Endometriosis, a chronic inflammatory illness affecting 10% of women of reproductive age, is caused by endocrine and immunological disruptions. The clinical care of endometriosis in women is complicated and relies on the patient’s age and symptoms. For a long time, minimally invasive surgery was considered the gold standard for treating endometriosis; however, recurrence of pain symptoms is characterized as high at 2 years post-operatively (21.5%) and significantly greater at 5 years (40-50%). With conventional treatments often falling short, many individuals have turned to alternative therapies such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary changes, and mind-body techniques. In this article, we delve into the latest research on these alternative treatments, examining their potential benefits and limitations, and exploring how they may provide relief and improve the quality of life for those affected by this debilitating condition.
Acupuncture Treatments for Endometriosis
Acupuncture has shown potential in reducing endometriosis pain. By inserting fine needles at specific points in the body, it aims to stimulate the body’s natural healing process and balance the flow of energy. Although more research is needed, acupuncture may provide relief for women who haven’t found success with conventional treatments. A recent study published in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine, aimed to determine if acupuncture serves as an effective supplementary pain treatment for endometriosis.
In the study, 101 women with endometriosis aged 20-40 years were randomly assigned into two groups, each receiving two sets of 10 acupuncture treatments twice a week for five weeks. Group 1 received verum-acupuncture during the first series, while group 2 received non-specific acupuncture. After the initial 10 treatments, an observation period of at least two menstruation cycles was set, followed by a second unit in a cross-over design.
The results showed that group 1 experienced a significant reduction in endometriosis related pain intensity after the first 10 treatments, while group 2 only observed significant pain relief after the cross-over. This suggests that acupuncture, specifically targeting certain acupuncture points, may be a promising and effective pain treatment option for endometriosis.
Herbal treatments for Endometriosis
Chinese herbal medicine, specifically Bushen Huoxue prescription (BSHXP), has shown promise in the treatment of endometriosis, a condition that affects many women worldwide. According to a meta-analysis of 13 studies, BSHXP demonstrated higher total effectiveness rates than Western medicine, though there was no significant difference in dysmenorrhea alleviation rates between the two treatments.
Significantly, BSHXP was found to have higher pregnancy rates than hormone therapy. The research provides evidence that BSHXP is a safe and effective alternative for endometriosis treatment, though the low methodological quality of the included randomized controlled trials suggests the need for further clinical research to confirm these findings.
Another review published in the Cochrane Library, focused on the effectiveness and safety of Chinese herbal medicine in alleviating endometriosis-related pain and infertility found that CHM may offer comparable benefits to gestrinone when administered post-surgically. Oral CHM, combined with a herbal enema, resulted in a greater proportion of women obtaining symptomatic relief and a greater reduction in average dysmenorrhea pain scores compared to danazol.
While there was no significant difference in lumbosacral pain, rectal discomfort, or vaginal nodule tenderness between CHM and danazol, it is important to note that CHM had fewer side effects than either gestrinone or danazol. This research highlights the potential of Chinese herbal medicine as an alternative treatment for endometriosis, though further rigorous research is necessary to accurately assess its role in treating the condition.
Diet and Nutrition Treatment for Endometriosis
A healthy diet plays a crucial role in managing endometriosis symptoms. Anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. Additionally, avoiding foods that may trigger inflammation, such as processed foods, red meat, and excess sugar, can also help manage endometriosis symptoms.
A study in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology found a strong connection between nutrient intake and gastrointestinal disorders in women with endometriosis. The study participants completed a validated food frequency questionnaire of their nutrient intake over the past 12 months and a disease-related questionnaire to determine disease status, clinical symptoms and comorbidities.
Women with endometriosis suffered significantly more from diet-related comorbidities than the control group, such as food intolerances and allergies. Additionally, the nutrient intake of patients with endometriosis varied significantly from controls, with a lower intake of organic acids, maltose, glycogen, tetradecenoic acid, methionine, lysine, threonine and histidine. The endometriosis group had a decreased intake of vitamin C, B12, and magnesium, and failed to attain the recommended daily intake of 300 g folate.
77% of the women in the endometriosis group complained of constipation and flatulence, and hysterectomy and ovariectomy impaired indigestion. Additionally, celiac disease and gluten sensitivity were significantly higher. Endometriosis patients have a different nutritional behavior than women without endometriosis, which may explain the positive effect of a gluten-free diet. Organic acids, such as citric or sulfuric acid, may benefit endometriosis due to their anti-oxidative and antimicrobial properties. Dietary supplementation of vitamin C or magnesium may also be part of nutritional therapy.
