What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is an often painful condition where endometrial cells (which should only reside in your endometrium) start to grow outside your uterus in other parts of your body.  Other parts of the body include your bladder, large intestine, fallopian tubes, tissue lining your pelvis and ovaries.  It affects 1 in 10 women.

Endometrial cell activity can be cyclic in time with your regular menstrual cycle.  So symptoms may flare at these times as the tissue thickens then breaks down again.

Endometriosis pain is the major symptom of endometriosis. There are many different types of pain you may experience depending on where the endometrial growths and scaring are in your body.

Pain tends to come with your cycle.  The endometrial cells are supposed to grow and then shed as part of your cycle.  This happens naturally as it should in your uterus.  But when endometrial cells start to grow elsewhere, they also grow and shed causing pain.

Endometriosis pain is often described as ‘much worse than cramps’.  And non-prescription pain killers usually don’t touch it.

What Causes Endometriosis?

From a Western medicine point of view, it is not really known what causes endometriosis. But there are some known associations or factors including:

  • Family history – if you have relatives with the condition you are 7 to 10 times more likely to develop it.  So, there seems to be a real family link.
  • Retrograde menstruation – during your period, the blood flows downward out through your vagina.  In retrograde menstruation the blood also flows the other way along your fallopian tubes and into your pelvis. This blood contains endometrial cells is usually reabsorbed by your body.  But in cases where it is not, it can settle and start to grow to cause problems.
  • Other factors may include being underweight, menarche at an early age, alcohol, having your first baby at an older age and delayed menopause.

Other theories involve cellular transformation into endometrial cells via embryonic and peritoneal cell transformation and accidental surgical implantation during another procedure.

What Symptoms Does Endometriosis Cause?

Symptoms can be extremely painful and debilitating to the point where it is nearly impossible to get on with your day, let alone get out of bed.

As the endometrial cells that are growing where they shouldn’t, they tend to form lesions.  These lesions may leak fluid or bleed in response to the hormone changes of your natural menstrual cycle. This can lead to scarring, adhesions and inflammation.  And sometimes thick, fibrous tissue can form to make organs stick together. These issues can cause a range of symptoms.

Then primary symptom is pain.

  • Dysmenorrhoea (painful periods) – significant pelvic and abdominal pain and for many, back pain.
  • Bowel movement and urination pain – pain when you go to the toilet, particularly around your period.
  • Heavy bleeding – you may experience excessive bleeding during or even between your periods.
  • Painful intercourse – you may find it painful during sex.
  • Infertility – endo is a common condition in cases of infertility. As the adhesions formed can block the passage of your egg down your fallopian tube.
  • Other symptoms and signs – bloating, nausea, tiredness and bowel movement issues (like diarrhoea, constipation and IBS) are typical.  This is especially the case during your period.

Interestingly, the severity of pain is not an indicator of the severity of your endometriosis.  You can have significant endo but little pain.

How Do You Know if You Have Endometriosis?

Due to the complexity of the condition it takes an average of 7 years to diagnose the condition. This is because any symptoms may be incorrectly diagnosed as many of them are strong symptoms of other diseases.  For example, diarrhoea and constipation may be misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. Also, in many cases it is not diagnosed until someone has fertility issues or it’s discovered during an another procedure.

Apart from the symptoms listed earlier, your doctor may also conduct tests that may provide more clues.  These tests include:

  • Pelvic exam – where your doctor feels for adhesions and irregularities.
  • Ultrasound or MRI – to identify cysts (or endometriomas).

Laparoscopy – keyhole surgery using a small camera to find evidence of endometrial tissue around the uterus.

How Do You Know if You Have Endometriosis?

The effect of endometriosis on fertility is best described as ‘random’.  Some women with mild endo cannot easily conceive whereas other women with more advanced endo may not have any trouble conceiving.

So the effect that endo has on fertility seems to be the luck of the draw.  

