The urogenital and rectal pain syndromes

Ursula Wesselmann, Arthur L. Burnett, Leslie J. Heinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pain syndromes of the urogenital and rectal area are well described but poorly understood and underrecognized focal pain syndromes. They include vulvodynia, orchialgia, urethral syndrome, penile pain, prostatodynia, coccygodynia, perineal pain, proctodynia and proctalgia fugax. The etiology of these focal pain syndromes is not known. A specific secondary cause can be identified in a minority of patients, but most often the examination and work-up remain unrevealing. Although these patients are often depressed, rarely are these pain syndromes the only manifestation of a psychiatric disease. This review article presents an overview of the neuroanatomy of the pelvis, which is a prerequisite to trying to understand the chronic pain syndromes in this region. We then discuss the clincial presentation, etiology and differential diagnosis of chronic pain syndromes of the urogenital and rectal area and review treatment options. The current knowledge of the psychological aspects of these pain syndromes is reviewed. Patients presenting with these pain syndromes are best assessed and treated using a multidisciplinary approach. Currently available treatment options are empirical only. Although cures are uncommon, some pain relief can be provided to almost all patients using a multidisciplinary approach including pain medications, local treatment regimens, physical therapy and psychological support, while exercising caution toward invasive and irreversible therapeutic procedures. Better knowledge of the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms of the urogenital and rectal pain syndromes is needed to allow investigators to develop treatment strategies, specifically targeted against the pathophysiological mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-294
Number of pages26
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1997


  • Coccygodynia
  • Orchialgia
  • Perineal pain
  • Prostatodynia
  • Rectal pain
  • Urethral syndrome
  • Vulvodynia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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