Mind-Body Techniques for Endometriosis
Stress can exacerbate endometriosis symptoms, so incorporating mind-body techniques like meditation, yoga, or tai chi can help manage stress and improve overall well-being. These practices encourage relaxation, deep breathing, and mindfulness, which can help reduce pain and improve emotional well-being for women with endometriosis.
A randomized controlled trial conducted at the University of Campinas Medical School in Brazil investigated the impact of an 8-week yoga intervention on women with endometriosis. The study compared chronic pelvic pain, menstrual patterns, and quality of life (QoL) in 40 women, 28 of whom participated in the yoga intervention while the remaining 12 did not. The participants attended 90-minute yoga sessions twice a week for eight weeks.
The results revealed that the women who practiced yoga experienced a significant reduction in daily pain levels compared to the control group. Furthermore, both groups showed improvements in QoL, with significant differences observed in pain, impotence, well-being, image, work, and treatment domains over time. However, no significant difference was found between the two groups regarding menstrual patterns. In conclusion, the practice of yoga was associated with a decrease in chronic pelvic pain and an enhancement in QoL for women suffering from endometriosis.
Massage Therapy Treatment for Endometriosis
Massage therapy can help alleviate endometriosis pain by promoting relaxation, increasing blood flow, and reducing muscle tension. Some specialized massage techniques, like myofascial release, may also help break up adhesions and scar tissue associated with endometriosis.
A semi-empirical clinical trial published in the Iran Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Studies using a cross-sectional method explored the potential benefits of massage therapy for women with endometriosis. The study enrolled 30 women aged between 15 and 49 years suffering from dysmenorrhea, with endometriosis as the sole diagnosed reason for their pain. The intervention consisted of 20 twenty-minute sessions of massage on specific points of the abdomen, sides, and back (sacrum). The severity of pain was measured using the visual analog scale (VAS), and personal/fertility information was collected using McGill questionnaires.
The study found a significant reduction in the severity of pain immediately after the intervention, with the effects of the massage increasing six weeks after the intervention. The level of pain relief went from 34.8% immediately after the intervention to 65.2% six weeks later, and none of the patients experienced severe pain following the intervention. This suggests that the body needs time to adjust to the new conditions brought about by the massage therapy.
Mindfulness Based Psychological treatments for Endometriosis
Mindfulness has been found to improve physical functions and overall well-being in patients suffering from chronic pain due to endometriosis. A pilot study in Nordic Psychology explored the potential benefits of using mindfulness for these patients. The study included three types of activities: mindfulness training, group discussions and education, and one-on-one sessions. During mindfulness training, participants learned body scanning and breathing techniques. They also used biofeedback to help break the cycle of chronic pain. To help them relax and ease feelings of helplessness, participants listened to music and received biofeedback. Group sessions involved education and group counseling, while individual sessions focused on pain relief.
The study measured pain levels, sleep quality, symptoms, overall health, physical limitations, social life, emotions, work abilities, and sexual health. Participants’ scores were compared to national averages. Before the intervention, participants scored lower on all measures, especially pain, physical roles, and emotional roles.
EHP-30, a different test focused on issues related to endometriosis, might be more effective than the SF-36 used in this study. Four areas showed lasting improvement, but not all participants responded to the follow-up questions. The EHP-30 study revealed that mindfulness had a significant impact on physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Results showed that pain, control, and powerlessness all improved, as did emotional well-being.
Other aspects like work life, children, sexual health, medical care, treatment, and infertility also showed reduced distress and significant improvement in follow-up data. The study found that a 15-hour mindfulness program had positive effects on pain levels and related issues. More research, such as a randomized controlled study, is needed to confirm these findings. Mindfulness techniques can help people with chronic pain separate the pain from their emotions and teach them to relax, making it easier to handle pain and social tasks without fear of failure.
While these alternative treatments may not cure endometriosis, they can play a crucial role in managing symptoms and improving the quality of life for those affected by the condition. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new treatment to ensure it’s safe and appropriate for your specific needs. By exploring various alternative therapies, women with endometriosis can find the most effective options for managing their pain and achieving a better quality of life.
If you are looking for a Denver acupuncture clinic for help with endometriosis, or need help with your digestive problems, headaches, pain, psychological conditions, or women’s health issues, contact us today at (720)285-6251 or book an appointment online.