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J Psychosom Res. 1997 Jan;42(1):1-15.

Sociopsychological factors in chronic pelvic pain: a review.

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Psychiatric Research Unit, Atkinson Morley's Hospital, London, UK.


Chronic pelvic pain is a common gynecological problem. There has long been an assumption that social and psychological factors play a part in its genesis in a significant subgroup, but their precise role remains unclear. More recently, childhood sexual abuse has been implicated as a specific risk factor. For this review, PSYCHLIT and MEDLINE searches for relevant publications were supplemented by tracing back through the latter's related reference lists. One hundred thirty-one references directly concerning pelvic pain were identified with varying emphasis on social and psychological aspects. A further 449 references were in related fields. Forty-three were considered to be helpful in directly exploring the link between chronic pelvic pain and sociopsychological factors and 22 of these reported specific studies directly relevant. In common with other research into chronic pain conditions, it appears unhelpful to separate this type of pain into "psychogenic" and "organic" categories. Clear case definition is essential. The specificity of childhood sexual abuse as a risk factor is unclear. It may be helpful to consider clearly defined subgroups with the condition in future studies. An example of such a subgroup with pelvic venous congestion is discussed.

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