Objective: To review the definitions and classifications of chronic pelvic and perineal pain and to describe the concepts of chronic pelvic and perineal pain syndrome and the global diagnostic and aetiopathogenic approach.
Material and methods: A review of the literature was performed by searching the Medline database (National Library of Medicine). Search terms were either medical subject heading (MeSH) keywords (classification, complex regional pain syndrome, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome, neuralgia, pelvic pain, postoperative pain, prostatitis, referred pain, syndrome) or terms derived from the title or abstract. Search terms were used alone or in combinations by using the “AND” operator. The literature search was conducted from 1990 to the present time.
Results: Chronic pelvic and perineal pain does not only consist of symptoms localized to an anatomical region present for 3 to 6 months, but also constitutes a distinct, complex, multidimensional disease entity, comprising psychological, organic and psychosomatic phenomena, called chronic pelvic and perineal pain syndromes. These syndromes are responsible for disability, impaired quality of life, and induce considerable health care consumption and sick leave. They alter the patient's personality and affect his or her behaviour, sex life, family life, social life and work life. The usual clinical approach to these syndromes, looking for an organ or tissue disease responsible for pain, is negative. The approach to this type of pain must be much more global and consists of looking for disturbances of the regulation of pelvic and perineal nociceptive messages and dysfunction of the organ or structure concerned.
Conclusion: The current definitions and classifications of chronic pelvic and perineal pain comprise the concepts of syndrome, functional disease and global approach and differ from the strict organ-based context and the classical medical approach (infectious, inflammatory, metabolic, endocrine) in order to focus pain syndromes on the pain itself and the associated symptoms.