Fifteen-percent of women in the U.S. 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. Now, new options are helping pain patients regain control over their lives.
That's good news for Shannon Henderson who 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. At some point, I just knew that if I didn't have a family, I didn't want to live."
Sharon says prescription drugs didn't help, and some doctors told her she was crazy, that her pain wasn't real. Gynecologic surgeon, Michael Hibner says far too many women have difficulties convincing doctors that something is very wrong.
"Chronic pain of any kind will cause symptoms like depression, suicidal thoughts, but it's never ever all in their head. There's always a reason for pain."
Hibner is pioneering new treatments for pelvic pain at St Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. During a new type of surgery, he cuts away scarring or ligaments that can press on nerves, causing pain. Then he puts a protective sheath around the nerve to keep the scar tissue and pain from coming back.
He says, "approximately 70 percent of patients do better after surgery."
Doctor 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. Botox is very good at relaxing those muscles."
The treatments have given Sharon a new lease on life.
"I want to live. I don't dread getting out of bed in the morning. I know that I can get through the day."
Shannon had lidocaine injections and within a few days, the pain started to subside.
"Every day, I'm grateful to be alive now."