This post was updated on March 13th, 2023
By Kym Campbell, BSc. | Updated March 13th, 2023
Pain is an often-overlooked aspect of PCOS. Yet it has a big impact on quality of life.
Systemic inflammation is the underlying driver of all types of PCOS pain. This is why a PCOS diet and lifestyle changes can reduce pain symptoms. Many women that take part in my free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge discover this for themselves.
Other innovative approaches can also help ease pain. These are discussed further below.
Does PCOS Cause Pain?
It’s been well documented that PCOS women experience more pain than is normal .
The exact types of pain aren’t well studied. But it’s well known that PCOS women suffer from cramping, painful periods, and heavy bleeding . PCOS-related pain isn’t just limited to pelvic pain though. It can also be experienced in the neck, back, breasts, stomach, legs, and joints.
Part of this problem is pain caused by PCOS-related hormone imbalances. But PCOS women are also more prone to other pain-inducing problems. This includes:
- Endometriosis 
- Migraines 
- Fibromyalgia 
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome [6-8]
- Rheumatoid arthritis 
- Pain during sex 
Mental health issues can also exacerbate pain perception [11, 12].
Regardless of the type of pain, inflammation is at the heart of the problem. Inflammation is the immune system’s response to a perceived threat. It’s supposed to be a temporary state that promotes healing. In the case of PCOS though, low-grade inflammation persists over time [13-20]. Inflammation plays a key role in the development and maintenance of pain [21-23]. The more inflammation you experience, the more likely you are to experience pain.
Chronic inflammation has further problems in the context of PCOS. Inflammation exacerbates insulin resistance and drives up androgen levels. These three factors are the primary mechanisms behind all PCOS symptoms [17, 20, 24-26]. It’s also the downstream effects of these factors that cause PCOS pain.
For example, there is data to suggest that obesity, infertility, and hirsutism affect pain perception in PCOS women pain . Inflammation, insulin resistance, and elevated androgens are also responsible for painful ovarian cysts.
Root-Cause Treatments for PCOS Pain
Addressing the underlying causes of PCOS is the best way to prevent and minimize PCOS-associated pain. There are many evidence-based ways to do this.
A PCOS diet is the most important place to start. It’s well known that dietary habits can promote inflammation and insulin resistance in PCOS [27-30]. This is the cause of all PCOS symptoms including irregular periods, weight gain, hirsutism, acne, and hair loss. As we see during my free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge, changing your diet can reverse these symptoms.
With knowledge of the foods to avoid with PCOS, systemic inflammation can be greatly reduced. Changing your food portions to achieve better macros for PCOS is also a powerful way to reverse insulin resistance.
Other systemic PCOS natural treatments include:
- Taking Ovasitol for PCOS
- Supplementing with vitamin D for PCOS
- Improving sleep quality
- Reducing stress
- Avoiding endocrine-disrupting chemicals
- Minimizing other environmental toxins (especially in drinking water)
Alternative PCOS Pain Relief
Most women will turn to over-the-counter pain relief when experiencing PCOS-related pain. For example, Advil (Nurofen) and Tylenol (Panadol) are often recommended. But some people have legitimate concerns regarding the safety of these medications [31, 32].
Several supplements may be as good for relieving pain but with fewer side effects. Curcumin, Fish Oil and pineapple-extracted Bromelain are the most well-studied. These supplements have outperformed non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, like Advil, in many trials [33-38].
Curcumin products containing the proprietary formulation, Meriva, offer a suitable alternative to Tylenol. In a comparison pain-relief trial, 2 grams of Meriva was comparable to two Tylenol Extra Strength tablets .
Innovative Pain Management Tools
Many novel pain management tools can help ease all types of PCOS pain.
The Wim Hoff Method, for example, shows a wide range of health benefits, including pain suppression. This approach is based on breathing exercises and cold therapy. Recent research shows that the Wim Hoff Method reduces inflammation [40, 41]. It’s also easy to learn within 2 hours of training.
Meditation is a component of the Wim Hoff Method. But meditation alone can also reduce pain. For example, an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program has significant scientific credibility. MBSR can reduce inflammation in patients with lower back pain . Meta-analysis shows that eight weeks of MBSR helps people with lower back pain for at least six months . It’s been shown to help with irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia . MBSR has also proven effective in reducing pelvic pain in women .
For women with acute pain, there are many other innovative interventions worth exploring. These include:
The Bottom Line
PCOS pain is an ongoing problem that comes in many different forms. But it doesn’t need to be. Inflammation is the underlying mechanism behind all PCOS pain. This can be fixed with diet and lifestyle interventions.
Some plant-derived products can serve as an alternative to over-the-counter pain relief. There are many other ways to better manage pain. Some of the most innovative treatments include the Wim Hoff Method and other alternative therapies.
To start implementing a PCOS diet, join my next free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge. Or try this free 3-Day meal plan first.
Ready to Take Action?
Since 2010, Kym Campbell has used evidence-based diet and lifestyle interventions to manage her PCOS. After getting her symptoms under control and falling pregnant naturally, Kym now advocates for dietary change as part of any PCOS treatment plan. Combining rigorous science and clinical advice with a pragmatic approach to habit change, Kym is on a mission to show other women how to take back control of their health and fertility. Read more about Kym and her team here.
Quick Disclosure: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. This means that when you use them to purchase something, it won't cost you more but I may get paid a commission for referring you. In order to avoid any prejudice, I only recommend products that I personally use or would have recommended anyways.
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