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Summary

Objectives:  Chronic pelvic pain (CPP) is defined as lower abdominal pain lasting for at least 6 months, which occurs continuously or intermittently and is not associated exclusively with menstruation or intercourse. CPP is a highly prevalent debilitating disease with negative impact on the quality of life and productivity of women. The dilemma regarding the management of CPP continues to frustrate the health professionals, partly because its physiopathology is poorly understood. Consequently, the treatment of this condition is often unsatisfactory and limited to temporary symptom relief. In the present review, we discuss characteristics of the clinical history and physical examination associated with musculoskeletal involvement in women with CPP and possible treatments, especially in the area of physiotherapy.

Methods:  We evaluated data available in PubMed (1984–2006) and surveyed the reference list. Three reviewers analysed the data independently, considering a study to be of high quality if it had at least three of the following characteristics: prospective design, valid measurement instruments, and adequate sample estimate and response rate. Other studies such as retrospective investigations, reviews and expert opinions were also considered, but with decreasing emphasis.

Results:  There are evidences of musculoskeletal system disorders in most women with CPP. These musculoskeletal disorders can be the primary cause of CPP or postural changes and pelvic muscle contractures secondary to CPP.

Conclusions:  Synchronised intervention by physicians and physiotherapists is becoming increasingly more necessary both in terms of a more refined diagnosis of the clinical situation and of the institution of effective and lasting treatment.