Endometriosis is a painful disorder that can have a devastating effect on your quality of life and future if it is not treated on time. The condition can make menstruation unbearable and lead to fertility issues that can haunt you for years.
If you have the condition, you are not alone. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), endometriosis affects roughly 10% of women and girls across the globe who are of reproductive age. The variable and broad symptoms of the condition can lead to years of misdiagnosis and women who suffer from it rarely know they have the condition at all.
Acupuncture has been known to be a natural and noninvasive approach to the condition that also complements medical treatments. The treatment corrects the underlying imbalance in the body that causes its painful symptoms. To understand how the treatment can work to alleviate those symptoms, we need to do a deep dive into the condition itself.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis or ‘endo’ gets its name from the endometrium, the tissues that lines the uterus wall or womb. The condition manifests when tissue that is similar to that lining starts to grow outside the uterus in areas of the body that it doesn’t belong on.
These include the ovaries, over the uterus, fallopian tubes and tissues that keep the uterus in place. While the tissue can extend to other organs, such as the lungs, lower limbs and diaphragm, it is rare.
Some of the common symptoms of endometriosis include the following:
Spotting or bleeding and digestion issues.
Women who suffer from endometriosis have reported bleeding or spotting between periods. This can or may not be accompanied by indigestion.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking symptom of all. Endometriosis can lead to infertility issues. While some women can get pregnant with the condition, they may find it difficult compared to healthier women.
Pain ranging from mild to severe
This is the most common symptom of the condition. Endometriosis pain can differ for different women afflicted with the condition:
- Highly painful menstrual cramps which may get worse with time.
- Long-term pain in the pelvis and lower back.
- Pain during or after sex which manifests deep in the body.
- Intestinal pain and painful bowel movements.
- Pain during micturition (the act of urination) during menstrual periods. Some women may also find blood in their stool or urine.
The pathogenesis of pain associated with the condition is not clear but most doctors believe that it is caused by endometrial lesions as well as sensitized and peripheral sensitization. While surgical intervention can reduce the pain significantly, there is a 40% to 50% chance of postoperative recurrence.
Acupuncture Benefits for Endometriosis
Traditional medical treatments for endometriosis varies depending on the severity of the condition, the location of the tissue growth and whether you are trying to get pregnant. Treatment options often include pain and inflammation relief medication, surgery, hormonal therapies and in severe cases, a hysterectomy.
While traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) cannot cure endometriosis, it has several benefits that make the condition manageable:
Improves blood flow
The main thing that your acupuncturist will do is correct the underlying imbalance in the body that is causing endometriosis symptoms. That is done by correcting arterial blood flow in the uterus. In the case of endometriosis, a fresh supply of blood can reduce inflammation that is a constant source of pain for patients.
To stimulate blood flow in the lower part of the body i.e. the area where the affliction is, your acupuncturist may place needles in your lower abdomen and pelvic area. However, the placement can differ for different patients depending on the severity of their condition. The aim is to stimulate the body into sending natural blood flow to specific areas of the body. More blood flow means reduced endo-based inflammation which means less pain.
Corrects hormone imbalances
Besides improving blood flow to particular areas of the body, acupuncture benefits for women with endometriosis also address hormone imbalances. Acupuncture has been found to release norepinephrine, a state in which the body can start healing itself. At this stage the endocrine system starts to function at optimal levels.
Additionally, acupuncture is also known to alleviate pain due to its analgesic effects. The analgesic principle of the traditional Chinese practice is based on zang-fu organs and meridians. As per traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), in endometriosis, pain is caused by the stagnating blood or qi (energy) in the uterus. Acupuncture can improve blood flow which in turn can alleviate pain.
Optimizes the endocrine system
Endometrioses is a complex multi-faceted, inflammatory and gynecological condition. Tissue growth is dependent on estrogen levels and 90% of the hormone is produced by membrane and granular cells of the ovary. The ovary produces estrogen in response to certain hormones but it may be compounded by androstenedione from the adrenal glands. As per studies, acupuncture is known to reduce estradiol levels which in turn reduces the growth of ectopic endometrium.
Thanks to acupuncture, endometriosis is no longer a death knell for women who wish to be mothers and wish to live a pain free life. As studies have shown, acupuncture benefits not only treat the underlying causes of the condition, they can also help patients manage the pain and discomfort that result from it.
At the American College of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) Main Clinic, we offer treatments that are conducted by trained, experienced and licensed acupuncturists on staff. Book a consultation today by dialing 713-780-9786. Acupuncture is also offered at all ACAOM at Houston Methodist Hospital locations at 713-441-5980.