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Managing Endometriosis Symptoms

Endometriosis is a bear. It doesn't always "follow the rules" and can be different from one affected person to another. The treatments that are helpful for one person may not do a thing for another.

Endometriosis is a condition when tissue from the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) grows in areas outside the uterus. This commonly causes pelvic and abdominal pain, heavy and painful periods, bladder and bowel dysfunction, and infertility. It is often a life-long condition, although the symptoms usually improve after menopause. 

There are several options for treating endometriosis, including medication options and surgery. However, none of these options is a perfect solution for every patient with the condition. There are a number of non-medication and non-surgical treatment modalities that can help.

1. Mindfulness

Mindfulness practices are well-known to be helpful in treating many chronic-pain conditions. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, including meditation practices. The practice of mindfulness just means to be aware of your thoughts and feelings in the moment, to be actively involved in your senses. Studies show that mindfulness practices can help patients to separate the experience of pain from the thoughts and judgments we place on it, which can actually make our experience of pain worse. 

2. Stress reduction

Emotional stress can also contribute to pain, so actively working to reduce stress in your day-to-day life can improve the way that pain is experienced. This may mean making changes in your job, relationships, and friend groups, or seeking out help with tasks that increase your daily stress. 

3. Physical Therapy and/or Massage

When you throw out your back or have a sprained knee, physical therapy (PT) is usually quickly prescribed as a mainstay of treatment. PT can work wonders for pelvic pain conditions as well! There is a collection of muscles that support and protect your pelvic organs which can be overly contracted and inflammed in diseases like endometriosis. Pelvic floor physical therapy is a specialized type of PT that empolys a variety of techniques used to treat pelvic pain and pelvic floor dysfunction. 

Therapeutic massage can help reduce trigger points and other abnormalities in the muscles of the back and abdominal wall, which can all contribute to pelvic pain. Massage can be a great addition to an endometriosis treatment regimen.

4. Accupuncture

This ancient and holistic treatment can help reduce severe cramping, pain and other symptoms in endometriosis sufferers. Acupuncture improves blood flow within treated areas, typically the lower abdomen and pelvic area in endometriosis patients. Needle placement varies based on the patient’s needs, but the increase in blood flow that acupuncture causes is thought to reduce inflammation and pain.

5. Be active!

At least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, at least five days per week is recommended for a healthy lifestyle. The type of exercise that is most helpful for endometriosis is different from person to person, but lower impact exercises such as yoga, swimming or stationary cycling can sometimes be a more comfortable place to start.

6. Diet considerations

Eating "clean", especially avoiding highly-processed foods, sugars and flour, can reduce systemic inflammation and pain. There are a variety of recommended diets out there for endometriosis sufferers; keeping a symptom and food diary can be helpful to sort out if one particular type of food is related to a flare in symptoms. Avoiding constipation is also key to reducing endometriosis pain (think plenty of water and high-fiber foods!). 

 

Author
R Ellen Eye, M.D., F.A.C.O.G. R Ellen Eye, MD, FACOG Rita Ellen Eye, MD is a board-certified OB/GYN physician who joined Premier OB-Gyn in 2014. Dr. Eye is originally from Potosi, Missouri, a small town near St. Louis (and she remains a loyal fan of the St. Louis Cardinals!). She graduated from her high school as Valedictorian. She attended Missouri University of Science and Technology, earning her Biological Sciences degree while graduating with Magna Cum Laude honors. She received her doctoral degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2006. Dr. Eye went on to complete her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology and was honored by being elected Chief Resident at the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa. She began her successful private practice in Texas where she lived and worked for four years before moving to Florida. She is married to husband Chet and a proud mom to a sweet daughter named Faith. Dr. Eye is board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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