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Ending chronic pelvic pain

October 19, 2009 3:14:38 PM PDT
Fifteen percent of women in the United States live with chronic pelvic pain. For some, it's so bad they can't move or function normally, yet as many as 70 percent of sufferers never get a definite diagnosis. Three new options are helping pain patients regain control over their lives. Shannon Henderson considered herself a happy mom until she had surgery to remove an ovary. It left her with chronic pain so severe, she considered the unthinkable.

"It was like a stabbing, burning pain," Henderson said. "At some point, I just knew that if I didn't have a family, I didn't want to live."

Prescription drugs didn't help, and some doctors told her she was crazy.

"Chronic pain of any kind will cause symptoms like depression, suicidal thoughts, but it's never ever all in their head," Dr. Michael Hibner, a gynecologic surgeon at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz., said. "There's always a reason for pain."

Dr. Hibner is pioneering new treatments for pelvic pain. In surgery, he cuts away scarring or ligaments that can press on nerves. Then he puts a protective sheath around the nerve to keep the scar tissue and pain from coming back.

"Approximately 70 percent of patients do better after surgery," Dr. Hibner said.

Dr. Hibner also uses lidocaine or Botox injections to ease muscle spasms and nerve pain, particularly for women who have chronic pain after having a baby or surgery.

"A lot of women with chronic pain develop muscle spasms in the pelvic floor," Dr. Hibner explained. "Botox is very good at relaxing those muscles."

"I want to live," Henderson said. "I don't dread getting out of bed in the morning. I know that I can get through the day."

Henderson had lidocaine injections, and within a few days, the pain started to subside.

"Every day, I'm grateful to be alive now," she said.

A mom who broke free from the reign of chronic pain.

Dr. Hibner is one of fewer than 10 surgeons in the world who perform the pelvic pain surgery. He first recommends physical therapy and injections before an operation.

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