Endometriosis is a chronic condition that causes painful or heavy periods. It often causes pain in the pelvis, lower abdomen or lower back. It may also lead to lack of energy, depression and infertility.
The symptoms of endometriosis vary from person to person. Some women suffer from pain all the time, while others only have pain during their periods, when they have sex or when they go to the toilet. The severity of the symptoms depends mostly on where in your body the endometriosis is, rather than the amount of endometriosis you have. A small amount of tissue in a certain area can be as painful as, or more painful than, a large amount in another. Some women may have few symptoms or no symptoms at all.
The most common symptoms include:
- Intense or persistent period pain
- Pain in the pelvis, lower abdomen or lower back that worsens during periods
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding or clotting
There is a strong association between endometriosis and infertility. It is thought that scar tissue and adhesions may obstruct or distort the shape of the fallopian tubes and prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs. Endometriosis may also affect fertility by causing hormonal irregularities, and can also increase the chance of early miscarriage.
Pregnancy sometimes reduces the symptoms of endometriosis, although symptoms often return once the menstrual cycle returns to normal.
Other symptoms may include:
- Discomfort when urinating
- Rectal bleeding and pain during bowel movements (if the endometrial tissue is in the intestines)
- Coughing blood (if the endometrial tissue is in the lung)
- Stress and anxiety as a result of knowing that their upcoming period will bring pain and discomfort
Endometriosis can only be diagnosed with an examination called a laparoscopy, which is carried out by a gynaecologist to check for any endometrial implants, adhesions or cysts in your abdomen.
How TCM may help:
From the perspective of TCM, endometriosis is the result of the slowdown and stasis of blood flow in the pelvis, brought about either by blocked energy in the pathways of the body or by insufficient energy to push the blood through the vessels. This sluggishness in blood flow can be caused by a number of factors such as poor digestion, weakness in certain parts of the body, especially the kidneys (which in Chinese medicine, supports the whole reproductive system), stress and tension, the habitual consumption of cold foods or overwork especially during menstruation, genital infections, and surgical history.
Five common patterns of endometriosis include:
- Qi stagnation and blood stasis
- Kidney deficiency and blood stasis
- Cold retention and blood stasis
- Qi deficiency and blood stasis
- Heat obstruction and blood stasis.
Signs of blood stasis include stabbing pain that is fixed in one place, frequent or heavy bleeding, and bleeding with dark purple clots. Chronic stagnation causes clots, which can have a tendency to manifest themselves as masses or lumps.
Acupuncture may improve the function of the immune system and increase the flow of energy through the meridians in the body. It has been found that acupuncture treatment promotes the release of endorphins and other ‘healing’ chemicals in the body. Both acupuncture and herbs can work to reduce the pain and bleeding, break up the old stagnated blood, encourage blood flow, promote hormonal balance, increase fertility, stronger immunity, and overall better health. TCM treatment also aims to re-establish proper estrogen/progesterone ratios, which is essential in healing.