Ovary pain is a common medical problem, but it is especially common in women with PCOS. There are several different causes of this pain, which can range from mild discomfort to excruciating.
Ovary pain is sometimes felt on the side of the affected ovary, but it also may be experienced as covering the entire lower abdomen and back, including any areas below the belly button.This kind of pain may be acute, which occurs quickly and goes away in hours or days. It may also be chronic, occurring regularly over months and even years. It may be constant or come and go.
There are two general strategies for treating ovarian pain. Short term ways lessen the pain immediately. Long term strategies both decrease pain over a longer period of time and even prevent it from occurring as often.
What Causes Ovary Pain?
There are several causes of ovarian pain that are common in women with PCOS. Many women have a type of pain known as mittelschmerz, which is pain with ovulation. This pain occurs around the middle of the menstrual cycle, two weeks after one’s period starts, and goes away quickly.
Ovarian cysts are another common source of pain. They occur later in a woman’s cycle in most cases and may even rupture, causing a sudden increase in pain.
Ovarian tumors are another common cause of ovary pain. These may be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Last, endometriosis is a common cause of ovary pain. This disease causes uterine lining, such as that released in a menstrual period, to form outside of the uterus. When it grows on the ovaries, it can be very irritating and painful.
There are other causes of ovarian pain, but these are the most common in women with PCOS. It is important to see a doctor to determine the source of ovarian pain before beginning a treatment regimen.
Immediate Ways to Treat Ovary Pain
When you are in acute pain, you want solutions that will work quickly. The follow remedies will help to reduce your pain immediately so you can go on with your life.
Heat is a common way to treat pain because it confuses your nerve endings. Your nerves must report temperature signals, which slows or stops their transmission of pain signals.
Heat also can help to relax tense tissues and other sources of abdominal pain. While it can be very helpful for many kinds of ovarian pain, you should be careful when using it with a possible ruptured ovarian cyst, as this can make inflammation and infection worse.
To treat your ovarian pain with heat, simple apply a heating pad or other source of comfortable warmth to your abdomen or back. This should provide relief almost immediately.
Cold is an effective treatment for pain for the same reasons that heat works: it gives your nerves a signal to transmit besides pain. In addition, adding cold temperatures to an area reduces inflammation and encourages healing.
Using cold therapy for ovarian pain is as simply as applying an ice pack to the site of the pain. Many people find effective relief from moderate acute pain by alternating heat and cold until the pain is resolved.
Gentle exercise can be a good treatment for both PCOS and ovary pain. However, if you are having acute pain, the best option is to take a break from your exercise regimen and rest.
Moving around can increase inflammation because it increases fluid movement and also the friction on inflamed organs and structures. In addition, exertion or twisting may cause an ovarian cyst to rupture, which will turn mild ovary pain into an excruciating medical emergency.
Mild exercise is usually okay even with ovary pain provided you have talked to your physician about it. However, listen to your body and don’t overdo it.
4. Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is relaxing and calming, which can relieve pain. However, it also has a very real effect on the way your brain routes and perceives pain signals.
When you are in pain on a regular basis, your brain may begin developing neural circuits dedicated just to pain. This increases your perception of this pain and also makes other pain relief techniques less effective.
Deep breathing keeps these circuits from developing or from being as strong. It strengthens areas of the brain that actually downshift pain circuits.
Deep breathing is an easy ovary pain management strategy to learn. Choose a quiet, calming place and sit comfortably. Close your eyes and inhale deeply and slowly while counting to ten. Then exhale for the same amount of time. Continue this for up to five minutes, concentrating on regular even breathing.
5. Over the Counter Pain Relievers
There are several over the counter pain relievers that can help with ovary pain. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are the two most common.
These are effective because not only do they help with pain; they also act as anti-inflammatory drugs. Inflammation is a common cause of ovarian pain.
There are a few warnings with using these drugs to relieve ovarian pain. First, aspirin should not be taken unless your doctor recommends it, as this may increase the risk of hemorrhage if you develop a ruptured cyst. Second, Tylenol/acetaminophen may be dangerous to take for a long period of time due to its effect on liver tissues.
6. Prescription Pain Relievers
When over the counter pain relievers and other methods fail to relieve ovary pain, many doctors will prescribe stronger pain relievers. These are generally very effective but have several major drawbacks.
First, many prescription pain relievers are habit-forming and even addictive. People may develop rebound pain if they take them on a regular basis, where pain returns even worse than ever due to the drug’s affect on nerves.
Second, people cannot drive or operate machinery while taking these drugs, which can be an inconvenience.
Prescription pain relievers are a great way to stop unbearable pain quickly, but they should only be used sparingly and when all other pain relief methods have failed.
