Endometriosis and Chinese Medicine

Endometriosis and Chinese Medicine

15 June 2015 by Caitlin Armit

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition where the endometrial cells (cells from the lining of the uterus) spread and grow outside of the uterus. These cells may develop into small plaques (mild endometriosis) which can develop into nodules or can grow and form cysts on the ovaries known as endometriomas (moderate endometriosis). In a severe presentation, fibrous scar tissue can develop and bind the organs of the lower pelvic cavity.

People with endometriosis often experience pain during menstruation and/or during ovulation, urination or bowel movements. They may also experience pre menstrual tension, heavy periods and spotting between periods. The menstrual blood may be brown in colour and dark or clotted.

Endometriosis Pain and Infertility

The presence of foreign cells (stagnated blood) outside of the uterus triggers an immune response where the body attempts to clear the blood. The immune response appears as inflammation which can cause a variety of health problems including pain and possible infertility. Blood which is misplaced, stagnated and old creates a suboptimal environment for the nourishment of a foetus and scarring can inhibit ovulation or obstruct the fallopian tube through which the egg is trying to pass. Some women experience no pain or symptoms associated with endometriosis and are only diagnosed once they seek help for fertility problems.

Western Medicine Treatment

Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications tend to mask the symptoms rather than treat the underlying cause of the disease thereby failing to achieve long term results. Some women use the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) or intra-uterine device (IUD) which increase progesterone to minimise symptoms however this can contribute to infertility and lower libido whilst suppressing the body’s natural ovulation and menstruation cycle. That being said, surgery often relieves pain associated with endometriosis and can improve chances of conception.

Endometriosis in Chinese Medicine

Chinese Medicine incorporates acupuncture, herbs, moxibustion and lifestyle/dietary advice. Acupuncture treatments are non invasive, soothing and only occasionally have very minor side effects.

In Chinese Medicine, pain indicates some form of stagnation in your body’s qi or blood. The primary diagnosis is Blood Stagnation and this is characterised by fixed, sharp and intense pain and often the presence of clotted blood. Other general signs of blood stagnation include scaly or dry skin and a purplish hue to areas of skin including the lips, tongue and nail beds.

The liver is considered to be the primary organ for regulating the flow of qi through all of the channels in the body and it is directly related to the uterus. The liver, spleen and kidney channels all pass through the lower abdominal region and play important roles in fertility and reproduction. These organs are particularly susceptible to disharmony due to emotional factors such as stress, depression, trauma and overthinking or worry. A Chinese Medicine practitioner also looks for signs of excess cold or heat in the body.

Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs

Acupuncture points and herbs are chosen according to the unique presentation of each patient we see. The treatment plan involves several factors. Treatments aim to stimulate the flow of liver qi to reduce pain, calm a stressed mind and improve energy levels. They also nourish the production of blood and improve circulation to the ovaries and uterus, and nourish the ‘jing’ or ‘essence’ – your ability to conceive. In Western Medicine terms this is similar to boosting your immunity and stimulating your nervous system and endocrine system to regulate hormonal activity. Patients may notice changes such as decreased pain, general improvement in circulation, clearer/brighter complexion, less spotting between periods and fresher menstrual blood.

Research

A 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis on the effectiveness of acupuncture to treat endometriosis pain included 10 studies with a total of 589 patients. The researchers assessed variation in pain level, variation in peripheral blood CA-125 level, and clinical effective rate. Acupuncture had a positive effect on peripheral blood CA-125 levels and clinical effective rate as compared with the control groups.

Again, the sample sizes of the included sizes were small and the nature of the control interventions were different in each study so the overall evidence remains unclear.

How many treatments are required?

Treatments usually occur weekly over 3 to 6 full menstrual cycles however this very much depends on how long the patient has had the condition for and the severity of the condition.

Lifestyle advice

Some practitioners recommend the use of pads or cups (Moon Cup or Diva Cup) instead of tampons to reduce the backflow of blood into the pelvic region and allow it to flow naturally through the vagina.

Stress is a known contributor to all types of pain. Experiment with stress reducing techniques to find a method which works for you and your lifestyle. This may involve yoga, tai chi, qi gong, meditation, massage, listening to music or other practices that calm the nervous system. Take active measures to address your emotional disturbances: Talk to a counsellor, friend or family member about how you feel. Perhaps clean up the clutter in your surrounding environment, have that important conversation you’ve been putting off for months, organise the little things in your life which annoy you on a daily basis.

Apply a heat pack to your lower back and abdomen during a painful cycle. The warmth will assist with blood flow and pain reduction.

 

If you have endometriosis and would like to treat it naturally, contact Fusion Acupuncture & Natural Therapies.

 

Effects of acupuncture for the treatment of endometriosis-related pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis

 

 
Categories: Brisbane Acupuncture Blog | Women's Health Brisbane

 
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