That said, if you are experiencing fertility problems and you have endo, it is more likely that endo is contributing to your problem.

Western Medicine Treatment

Because Western medicine cannot always determine the root cause of endometriosis, treatment mainly involves medication or surgery.

  • Medication – pain killers such as ibuprofen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are used to try to reduce cramping and pain. But the long-term use of these medications is not recommended.
  • Hormone therapy – contraceptive pill and creating what is effectively ‘artificial menopause’ by using Gn-RH agonists and antagonists to reduce the production of oestrogen.  Oestrogen is the hormone that usually triggers endometriosis symptoms.  Progestin therapy to stop menstruation and aromatase inhibitors are also used. But the long-term side effects of synthetic hormone therapy is not always known.
  • Surgery – to remove endometrial adhesions and cysts.  However, surgery results are mixed and the condition can return (Endometriosis Australia reports up to a 35% recurrence rate).  Or even radical surgery (hysterectomy) to remove your uterus or (oophorectomy) your ovaries.  But this option is becoming outdated as doctors would prefer to try to locate the specific areas of endometrial growth to remove them.  In either case there is a possibility of further damage to pelvic area organs as a result of the procedure. Also, the long-term health problems of removing these organs is becoming more clear.  Our view is to avoid surgery whenever you can.
  • Wait it out – the other option is to wait until after menopause when estrogen production is down. But that’s an awfully long time away for many people who suffer from the condition.  And as a result, waiting is not really a viable option for many people.

Chinese Medicine and Endometriosis Pain

One of the common symptoms of endometriosis is pain.  Acupuncture therapy is well known for its ability to relieve pain, including endometriosis pain. (Source:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5488328/)

In Chinese medicine the cause of endometriosis pain includes stagnation of the Qi, blood stasis, stagnation of cold and dampness, deficiency of the kidney yang in conjunction with other pathologies. 

Acupuncture as adjunct therapy may assist in conventional medical treatments to improve menstruation. These methods may help in improving blood flow during ovulation and building Kidney Yang.    (Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0965229914001915)

Your Liver

Firstly, your Liver is responsible for much of the flow of your cycle. We call the Liver ‘the General’ – it marshals ‘the troops’.  If your Liver function is not good it will affect the natural flow of your cycle.

How do you know if your Liver function is probably not good?  You may experience irritability or low mood, wake during the night, sharp period pain, menses blood clots, digestive issues. Also PMS symptoms including breast tenderness, irritability and bloating

Your Kidneys

Secondly, your Kidneys have a significant impact on your reproductive organ function, including your ovaries.  In Chinese medicine your Kidneys also include your adrenals, which produce many of your hormones.  If your Kidney function is not good your natural hormonal balance may be out.

How do you know if your Kidney function is probably not good? You may experience lower back pain, knee pain, feel overly hot or cold or have trouble regulating your temperature . You may also have teeth problems, be tired all the time or have low libido.

Hormonal balance is likely to play a large role in endometriosis.

But overall, endometriosis is an expression of a woman’s overall health.  It can be debilitating.  It can affect your relationships, sex life, your performance at work and your fertility. It can also affect your emotions and mental health.

Chinese Medicine Treatment

We provide acupuncture for endometriosis pain.

We improve your blood flow through using acupuncture

Acupuncture redirects blood flow to your pelvic area by signalling your central nervous system to do just that.  Acupuncture creates a massive endorphin release, which helps relax the blood vessels in the area to also improve blood flow. It also improves blood flow to your Liver and Kidneys to improve their function.

Clinic Location

Our clinic is located in suite 5, 8 Eddy Street, Moonee Ponds. We are only a 2 minute walk from Moonee Ponds train station and there is free parking across the street in the Coles car park.  We are just 10 minutes from Melbourne city and close to Essendon, Ascot Vale, Flemmington, Brunswick, Keilor, Coburg, Strathmore and Niddrie.

See us on Google Maps.