Endometriosis can be a debilitating condition, most often causing pain before or during the menstrual period. It can affect around 10 to 15 percent of women of childbearing age who are still menstruating and can be a common cause of infertility. What does Chinese medicine have to say about treating endometriosis?
Firstly, what is Endometriosis? It is a disorder of the uterus where the lining of the uterus, the endometrium, grows in other places such as the bladder, vagina, ovaries, bowels, rectum and even as far as the lungs or to surgical scars elsewhere in the body. It is still a mystery how this migration of endometrial tissue occurs.
Some research suggests that blood beta endorphin levels may have a contribution to endometriosis and in fact they may be significantly lower in concentrations in moderate and severe period pain compared to mild and control groups. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8098971
According to Chinese medicine theory, pain before menstruation is ascribed to a blockage of Qi ‘Chee’ (function/energy) and often manifests as breast and abdominal distension. Pain during the menstrual period pertain to Blockage of Blood which can produce more severe breast and abdominal pain. Pain after the period is usually due to insufficiency of energy and blood. In endometriosis, it is common for the pain to occur before or during the menstrual period. So considering the above, it suggests that blockage of energy or blood is a primary cause of endometriosis according to Chinese Medicine. In the clinical setting, it is common to have a combination of all of the above in different ratio’s in which a good practitioner will be able to diagnose and thus set the grounds for an effective treatment program as opposed to a one size fits all approach.
Can it be diagnosed easily ? Early detection of endometriosis can be difficult because visual abnormalities screened via pelvic examination may not be obvious. Often laparoscopy is used to make a definitive diagnosis which can discover endometrial tissue outside the uterus.
Conventional treatment often involves use of hormonal medication, surgical intervention such as laparoscopy and in severe cases, a total hysterectomy maybe offered. It has been reported, that even after hysterectomy, endometriosis may still occur. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4286861/
What about natural treatment? Based on Chinese medicine theory, moving energy and blood is the preferred treatment to deal with the pain caused by endometriosis as blockage of energy and blood is the main cause. Devising a treatment strategy that is right for you involves a Chinese medicine practitioner taking a thorough case history and making a diagnosis according to the parameters of Chinese medicine discussed. Is there more energy or blood stagnation. Is there ‘cold’ in the uterus. Is the energy and/or blood deficient and to what extent. Determining these answers will provide for better results.
How long will I need treatment with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs? Allow for at least a few months of regular treatment with Chinese herbs and acupuncture combined to produce some stability in symptoms and expect some monthly follows up from there to maintain and improve on the results gained. Endometriosis can be a stubborn problem and so consistency and compliance are key to effective treatment with Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
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Reference: Chinese Herbal Formulas for Women’s Wellness by Joseph Lin and Hsu Hong – Yen