Pudendal Neuralgia: Understanding the Pain Below

Pudendal Neuralgia: Understanding the Pain Below

Pudendal Neuralgia: Understanding the Pain Below

The Anatomy of Pudendal Neuralgia

The pudendal nerve is a major somatic nerve located within the pelvis. It carries sensations from the genitals, urethra, anus, and perineum to the brain and also transmits motor signals to the pelvic musculature. When this nerve becomes irritated or inflamed, it results in a condition called pudendal neuralgia, leading to chronic pain in the genital and perineal regions.

Pudendal neuralgia is often described as a 'burning' or 'stabbing' pain and can be triggered by a variety of activities, including sitting, sexual intercourse, and even wearing tight clothing. The condition is more common in women than in men but can affect individuals of any gender and age.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Pudendal Neuralgia

Symptoms of pudendal neuralgia are characterized by pain, numbness, or a tingling sensation in the genital area, sometimes extending to the rectum, coccyx, or down the legs. Individuals might also experience a feeling of pressure that worsens with prolonged sitting.

The spectrum of symptoms experienced can be vast and can significantly impact an individual's life both emotionally and physically. These may include but are not limited to:

  • Shooting or stabbing pain in the pelvic area
  • Pain during or after sexual activity
  • Burning or tingling around the anus or genitals
  • Hypersensitivity to touch in the pelvic area
  • Urinary and bowel problems, including urinary frequency and urgency

Understanding the Etiology and Diagnosis of Pudendal Neuralgia

While the exact cause of pudendal neuralgia remains elusive, it is generally believed to be associated with nerve compression, entrapment, or direct injury to the pudendal nerve. Some common contributors include:

  • Trauma during childbirth
  • Prolonged or strenuous cycling
  • Pelvic surgery or injury
  • Inflammatory diseases affecting the pelvic region
  • Nerve compression from surrounding muscles or tumor growth

Diagnosing pudendal neuralgia can be complex, often requiring a detailed medical history, a thorough examination, and sometimes specialized tests such as pudendal nerve motor latency testing and diagnostic nerve blocks to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment Modalities for Pudendal Neuralgia

Management of pudendal neuralgia typically involves a multimodal approach that addresses both the symptoms and the underlying cause, where possible. Treatment options are varied, and their effectiveness can vary from person to person. These may include:


  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be effective in reducing nerve inflammation.
  • Antidepressants and anti-seizure medications can help manage neuropathic pain.
  • Opioids may be prescribed in severe cases, but their long-term use is controversial due to the risk of dependence and other potential complications.

Nerve Blocks

  • Local anesthetic or corticosteroid injections near the pudendal nerve can provide temporary pain relief and serve a diagnostic purpose.

Physical Therapy

  • Pelvic floor physical therapy, which includes strengthening and relaxation exercises, can alleviate some symptoms by reducing muscle tension around the pudendal nerve.


  • Techniques such as percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (PENS), transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), and spinal cord stimulation (SCS) aim to modulate nerve activity and may offer pain relief.

Surgical Intervention

  • If conservative measures fail, surgery to decompress or release the pudendal nerve may be considered. However, the outcomes of such procedures are variable, and the risks must be weighed against the potential benefits.

Lifestyle Modifications and Self-Care

Adopting certain lifestyle changes can significantly improve the management of pudendal neuralgia:

  • Repositioning while sitting, using cushioned seats, or alternating between sitting and standing can reduce nerve pressure.
  • Wearing loose, cotton undergarments and avoiding tight clothing can prevent irritation or compression of the nerve.
  • Practicing good hygiene in the pelvic area can prevent infections and reduce the risk of further irritation to the nerve.

Overcoming Isolation and Stigma

Living with pudendal neuralgia can be emotionally challenging due to the intimate nature of its symptoms. Seeking support from peers or mental health professionals is crucial in managing the psychological toll that chronic pain can incur.

Future Directions and Emerging Therapies

As research continues to delve into the mechanisms of pudendal neuralgia, new treatment options are on the horizon. There is a growing interest in regenerative medicine, such as stem cell therapy, as a potential solution for repairing damaged nerves.

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