes a sudden occurrence of painful urination, and difficulty completing urination. Sometimes causes other symptoms such as fever, chills, or nausea.
Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis: This is where the prostate is inflamed, but there is no infection and no symptoms.
Identifying symptoms of pelvic floor problems in men/people with penises
As mentioned earlier, symptoms of pelvic floor problems in men/people with penises do not always indicate prostatitis. Oftentimes, it can be an issue with the pelvic floor muscles (pelvic floor dysfunction) that causes symptoms such as pain or difficulty during urination. The reason why many pelvic pain issues are diagnosed as prostatitis is that the symptoms are very similar. Because of the similarity of symptoms, 90% of the time, prostatitis diagnoses are not actually cases of prostatitis.
This is part of why proper diagnosis is incredibly important because while antibiotics may help with an actual case of bacterial infection, they will not necessarily help with other issues causing pelvic pain.
Having a doctor to work with who understands the difference in how to diagnose pelvic floor dysfunction vs prostatitis can be a huge factor in solving your pelvic pain. As mentioned before, pelvic floor dysfunction is often the main contributor to pelvic pain and urinary symptoms. Here are other symptoms of pelvic floor problems in men/people with penises:
- Pelvic pain
- Frequent urination
- Painful urination
- Lower back pain
- Trouble maintaining an erection
- Testicular pain
- Pain with ejaculation
- Penile pain
How Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy Can Help
Luckily, many symptoms of pelvic floor problems in men/people with penises can be resolved with physical therapy. Pelvic floor dysfunction occurs when there is a lack of ability to coordinate or relax the muscles of the pelvic floor. These muscles allow you to urinate and have bowel movements, and they also play a part in sexual activity.
To treat pelvic floor dysfunction, your pelvic floor physical therapist will first examine your medical history and discuss your symptoms with you. They will decide the best course of treatment for your individual needs and will work to help recondition the pelvic floor muscles in order to improve the strength, flexibility, and function of the muscles. They will help teach you how to be more aware of the muscles and how to coordinate them; as well as pelvic floor exercises or breathing techniques if necessary for your case. Remember,
Now that you know about the symptoms of pelvic floor problems in men/people with penises, you will know what kind of diagnosis may occur and how important it is to find the right doctor for you. And, if you decide to see a pelvic floor physical therapist, you know a bit about what to expect.
Remember, it’s always important to advocate for yourself and your health. Whether your symptoms point to prostatitis or pelvic floor dysfunction, you deserve to have a proper diagnosis and treatment for relief of those symptoms. Even if the journey to relieving these symptoms becomes a bit complicated due to misdiagnosis, don’t give up on yourself, and remember that you don’t have to go through this alone! And, when you eventually reach that relief, you’ll be able to get back to doing what you love.
Want to consult with Dr. Laura Meihofer and get started on your pelvic floor health journey?
P.S. If you have any questions about symptoms of pelvic floor problems in men/penis owners, or pelvic floor health in general, head over to Instagram, and let’s connect in the DMs!
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