A Painful Little Secret: Living with Endometriosis, and How We Can Help

 
 Image by Nina Cosford @ninacosford

Image by Nina Cosford @ninacosford

 

March is women’s history month, so we’re taking some time to explore female health and the importance of reproductive support! In this instance, we’re examining a condition that has  historically gone undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, underestimated and grossly overlooked: Endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a debilitating condition suffered by an untold number of women around the world. We use the term “untold” because of the above stated reasons, and the fact that many women go through their entire reproductive lives at it’s mercy without proper medical recognition or intervention. However, recent estimates give the staggering figure that 1 in every 10 women suffers from endometriosis. Much of the time, the lack in awareness is due to a system of shame surrounding women and the discussion of their monthly cycle. It’s “gross,” “icky,” and even “inappropriate” to talk about openly. So without further ado, it’s time to shed those bonds and own our female power. It’s time to talk openly about what so many women keep under wraps—period pain!

There, we said it. Now, onto the educational bit!

Endometriosis is a relatively common condition, that’s estimated to affect over 200,000 American women every year.  Tissue that normally grows within the uterine lining is found elsewhere within the body; most commonly in locations like the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvic lining. This displaced endometrial tissue continues to act as it would within the uterus (think thickening and shedding with the stages of your menstrual cycle). Since this tissue has no way to escape the body the way it would if it were in the uterus, it becomes trapped. The surrounding tissues can become irritated, and eventually lead to the formation of scar tissue and adhesions.  These adhesions are thick, and less flexible than regular endometrial tissues, so they can cause surrounding pelvic tissues and organs to stick together.

All of this displaced tissue growth can cause a myriad of dysfunctional menstrual symptoms including extremely painful periods, pain with bowel movements or urination, painful sexual intercourse, excessive bleeding, infertility, and other difficulties.

On top of all that, the condition is notoriously difficult to treat, and is often misdiagnosed; mistaken for other conditions that cause similar hardships such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The mimicking symptoms aren’t the only roadblock in proper diagnosis. The only way to definitively diagnose the condition is through laparoscopic surgery, which can be costly and invasive.

Traditional Chinese Medicine tends to view the overall condition of endometriosis as a Qi and Blood Stasis within the body. Qi and Blood are closely linked, and both need to flow smoothly in order to prevent pain, tissue build up and various dysfunction. The Liver is closely linked to both, as well as the uterus, and is responsible for this (ideally) effortless movement.  When things go awry, it creates the perfect storm for conditions like endometriosis to arise.

However, it’s important to note that Eastern Medicine considers each individual’s pattern of disharmony before making blanket statements about what causes a condition. The truth is that we’re all actively changing organisms that are constantly in flux. That’s why it’s so important to have a detailed discussion with your practitioner, in order to create the most effective treatment strategy for you.  That being said, many times Qi and Blood Stasis are major culprits for women who develop endometriosis.  This can be coupled with other patterns of disharmony (we all have ‘em!) that need to be addressed. Chinese Medicine works to resolve any blockages and imbalances causing pain or structural changes. By utilizing acupuncture, herbal supplementation, nutritional guidance, and lifestyle advice, a synergistic approach is created in order to treat the root of the issue.

A consistent treatment plan is key in the treatment of any long-term conditions. By developing an individual strategy with your acupuncturist, Chinese Medicine can offer long-term, safe, effective solutions and supplemental care in the treatment of endometriosis.  

If you currently struggle with endometriosis, or any other female health condition, we’re happy to speak with you about how acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can be beneficial for you!  We’re here to nurture your whole health, and know that you may have some key questions along the way. That’s why we offer free 20-minute consultations to answer any questions you may have before coming in to see us.  It's time to stop suffering in silence. We hear you, and are here to help.

Love, Sanctuary

Sarah Biffen