These immediate strategies are all effective ways to stop pain quickly. However, they all only work in the short term which is why long term pain management strategies are also needed.
Long Term Ways to Treat Ovarian Pain
These strategies treat pain over a longer period of time, and many prevent it as well. While they all take a while, even months, to take complete effect, many women with PCOS and ovary pain have found relief from these methods.
7. Take a Multivitamin
There are a variety of vitamins and minerals that can help to relieve pain. In addition, having a vitamin deficiency, even a mild one, can actual cause pain.
The vitamins that have been found to help especially with ovary pain are magnesium citrate, calcium citrate, vitamin D, and a B complex. These serve as cofactors in important biochemical processes that keep your body in good working order.
Vitamin D is so important that you should consider taking a special supplement, especially if you are dark skinned or live in a far northern area.
8. Vitamin D Supplement
There is really no way to overemphasize the importance of vitamin D to relieving pain, especially chronic pain. A study found that people who have low vitamin D levels actually need twice as much pain medication to effectively manage their pain.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that it is possible to overdose if you take too much. Ask your physician to test your vitamin D levels and to give you a recommendation of how much to take every day.
In addition, vitamin D is very important to maintaining healthy hormone levels and a healthy monthly cycle in women. Many people see their ovary pain symptoms get much better after starting a simple supplement of this vitamin.
9. Fish Oil
Fish oil is recommended for a variety of medical disorders, especially chronic disorders involving pain such as PCOS. Fish oil has several components that support good health and nerve function as well as healthy hormones.
The most helpful component of fish oil for people with chronic pain is omega 3 fatty acids. These support a healthy hormone structure while also lowering serum levels of testosterone. Because out of whack hormone levels can contribute to painful ovarian cysts, fish oil can relieve and even prevent a great deal of pain over the long run.
In addition, taking fish oil or eating cold water fish can inhibit the production of a biochemicals called prostaglandins. These contribute to inflammation and tenderness, so reducing their production can lessen ovary pain.
You have likely heard of turmeric as a spice, but most people don’t know how helpful this yellow powder can be for a variety of medical disorders.
While turmeric is gaining popularity for heart conditions, its anti-inflammatory effects make it a good choice for women who have ovary pain. This is due to an inflammation-fighting compound called curcumin, which is also found in similar spices such as cumin.
Most physicians recommend taking a 400-600 mg capsule of turmeric or curcumin three times a day in order to get its pain relieving, anti-inflammatory effects. Turmeric has been found to be especially effective for chronic pain and inflammation disorders, so it is definitely an ally in the way against ovary pain.
11. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is not just a delicious ingredient for salad dressings and marinades, but an excellent supplement for preventing and treating ovarian pain. Recent studies have found that apple cider vinegar may actually reduce the size of ovarian cysts, which are a common cause of ovary pain.
In addition, apple cider vinegar is a great source of magnesium and a super food for treating PCOS. A magnesium deficiency can actually cause ovarian pain, and many women with PCOS have been found to lack this important mineral. Taking apple cider vinegar attacks the pain from several different angles while contributing to good whole body health.
Inositol is a popular supplement for women with PCOS due to its many effects on symptoms of this syndrome. It can also have a very real effect on ovary pain.
This member of the B vitamin family supports healthy ovulation. This not only increases the chances of conceiving, but it helps to prevent ovarian cysts and mittelschmerz, two of the most common causes of ovary pain.
13. N-Acetyl Cysteine
N-acetyl cysteine is another supplement that is popular among women who have PCOS. It is believed to reduce insulin resistance, but also to reduce the size and frequency of ovarian cysts.
N-acetyl cysteine recently was found to reduce ovarian cysts in women with endometriosis. Scientists are currently studying whether it can be proven to do the same in women with PCOS. Until the studies are completed, this amino acid is a safe way to relieve ovary pain, whether you get it from a supplement or from dietary sources.
Chasteberry, also known as Vitex, is one of the most popular herbs for preventing ovarian cysts and other causes of ovary pain. This botanical supplement helps to keep hormones in balance and is especially helpful in supporting a healthy luteal phase.
Ovarian cysts and other disorders of the menstrual cycle are common causes of ovary pain. Because chasteberry helps to stabilize this cycle and the hormones that create it, it is a preferred herbal remedy among women with PCOS and/or ovarian pain.
15. Blue Cohosh
Blue cohosh has been used for hundreds of years for a variety of complaints related to gynecology. It has a multitude of good effects on the female reproductive system. First, blue cohosh has a toning effect on female organs, especially the ovaries, which can help to prevent the formation of cysts. Second, it generally acts as an anti-inflammatory agent in the pelvic area, which can prevent the bloating, inflammation, and discomfort that are too often part of having ovarian cysts.
