Acupuncture for Endometriosis Support
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. Endometriosis is fairly prevalent, believed to affect 10% of all women, or 176 million women worldwide. It is very under-diagnosed, with many women not even knowing that they have it, and very often finding out in the course of trying to get pregnant.
Endometriosis is a peculiar gynecological condition that isn’t very well understood. In endometriosis, some of the uterine tissue that is normally shed during menstruation (uterine tissue inside the uterus is called the endometrium) is found outside of the uterus and in other areas of the body, most often in pelvic cavity. This abnormal uterine tissue that makes its way outside of the uterus then acts as if it still lining the uterus - becoming thicker during the cycle and then shedding during menstruation.
This uterine tissue can form into tiny superficial patches, as well as into larger areas of lesions. The immune system can perceive these patches as a type of injury, and in the course of trying to heal it, can form scar tissue. These endometrial patches can form on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, on the pelvic side-wall (the peritoneum), the rectal-vaginal septum (an area of connective tissue that separates the vagina from the rectum), the recto-uterine pouch (a small cavity that separates the uterus from the rectum), the bladder, cesarean-section scars, and even the bowel, intestines, and colon.
The classic signs of endometriosis are intense menstrual cramps, pain during intercourse (especially during deep penetration), and infertility, but not all women who have endometriosis will experience these symptoms. Other symptoms include chronic pelvic pain, low back pain, painful bowel movements during menstrual periods, heavy or irregular bleeding, and fatigue. Another curious aspect of this condition is that the degree of pain a woman experiences can be very much unrelated to the severity of the condition. For example, small patches with a minor amount of spreading can lead to debilitating pain for some, while extensive spreading of lesions can produce no symptoms in others.
The causes of endometriosis are not well understood. One theory is that somehow endometrial cells can flow backwards out the fallopian tubes and spread throughout the pelvis - this is termed “retrograde menstruation.” Endometriosis can also be difficult to diagnose. Ultrasound can diagnose ovarian endometriomas (sometimes called chocolate cysts) but the most reliable test is laparoscopy, with tissue biopsy as confirmation.
More and more women are turning to acupuncture to help address and diminish the symptoms of menstrual pain and endometriosis. Acupuncture, herbal supplements, and heat therapy (in the form of TDP lamps or moxibustion) can help to regulate hormone levels and the menstrual cycle, greatly diminish the symptoms of menstrual and pelvic pain, increase and support the the healthy supply of blood flow to the uterus, ovaries, and throughout the pelvic cavity, as well as work to diminish some of the other side effects that can come with severe menstrual pain - such as stress and anxiety, digestive upset, and fatigue.
Another lifestyle factor to consider if you experience symptoms of intensely painful periods or are trying to get pregnant is greatly diminishing or quitting alcohol (https://www.thetemper.com/the-top-10-health-risks-of-alcohol-for-women/) use altogether. A review of 15 studies concluded that the risk of endometriosis was increased 24% in those who drank alcohol compared to those who abstained.