Updated: Feb 1
We often get questions on what does fibroid pain feel like and how to find pain relief? In this post, Dr. Michael Lalezarian aims to answer these questions and explains where fibroid pain occurs, why fibroids cause pain, and how to find fibroid pain relief. Learn about different fibroid pain patterns, including uterus pain, pain during or after your period, pain during pregnancy, and sharp stabbing pain from fibroids.
In this Article
Different types of pain that you may experience if you have fibroids, and why
Uterus pain caused by fibroids
Fibroid pain during or after your period
Back or leg pain caused by fibroids
Fibroid pain during pregnancy
Fibroid pain relief
Fibroid pain treatment options
Uterine fibroids are a common condition, but the way they feel varies significantly from woman to woman. In fact, it’s estimated that over half of all women who develop fibroids never have any pain symptoms at all. But unfortunately, the women who do experience fibroid pain report that it has a significant impact on their daily life.¹
What Does Fibroid Pain Feel Like?
The uterus is positioned low in the pelvis near lots of other bodily structures, and fibroids can grow in many different ways. Some fibroids are small and grow into the uterus, causing dull or sharp stabbing pain sensations in the pelvic region. Other fibroids can be big and bulky along the outer surface of the uterus. When these intrusive fibroids impinge on other parts of your body, the pain may feel like it is coming from the intruded area, like your back or even your bowels.¹⁻³
Fibroid Uterus Pain
Dull Pain or Pressure Sensations in the Pelvis
In the medical world, fibroids are often referred to as “benign tumors”. What this means is that fibroids are abnormal growths, but they are not dangerous in and of themselves. In other words, they are not cancerous. However, because they are heavier than normal tissue and take up space, fibroids can cause many uncomfortable symptoms, and uterine pain is one of the most common. This kind of pain is usually described as a heaviness or dull pressure in the pelvis that has been ongoing for a long period of time. It is often compared to the pelvic pressure felt during pregnancy, and women frequently have trouble pointing to a specific spot where the pain starts.²
Fibroids Sharp Stabbing Pain
There are also times when fibroids can cause rapid, sharp stabbing pain that can feel like it’s coming from a single point. This often happens when fibroids lose their blood supply, either through twisting or by growing too large. But it can also happen at other times. If the fibroid shifts and presses on other uterine structures, like the cervix, it can produce a sharp stabbing pain.
Fibroid Pain During Intercourse
Alternatively, some women report having pain during sexual intercourse, called dyspareunia, that they usually describe as a burning or throbbing sensation.
Fibroid Pain During Your Period
Women with fibroids are at both an increased risk of having painful periods and at an increased risk of having more severe pain with periods. There are a couple factors that contribute to this. The first is that during a period, the uterus normally contracts to help expel its lining. The presence of fibroids forces the uterus to work harder and more irregularly in order to accomplish this, and this leads to more and worse feelings of pelvic cramping that is typically associated with menstruation. Additionally, fibroids have been shown to respond to estrogen and progesterone, the two hormones that cycle with the period, so fibroids can actually grow and shrink with a woman’s cycle. During a woman’s period, when these hormones have just peaked, the fibroid may be at its largest size, further worsening the cramping pain but also increasing the likelihood of feelings of heaviness and pressure, as described above.⁴
Fibroid Pain After Your Period
Not only are women with fibroids more likely to have menstrual pain, but they’re more likely to have abnormal pelvic pain and cramping after their menstrual periods, too. This is again due to the presence of the fibroid tissue near the normal tissue of the uterus. By occupying the space and having weight, the fibroid can aggravate the nearby muscle of the uterus, which responds by cramping. This pain is usually similar to the cramping pain during periods but usually less severe.²
Fibroid Bowel Pain
When fibroids grow on the back side of the uterus, they frequently cause problems with the nearby colon and rectum. This can cause symptoms of constipation or even diarrhea, but it can also cause a feeling of incomplete defecation and pain when trying to pass a bowel movement, called tenesmus. This pain is often described as a burning or stinging sensation.²
Fibroid Back Pain
Back pain is a very common complaint, and oftentimes it is caused by normal use and muscle soreness. However, women with fibroids are at a slightly increased risk of developing low back pain, so it is not unreasonable to consider fibroids as the cause of long term back pain, especially if the pain has not improved with medication management or physical therapy.²
Fibroid Leg Pain
Leg pain, on the other hand, is an extremely rare complication of fibroids. There are less than a handful of documented cases of women whose complaints of leg pain improved after treatment of their fibroids. In these cases, the leg pain was similar to sciatica, which feels like a sharp, shooting pain that starts high in the buttock but can travel down the leg.⁴
Fibroid Pain During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, the uterus receives much more blood and nutrients, and fibroids have been known to grow rapidly during these times. As this goes on, the veins of the fibroid can close off. This is called “red degeneration” due to the appearance of the stagnant blood in the fibroid, and it is a specific type of fibroid pain that happens much more frequently after a woman with fibroids gets pregnant. It often starts abruptly and can feel like a sharp stabbing pain sensation. Fortunately, this process is neither dangerous to the mother nor the baby.⁶⁻⁷
Fibroid Pain Relief
The treatment of fibroid pain is broad and varied in possibilities. Early treatment is usually very conservative, sticking with over the counter medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, called NSAIDs, like Ibuprofen. These can be very effective in providing some fibroid pain relief for some women, while others may need an alternative. It is important to note that NSAIDs should not be used during pregnancy unless explicitly determined by a doctor, as they can cause problems to the developing baby.
Apart from NSAIDs, there are also many other medications that require a doctor’s prescription but have been shown to reduce fibroid pain & other symptoms. These medications are often a type of hormone modulator, and research is ongoing to find the most effective medication that also has the fewest side effects.⁸⁻⁹
Surgery is the most invasive treatment option for fibroids. A surgeon may remove the fibroids (myomectomy) or the entire uterus (hysterectomy), and the best method is often based on personal preference.
Non-Surgical Fibroid Treatment
In between medications and surgery is a newer technique called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). UFE is a minimally invasive technique that works by blocking blood flow to the fibroid, which causes the fibroids to shrink.
Fibroid Pain Treatment - Best Option For You
When it comes to fibroids, every woman experiences different symptoms, and every woman has different goals for their treatment. There is no single best option that applies to everyone, so it’s important to research your options carefully and find a fibroid specialist who can help you decide which treatment is right for you. We hope this post answered your question on what does fibroid pain feel like, but we advise contacting a fibroid specialist to answer any follow-up questions. we’ve put together a number of resources to help you navigate your fibroid treatment options and find fibroid pain relief:
About the Author
Dr. Michael Lalezarian is a practicing interventional radiologist with the Fibroid Specialists of University Vascular in Los Angeles, CA. In addition to patient care, Dr. Lalezarian teaches and supervises medical students, residents, and fellows as a full time teaching Professor in the Department of Radiology at UCLA. He is regarded as an expert in uterine fibroid embolization. You can view Dr. Lalezarian's full bio here.
This blog post was written with research and editorial assistance from OnChart™.
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The Materials available on the FibroidSpecialists.org blog are for informational and educational purposes only and are not a substitute for the professional judgment of a healthcare professional in diagnosing and treating patients.