Manage your endometriosis symptoms with a combination of traditional Western medicine and alternative therapies for endometriosis. Learn how here.
·October 20th, 2021
Endometriosis is a common gynecological condition for women and people with a uterus in the United States.
The symptoms of endometriosis include severe pain and infertility.
Alternative therapies for endometriosis may offer relief for people living with endometriosis.
Some CAM therapies need additional research but are relatively safe to use when performed under the direction of a trained provider.
Acupuncture, homeopathy, Chinese herbal medicine, nutrition and dietitian support, pelvic floor therapy, behavioral therapy, and mind and body practices all show promise for helping women to manage endometriosis.
You should always speak with your healthcare provider before trying a new CAM therapy.
Endometriosis is a chronic condition that’s challenging to treat. Symptom relief often requires a combination of Western medicine and alternative therapies for endometriosis. In this article, we’ll discuss seven complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies that can improve endometriosis symptoms.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic condition where tissue similar to the uterine lining grows outside the uterus. This condition can cause severe pain in women and other people with a uterus. It is one of the most common gynecological conditions, affecting 11 percent of women in the United States.
The current standard Western treatment options for endometriosis include intensive therapies, such as hormone therapy, prescription pain medications, and surgery. Some women may not respond well to these treatment methods, or they may need additional support for pain management.
For this reason, you might wish to explore complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies, also known as integrative therapies, to enhance your care plan for endometriosis.
Why should I consider alternative therapies for endometriosis?
CAM therapies have recently become more popular for treating endometriosis in the United States. In fact, a recent study showed that 71 percent of women interviewed had used one or more CAM methods for treating endometriosis. They also found that most of the women interviewed were interested in using CAM but had limited knowledge of effective CAM therapies for their chronic condition.
Fortunately, the research base looking at the relationship between CAM and endometriosis is growing. Some therapies have been studied and have shown promise at relieving side effects of treatment, reducing dysmenorrhea, enhancing uterine circulatory flow, and suppressing pain in women living with endometriosis.
Additional research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of specific CAM therapies for endometriosis, but the evidence is mounting in their favor.
1. Acupuncture for endometriosis
Acupuncture has become a popular method of aiding in relaxation and pain management across the United States. This technique involves a trained provider using needles to stimulate specific points on the body. It has been deemed generally safe when performed by a well-trained provider using sterile needles.
Research has consistently shown acupuncture to be a promising treatment option for those suffering from chronic pain. It has been extensively studied for low-back pain, headaches, and osteoarthritis. Muscle tension and stress are two contributing factors in chronic pain, including endometriosis. This makes acupuncture for endometriosis pain a promising option.
2. Homeopathy for endometriosis
Homeopathy, also known as homeopathic medicine, uses individualized treatment plans to treat health conditions. These individualized plans typically center on the use of homeopathic products, which are traditionally made from plants, minerals, or animal products.
There’s currently little evidence to support the use of homeopathic products to treat any specific health condition. However, a clinical trial comparing the use of homeopathic treatment to a placebo showed that the treatment provided significant relief of endometriosis-associated pelvic pain.
Still, because of the limited evidence available on the effectiveness of homeopathy therapy, we strongly suggest you try it while under the supervision of your doctor.
3. Chinese herbal medicine for endometriosis
Chinese herbal medicine may include or be used alongside various Chinese herbs, naturopathy, dietary modification, homeopathy, and ayurvedic medicine.
Chinese herbal medicine providers use a combination of herbs to prevent and treat specific health conditions, including endometriosis. There’s limited research on the use of Chinese herbal medicine for endometriosis, though Chinese studies have shown promising results for symptom relief.
Anecdotal evidence tends to provide support for Chinese herbal medicine, but it may take a significant period of time for you to notice symptom improvement.
A word of caution: Some Chinese herbal products have been found to be contaminated with undeclared plant and animal products, prescription medication, heavy metals, and pesticides.
It’s important that you work with a reputable herbalist for endometriosis, who can guide you in choosing herbal products before adding them to your care plan. They will also advise you of any potentially dangerous herb-drug interactions you should be aware of.
4. Nutrition and dietitian support for endometriosis
Having a balanced diet and targeted nutritional support can aid in managing several chronic health conditions. The limited research that exists on the relationship between diet and endometriosis tends to support women adopting well-balanced diets that are low in trans fats and red meat but rich in vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids.
These results are not consistent across studies, but they’re promising for future research and care planning.
Though additional research is needed, a healthy diet may help to prevent endometriosis from becoming more severe by reducing inflammation and promoting estrogen balance. Working with a dietitian or nutritionist for “dietary re-education” may be helpful, as they can guide you in figuring out foods to avoid that might improve painful inflammation.
5. Pelvic floor therapy for endometriosis
Pelvic floor therapy is a form of physical therapy that addresses problems with the pelvic floor muscles. Because endometriosis pain can be made worse if you have any other conditions that affect these muscles, pelvic floor therapy is a viable option for reducing or managing the chronic pelvic pain of endometriosis.
Pelvic floor therapy is performed by a trained provider, who will create a plan for your specific health goals. The provider may also use their hands to perform both internal and external adjustments of the pelvic floor muscles.
A recent study found that targeted pelvic floor physiotherapy improved pelvic floor relaxation and chronic pelvic pain management for women suffering from dyspareunia, or pain during sex, a common symptom of endometriosis.
6. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for endometriosis
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people create healthier thought patterns, which can help in managing pain and disability. There’s widespread agreement that chronic stress can make people more sensitive to pain, which makes other forms of behavioral therapy and stress management helpful in managing chronic pain.
One recent study looked at women’s perspectives on CBT for endometriosis management. This research team interviewed women with endometriosis who had undergone surgery for their condition in the previous year. They found that all of the women in the study believed CBT should be added to the standard treatment plan for women with endometriosis.
The women interviewed voiced that they believed an individualized treatment plan with in-person or group therapy would be the most beneficial for other women undergoing endometriosis surgery.
7. Mind and body practices for endometriosis
Some women find success for improving relaxation and managing physical symptoms of endometriosis through practicing mind-body techniques, like yoga. These techniques focus on building the connection between your mind and body. They may achieve this through specific focus on breathing, movement, or bodily awareness.
Research has shown mind-body practices to be helpful at alleviating and managing symptoms for a variety of health conditions, such as chronic pain.
A 2019 systematic review showed that a combination of psychological intervention and mind-body practices may help women living with endometriosis to relieve stress, reduce anxiety and depression, and manage fatigue. These techniques have been deemed safe when performed by a trained provider.
Popular examples of mind-body practices include:
Your healthcare provider can help you to incorporate the right CAM therapies into your existing care plan for endometriosis, and we can help you find a reputable CAM therapist.
Let Sound Cycle be your ally in finding therapies that work for your endometriosis symptoms. Follow our blog for trustworthy information about endometriosis, and visit our provider directory to find a practitioner near you.