16. Dandelion Root
Having high levels of male hormones, or androgens, has been linked to problems with ovulation, including ovarian cysts and other common causes of pain. This is especially common in women who have PCOS.
Dandelion root does not have a direct effect on the production of hormones, but is rather a liver tonic. Sex-related hormones are metabolized and excreted by the liver; in many cases, slow excretion and the consequent build up of hormones is responsible for some of the symptoms of PCOS that can cause ovarian pain.
Dandelion root can strengthen the liver and help with ovary pain at the same time, which is a win-win situation that benefits everyone.
17. Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil is a great source of gamma-linolenic acid, which is important to the manufacture of crucial female hormones. While this helps to support a healthy hormonal structure, this supplement has pain relieving benefits as well.
Evening primrose oil has compounds that act as an anti-inflammatory that specifically targets inflammation in the pelvic region. Inflammation makes ovarian pain worse, regardless of the root cause, so evening primrose oil is usually an effective pain reliever.
18. Reduce caffeine
As much as we all love (and sometimes need)a morning cup of coffee, it comes at a cost for women with PCOS and ovary pain. Caffeine can actually make pain worse.
Caffeine is a stimulant, which makes nerves ‘jumpier’ and more reactive to pain signaling. In addition, it can cause inflammation, which exacerbates ovarian pain. As good as coffee tastes and feels, people with ovarian pain or any kind of chronic pain should consider cutting back on caffeine or even giving it up altogether.
Metformin is a commonly prescribed drug for people with PCOS due to its effect on insulin resistance. However, metformin can also prevent ovary pain indirectly by lowering blood levels of male sex hormones such as testosterone.
Hormonal imbalances contribute immensely to the formation of ovarian cysts and other causes of ovarian pain. Stabilizing hormones with a drug such as metformin may help to prevent or alleviate ovarian pain.
20. Hormonal Contraceptives
Even if you do not need hormonal contraceptives to prevent getting pregnant, they may present many benefits for women with PCOS. In fact, hormonal contraceptives prevent the number one source of ovarian pain: ovulation.
There are a variety of ways to get your daily dose of hormone therapy, including pills, a vaginal ring, an IUD, and more. There are so many options, each with different sets of side effects and benefits. This is an important discussion for every woman with PCOS and ovary pain to have with her doctor.
While these may not completely rid you of ovarian pain, they can remove the most common and painful sources of it, making your life and your PCOS more manageable.
A cystectomy is a surgery, usually a minor and routine one, that removes cysts from your ovaries. It leaves the rest of the ovary, which means you can still conceive and produce normal female sex hormones.
This surgery is usually laparoscopic, which means a small incision is made to insert a camera rather than cutting you open. This surgery is usually performed when a cyst fails to go away on its own.
While it is not the first line option, a cystectomy can immediately stop pain from an inflamed cyst. However, cysts can come back, and often do in women with PCOS.
In many cases, women with PCOS or other ovarian pain disorders will repeatedly get pain from the same ovary. If this pain cannot be resolved, removing the entire problem ovary, called an oophorectomy, may be a solution.
Because only one ovary is removed, women who undergo this procedure will still have their fertility and continue to make normal female hormones. However, because this is a rather invasive procedure requiring a sizable abdominal incision, it is usually only tried after other approached to ovary pain have not been successful.
This surgery, which removes the uterus, is a serious but sometimes necessary way to treat ovary pain. In some cases, endometriosis of the outer uterine walls can slough off and inflame the ovaries as well as everything in their vicinity.
Ovaries may also begin to develop endometrial tissue, which can cause immense pain and present a risk of infection. As odd as it sounds, sometimes the uterus is the cause of ovary pain, and removing the uterus can resolve the pain immediately.
Hysterectomy is also used as a treatment for ovarian pain when ovarian cysts have been found to be malignant, or cancerous. Doctors will remove the tumor or cysts and possibly the affected ovary and uterus as well, in case there has been undetectable metastasis.
Bonus: Extra Tip for Treating Ovary Pain
While exertion is not recommended while a woman has a functional cyst, getting on a regular and gentle exercise schedule has been found to help with ovarian pain over the long term. Consider exercise such as walking and swimming that will not cause a cyst rupture or otherwise complicate ovary pain.
Exercise has many benefits for all types of chronic pain. First, regular exercise releases endorphins and other natural painkilling chemicals made by the human body. Second, regular exercise can help women reduce weight with PCOS. Studies have shown that even small amounts of weight loss often can have a large positive effect on symptoms such as ovarian pain.
Ovarian pain is common in women with PCOS, but it still should be investigated by a physician to rule out serious or potentially deadly illnesses. Once you know the cause of your ovary pain, it will be easier to select which short term and long term solutions are best for your body and your lifestyle.