I will premise this next statement with the fact that I have a three year old daughter who loves the Wiggles, and Emma Wiggle in particular. So when I found out that Emma Wiggle had to take time off due to Endometriosis pain, I felt so frustrated and wanted to yell, “I’m here, I’m here.” Why you ask, because there is so much that can be done!
So what is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is the presence of endometrial tissue that grows outside the uterus, commonly involving the lining of the pelvis, ovaries, fallopian tubes and in some cases, the bowel. This tissue can thicken and bleed, often causing pain and bleeding outside of the menstrual cycle. The period itself can leave many in debilitating pain, with heavy and prolonged bleeding. Aside from impacting daily life, the presence of endometriosis can have a big impact on fertility, depending on where it’s located, as well as bowel problems.
Signs and symptoms of Endometriosis
In addition to pain, bleeding and infertility, some of the other signs and symptoms include:
constipation or diarrhoeapain during defecationabdominal pain and/or bloatingspotting before periodspain during intercoursepain that goes down into the thighs when menstruating*
*This last one is always a red flag for us in clinic.
Western medicine and Endometriosis
In western medicine, treatment to manage Endometriosis often involves a laproscopy to clear any adhesions of endometrial tissue found outside the uterus. While this is often effective, patients often have to keep going back to have the surgery as the problem is reoccurring. The contraceptive pill or in many cases, progestin therapy in the form of IUD’s or contraceptive implants are used to reduce or completely inhibit the menstrual cycle in order to reduce the build-up of endometrial tissue. These forms of management can cause breakthrough bleeding while the body adapts to the hormone imbalance caused by the IUI, thus leading to a build-up of endometrial tissue, which it’s meant to prevent in the first place. In addition, disrupting the body’s own hormone function can cause issues with fertility down the track and lead to other side effects.
I have noticed in some of my own patients following this protocol, the duel problem of managing pain with extended blood loss. Because their body, in many cases is being inhibited from having a natural cycle, there is no opportunity to really flush the system out of excess blood and tissue. This can often lead to extended bleeding. On the other hand, by giving medication to stop the bleeding, the pain comes back, because of the backlog of blood, tissue and subsequent inflammation. It can be quite a conundrum, and one we see time and time again at Mornington Chinese Medicine.
Chinese medicine and Endometriosis
So how do we view Endometriosis in Chinese medicine? Typically, like Western medicine, it’s seen as a pattern of “blood stagnation.” Emphasis for Endometriosis in Chinese medicine is on regulating menstrual blood flow, reducing endometrial tissue build up, regulate hormonal function, so it’s working optimally, and reduce any inflammation present. To do this, I offer the combination of Acupuncture as well as traditional herbal medicine for my patients.
Research on Endometriosis and Chinese medicine
For those who like to know the research, what does it have to say on Chinese medicine and endometriosis?
A review by Flower A, Liu JP, Lewith G, Little P and Li Q concluded that “Oral CHM may have a better overall treatment effect than danazol; it may be more effective in relieving dysmenorrhoea and shrinking adnexal masses when used in conjunction with a CHM enema. ”(2)
Another randomized clinical trial in Brazil aimed to “observe the effects of an acupuncture protocol on chronic pelvic pain, dyspareunia, and quality of life in women with endometriosis.” The study concluded “that acupuncture confers beneficial and long-lasting effects” (3)
So to Emma Wiggle, while, like a dentist on tv who can’t show his face, I can’t tell you I can help. I can, however, say there is help out there, and more options then you may realise. So for anyone who knows someone out there who is struggling with this, pass this on (especially if anyone knows Emma Wiggle, my three year old would think I’m the coolest).