Endometriosis: A Common Cause of Pelvic Pain & Infertility

By Christina Noonan, MAc., LicAc.
Senior Staff Acupuncturist
The Domar Center for Mind/Body Health

 

If you experience pelvic pain, abnormally heavy bleeding, dysmenorrheal (painful periods), back pain, abdominal cramping, painful intercourse, gastrointestinal upset, and/or infertility, you may be suffering from a condition called endometriosis. If you have been diagnosed with endometriosis, there is promising natural treatment available. Acupuncture has been identified as a viable treatment option.

According to a 2010 study in the European Journal of Gynecological Reproductive Biology, researchers examined whether acupuncture was an effective additional pain treatment for endometriosis. The study consisted of 101 women ages 20-40. Results showed a significant reduction of pain intensity after the first 10 acupuncture treatments (Rubi-Klein, et. al., 2010).

What Exactly Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition in which cells from the lining of the uterus (endometrium) grow outside the uterine cavity. Under normal circumstances, when a woman menstruates, blood should be discharged vaginally, exiting the body. With endometriosis, it is believed that the menstrual blood and tissue backs up into the abdominal cavity instead of exiting the body. This back up results in pain that is often severe before, during, and/or after the menstrual cycle, with the ovaries being the most common site affected. Fallopian tubes, the back and front of the uterus (posterior and anterior cul-de-sac), uterine ligaments, pelvic back wall, intestines, and bladder and ureters are also common sites of occurrence. Endometriosis can often cause anatomical distortions and adhesions, which can cause infertility.

Who Gets Endometriosis?
Endometriosis occurs in roughly 5-10% of women (Lu, PY. 1995). Women who are estrogen-dependent are often part of the endometriosis population. Also, it is believed that there is a 10-fold increase of incidence in women with an affected first-degree relative (Dharmesh & Davila, 2005). Others believe its incidence can be linked to environmental factors and the immune system.

How Is It Diagnosed?
The only way to 100% diagnose endometriosis is by having a surgical procedure called a laparoscopy. One very interesting fact about endometriosis is that there is no correlation between the severity of the endometriosis and a women’s pain level. For example, a woman can have Stage I (minimal) endometriosis and be in excruciating pain, where as a women with Stage IV (severe) can have no pain at all. It is one of the many mysterious factors of the disease, which continues to baffle patients and doctors alike. During a laparoscopy, if endometriosis is found it is usually cauterized and sent to the laboratory for diagnosis. After surgery, hormonal medications (oral contraceptives), anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), and narcotics are often used to control pain and reoccurrence. One of the believed “cures” for endometriosis, ironically, is pregnancy ““ although because there is a large hormonal component, endometriosis may cause lack of ovulation.

Besides having a laparoscopy, don’t forget the benefits of acupuncture! Acupuncture can help with not only pain management, but also can help with menstrual cycle regulation.

How Does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) View Endometriosis and How Can Acupuncture Help?
In TCM, the body’s energy or qi (pronounced chee) can become stagnant. The qi of the body should flow smoothly. With endometriosis, often times blood and qi stagnation are often the cause. Blood, kidney, and liver qi deficiency are also often attributed to this disease, as well. Acupuncture, lifestyle modifications, and dietary suggestions often prove helpful in treating this condition.

With a proper examination and diagnosis from one of the talented acupuncturists at the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, a treatment plan can be formulated and you can be a step closer to pain relief and hopefully improving your chances at fertility. If you suffer from endometriosis, please come to the Domar Center and start acupuncture treatment today, because one day of pain is one day too many!

References
Dharmesh, K. & Davila, W. (2005). Endometriosis. eMedicine. http://emedicine.com/med/topic3419.htm.

Lu PY, Ory SJ. (1995).Endometriosis: current management. Mayo Clin Proc 1995. 70:453-63. http://www.aafp.org/afp/991015ap/1753.html

Rubi-Klein K, Kucera-Sliutz E., Nissel H, Bijak M., Stockenhuber D., Fink M. & Wolkenstein E. (2010). European journal of obstetrics gynecology reproductive biology. Nov. 2010. 153 (1): 90-3. Epub 2010 Aug 21.

Stratton, P. & Berkley, K.J. (2010). Chronic pelvic pain and endometriosis: Translational evidence of the relationship and implications. Human Reproduction Update 17 (3): 327-346, doi: PMID 21106492. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21106492).

Diagnosis and Treatment of Endometriosis – October 15, 1999 – American Academy of Family Physicians (https://www.aaft.org/aft/991015ap/1753.html)

ABOUT CHRISTINA NOONAN, MAc., LicAc.

Christina, a senior staff acupuncturist at the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, is a graduate of the New England School of Acupuncture, where she received a masters degree in Japanese and Chinese Acupuncture styles.  She is a Diplomate in Acupuncture by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).  Licensed by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, Christina is also certified by the Auricular Therapy Certification Institute, and has completed an extensive Integrated Oncology program from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.  Her clinical interests include infertility, gynecological issues, migraines, digestive conditions, and anxiety.