Endometriosis is a common and often painful condition where tissue that is similar to the lining of the uterus grows on other parts of the body. Typically affecting women of reproductive age, endometriosis is diagnosed when endometrial-like tissue is found growing on body parts like the ovaries, fallopian tubes, abdomen, bladder, or rectum.
What Happens If You Have Endometriosis?
The inner lining of the uterus is known as the endometrium and it is this tissue that women shed during monthly menstruation. When endometrial-like tissue grows outside of the uterus, however, it is just as hormonally sensitive during the menstrual cycle as the uterine lining. In other words, it becomes tender, breaks down, and bleeds but it is not released from the body as the endometrial lining is.
Because it is not released during menstruation, this tissue can develop into endometriosis cysts on the ovaries, intestines, and even as high as the lungs and diaphragm. Nearby tissue can also become irritated and form scar tissue.
In severe cases, adhesions, which are bands of fibrous tissue, can cause pelvic organs to join together. Each of these can cause discomfort and pain in the pelvic area and make it difficult for women to fall pregnant.
What Causes Endometriosis?
The cause of endometriosis remains unknown but based on statistics, researchers believe that it is linked to several possibilities. Some evidence suggests that endometriosis could be genetic, beginning during fetal development in the womb and occurring in response to the production of female hormones during puberty.
Another theory suggests that female hormones combined with immune factors in some women’s bodies could change cells outside of the uterus into endometrial-like cells. The theory also exists that endometrial cells could be accidently relocated to other parts of the body during surgical procedures.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
The main symptom of endometriosis is pain in the abdomen, lower back, and pelvic area. Many women experience this pain throughout the month, not just during menstruation. For some the pain is mild and for others, it is excruciating. Additional symptoms can include:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Light bleeding (spotting) between periods
- Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
- Pain during sex
- Painful bowel movements
- Difficulties becoming pregnant
That said, although many women experience symptoms, some women can have endometriosis without any symptoms or pain.
Medical Treatment for Endometriosis
Medical treatment for endometriosis includes over-the-counter pain medication to treat pelvic pain, hormone therapy to balance monthly hormone fluctuations, or bcp to prevent both menstruation and the growth of endometrial tissue.
In cases of severe pain, Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is prescribed to prevent the production of estrogen and ovulation. Surgical excision of endometriosis remains the most effective way to eliminate endometriosis.
For younger women hoping to conceive but remain unresponsive to hormone-balancing treatment, a laparoscopy is often performed to remove endometrial-like tissue on organs outside of the uterus. Pelvic physical therapy is also beneficial to treat pelvic pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, and pain experienced during sex.
If severe pain and additional endometriosis symptoms return after a laparoscopy, a hysterectomy is sometimes recommended to remove the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes, thereby ceasing the production of estrogen.
Treating Endometriosis at Home
Along with the guidance of a pelvic health physical therapist, women with endometriosis who are hoping to become pregnant can benefit from specific at-home treatments to reduce pelvic pain and improve pelvic floor dysfunction without altering their hormones.
Home remedies that are known to relieve the pelvic pain associated with endometriosis include gentle stretching of the pelvic muscles, deep breathing, dilator therapy, and pelvic wands.
Stretching & Breathing
Coupled with deep and relaxing breathing, yoga poses like Child’s Pose and Deep Squats can relieve pain and tightness in the pelvic floor, lower back, and abdomen. Many women experiencing endometriosis, and indeed pain from other conditions, tend to breathe only as deep as their chest.
Learning to breathe deep into the belly while performing gentle stretches can help relieve tension in the pelvic muscles, reduce pain, and improve blood circulation.
Dilators are medical devices designed to reduce tension in the vaginal muscles, treat pelvic dysfunction, and relieve pain during penetration or sex. Many endometriosis patients find relief from using a set of dilators that gradually increase in size and relax the vaginal and pelvic muscles over time. According to pelvic health experts, dilators made from medical-grade silicone are body-safe and gentle enough to be used on tender vaginal tissues.
Pelvic wands from Intimate Rose, which are also made from body-safe medical silicone, are recommended to massage and relax muscles deep within the pelvic floor and relieve the pain associated with endometriosis.
Soaking in a warm bath, or using a hot water bottle on the abdomen or under the lower back can also help to relax tight pelvic muscles and alleviate pain.
What Parts of the Body Does Endometriosis Affect?
In addition to growing on the ovaries and fallopian tubes, endometrial-like tissue has also been found to grow on the bladder, diaphragm, intestines, peritoneum, rectum, and ureters.
What Age Does Endometriosis Occur?
Endometriosis is most commonly diagnosed in women aged between 25 and 40, but it is also known to impact girls in their teens. It often subsides after menopause when estrogen levels drop, however, some menopausal women are known to suffer from the pelvic pain associated with endometriosis into their elderly years.
Endometriosis is a common condition that can cause long-term chronic pain, pelvic dysfunction, heavy bleeding during menstruation, and infertility. That said, it can be managed with treatment options including dilator therapy, pelvic wand massage, medication, or surgery.
Should you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, or a female member of your family has a history of endometriosis, schedule an appointment with your doctor to assess your symptoms and possible treatment options.
American College of Gynaecologists & Obstetricians - https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/endometriosis
Cleveland Clinic – The Uterus - https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/22467-uterus
Office on Women’s Health – Endometriosis - https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/endometriosis
Intimate Rose - How to Progress From One Dilator to the Next - https://www.intimaterose.com/blogs/videos/how-to-progress-change-dilator-size
Intimate Rose - How to Treat Deep Pelvic Floor Pain Using Wand Therapy - https://www.intimaterose.com/blogs/pelvic-pain/how-to-treat-deep-pelvic-floor-pain