Widespread myofascial dysfunction and sensitisation in women with endometriosis-associated chronic pelvic pain: A cross-sectional study

Eur J Pain. 2021 Apr;25(4):831-840. doi: 10.1002/ejp.1713. Epub 2021 Jan 8.


Background: Chronic pelvic pain persists in some women with endometriosis even after lesion removal and optimized hormonal treatment.

Objective: Characterize the presence and distribution of pain, myofascial dysfunction and sensitisation beyond the pelvis in women with endometriosis-associated chronic pelvic pain.

Methods: Cross-sectional study of 30 women prior to participation in a clinical trial. Evaluation included pain-focused abdominopelvic gynaecologic examination with the identification of pelvic floor muscle spasm. Neuro-musculoskeletal examination assessed paraspinal allodynia and hyperalgesia bilaterally and myofascial trigger points in 13 paired muscles. Pressure-pain thresholds were measured over interspinous ligaments and trigger points. Women completed the body territories element of the Body Pain Index.

Results: All women had a pelvic floor muscle spasm that they self-identified as a major focus of pain. Twenty of 30 women described their pelvic pain as focal. However, all demonstrated widespread myofascial dysfunction with low pressure-pain thresholds and trigger points in over two-thirds of 26 assessed regions. Widespread spinal segmental sensitisation was present in 17/30, thoracic in 21/30 and lumbosacral/pelvic in 18/30. Cervical sensitisation manifested as low pressure-pain thresholds with 23/30 also reporting recurrent, severe headaches and 21/30 experiencing orofacial pain. Those reporting diffuse pelvic pain were more likely to have widespread (p = .024) and lumbosacral/pelvic (p = .036) sensitisation and report over 10 painful body areas (p = .009).

Conclusions: Women with endometriosis-associated chronic pelvic pain often have myofascial dysfunction and sensitisation beyond the pelvic region that may be initiated or maintained by on-going pelvic floor spasm. These myofascial and nervous system manifestations warrant consideration when managing pain in this population. Clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT01553201.

Significance: Women with endometriosis often have pelvic pain persisting after surgery despite hormonal therapies and these women have regional pelvic sensitisation and myofascial dysfunction. Pelvic floor muscle spasm is a major pain focus in this population. Sensitisation and myofascial dysfunction are widespread, beyond the pelvic region. On-going pelvic floor spasm may initiate or maintain sensitisation. Myofascial/sensitisation manifestations warrant consideration when managing pain in this population.

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01553201