Are you one of the many women that has or will suffer from endometriosis in your lifetime? Or a partner or family member of one? It’s estimated that 1 out of 10 or as high as 1 in 5 women will suffer from endometriosis.
Endometriosis can have extremely severe, detrimental effects for women and in turn, these negative effects ripple out to partners, family, friends, work colleagues; the list goes on leaving significant negative consequences on many people’s lives.
Endometriosis is a gynecological disorder where the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) develops in other sites of the body. Stray cells of the endometrium escape into the pelvic cavity and attach to pelvic organs. Large patches of endometriosis may form into cysts and these bleed each month when a women has her period. As there is nowhere for the blood to go each month, it accumulates on the pelvic organs, scar tissue forms and eventually the pelvic organs stick together. For most women, it goes from bad to worse over time. Despite there being several theories the cause remains unknown. It may be genetic, immunological or hormonal; stress appears to be a significant factor.
Symptoms vary hugely between women from none at all to painful menstruation, lower abdominal pain and back pain. The pain experienced varies from dull aching, spasmodic or cramping with some women experiencing a feeling of deep pressure in the abdomen. Others suffer from bowel and digestive problems. Irregular and heavy periods to painful sexual intercourse are symptoms effecting three out of four women with endometriosis. 40% of all women with endometriosis have difficulty falling pregnant and one third of all sufferers are infertile. All of these symptoms add up to a devastating effect for women often leading to self esteem issues and adversely effecting a woman’s sexuality and relationships. Add to this the extensive cost to society for days off work, lost productivity and the mounting cost to the health system let alone the detrimental effect on the sufferers bank balance! The pain itself can cause harmful side effects and can affect concentration and mental clarity just as profoundly as any drugs.
Conventional medical treatment for endometriosis includes drug therapy. This can be successful however lesions sometimes reoccur when the sufferer stops taking the drugs. The drugs used have negative side effects with 85% of patients experiencing male like characteristics. This continues the cycle of increased stress for the sufferer along with feelings of hopelessness and depression. Some also experience weight gain, high blood pressure and joint problems. Painkillers are the norm for pain relief and with that comes their know side effects. The oral contraceptive pill is also used as treatment.
Surgery is an option to remove lesions with a hysterectomy the last resort – even this is not always the end to endometriosis. Pregnancy was thought to help however some women report no change or even a worsening of symptoms.
For many, drug therapy and surgery is not the desired treatment. So what are some safe, natural alternatives to these two options and do they work? One study reported in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery, The effects of Massage Therapy on Dysmenorrhea caused by Endometriosis states “According to the results of this study and confirmations of other ones, it seems that massage therapy can be a fitting method to reduce the menstrual pain caused by endometriosis”.
Further research I’ve undertaken supports this study. One Remedial Massage Therapist I interviewed identified six clients with the disorder. She stated all had reported significant stress in their lives and massage assisted with this aspect. She herself had been diagnosed with it and at the time was in a dysfunctional abusive relationship. The relationship ended, she has not suffered from it since supporting the correlation to Mind Body Spirit in relation to wellness. While two other massage therapists I interviewed have not experienced patients with the disease, massage and therapeutic touch is undoubtedly helpful in relieving pain, anxiety and stress.
A second aspect to investigate is Aromatherapy Massage. Massage with Aromatherapy works on an emotional, physical and spiritual level. It is gentle, encouraging physiological absorption of essential oils into the blood stream, encouraging our nervous system to relax.
Essential oils are potent substances being the plants “life force”. A trained Aroma therapist can incorporate essential oils into a massage blend using oils with analgesic and antispasmodic properties. Examples being nutmeg, clary sage and Roman chamomile which may be used in a massage blend over the abdomen and hips regions. There are many other amazing essential oils all with their own therapeutic properties which could be used. It’s important to choose oils which resonate with the receiver at a mind body spirit level, thereby enhancing their overall wellbeing. I have given clients a personalised blend to take home within my practice including instructions on self tummy and lower back massage. As a result, clients have reported a greater calmness and reduction in pain. This action appears to assist the client in regaining some personal power, at the same time connecting in with their own body in an area which is often closed down.
A third tool for the massage therapists toolkit is acupressure. The release of specific acupressure points relative to the pelvic and reproductive organs can be incorporated into a massage session. The stimulation of acupressure points helps reduce pain and discomfort by relaxing muscular tension, balancing the bodies energy system and increasing the body’s production of endorphins, our feel good hormones. Polarity therapy can also assist, promoting deep relaxation and revitalisation of the body’s energy system. Both of these therapies assist in treating “the whole person” not just the immediate area of pain.
Undoubtedly, touch therapies work in partnership with the body to promote well being. While deep abdominal, or pelvic massage may be very painful, provided normal massage protocols are adhered to regular massage can improve immunity to illness, promote relaxation and self healing plus enhance the effectiveness of other treatments. Massage is a safe, effective, non invasive, holistic treatment for endometriosis. I would certainly question the cost to benefit ratio of a regular massage as opposed to the treatment options frequently promoted.
Nutrition – both our primary foods (exercise, career, spirituality, relationships) and secondary food (the food on our plate) all play a vital role in the management of endometriosis.