Endometriosis and PCOS Pain: How to Treat It With TCM
Endometriosis and PCOS pain and symptoms often respond well to traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM. Discover TCM treatments that can relieve painful menses.
·December 8th, 2021
Endometriosis and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) both respond well to traditional Chinese medicine therapies.
Learn how to relieve PCOS pain and symptoms with TCM.
TCM practitioners have treated menstrual pain for thousands of years.
TCM experts partner with you to create an individualized treatment plan.
Sound Cycle can help you find traditional Chinese medicine practitioners who specialize in PCOS, endometriosis, or menstrual health.
Endometriosis and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) are conditions that can cause chronic pain and painful periods, and both respond well to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapies. TCM practitioners have been treating menstrual pain for about 2000 years. TCM therapies that can relieve the pain of PCOS and symptoms of endometriosis and are supported by scientific research include herbalism, acupuncture, moxibustion, acupressure, and nutrition and lifestyle changes.
How TCM practitioners view gynecological health
TCM practitioners believe that the following characteristics are essential for optimal gynecological health:
Presence of blood
Movement of blood
Healthy kidney qi (energy)
Regular movement of qi by the liver
Production of blood by the spleen
How PCOS and endometriosis affect gynecological health
TCM practitioners believe that pain and illness result when blood flow in the pelvis is disrupted or insufficient. Cramping develops when the circulation of blood is impaired, such as by endometrial tissue, and stagnation of the blood and vital energy develop.
Cramping increases the release of hormones called prostaglandins, which further increases pain levels.
According to TCM, emotions, overall energy levels, nutrition, the ability to absorb nutrients, and daily activities affect pain and other symptoms. A TCM expert will work with you to restore balance, relieve pain, and treat other symptoms of your condition ranging from heavy bleeding to excess hair growth.
The traditional Chinese medical exam
An exam by a TCM practitioner will be different from one you get from a Western healthcare provider. A TCM provider will ask you questions and conduct a traditional Chinese medical evaluation. If you keep a common symptom diary, bring it with you to your appointment.
In a traditional Chinese medicine examination, the practitioner is likely to look for signs of blood imbalance. They will:
Feel your pulse
Evaluate your overall energy patterns
Look at the color of your nail beds and conjunctivae of your eyes
Palpate your abdomen
Examine your tongue
Look at your hair
Assess your primary body type
Consider the qualities of your pain
The TCM expert will make a diagnosis and create a treatment plan that restores system balance based upon the comprehensive evaluation.
TCM therapies for PCOS and endometriosis pain
TCM experts focus on treating the causes of endometriosis and PCOS pain rather than the pain itself. The approach is holistic and focuses on your mind, body, and spirit. TCM practitioners recommend the following types of treatment to restore balance and function:
Herbalism for endometriosis and PCOS pain
Herbal medicine can be an effective treatment for both endometriosis and PCOS. Most TCM herbal practitioners create herbal blends rather than prescribing individual herbs. They often use herb combinations that have a long history of use to relieve menstrual pain and will combine them into either pills or a tea.
The herbalist chooses herbs based on the examination, your history, and the type of disturbance causing your symptoms.
The following chart shows some common herbal remedies and the imbalances that they are used to correct.
Herbs that improve blood production and nutrient absorption: ginger, cardamom, astragalus, codonopsis, cardamom
Researchers have completed studies on the use of herbalism for the treatment of endometriosis. A 2012 study concluded that herbal medicine may be equal to the Western medication gestrinone and superior to the commonly prescribed danazol for the treatment of endometriosis symptoms.
A 2019 study found that, while more study is needed, herbal medicine may have beneficial effects on PCOS symptoms.
Acupuncture for PCOS and endometriosis pain
Acupuncture is becoming increasingly more mainstream in Western medicine. The World Health Organization, WHO, now recognizes acupuncture as an effective treatment for pain. What’s more, many major hospitals offer acupuncture as part of their integrative medicine departments.
Increases pain threshold. Acupuncture may raise a person’s tolerance for pain. It increases the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that can dull pain sensations.It may also relieve headaches.
May lower estradiol levels. Estradiol is a form of estrogen that feeds the growth of uterine tissue within and outside of the uterus. Reduced estradiol levels mean less growth of abnormal pain-producing endometrial tissue growing outside of the uterus.
May improve immune function: Acupuncture may enhance communication between the body’s neurotransmitters and the immune system. Endorphins (the body’s natural pain-relieving substances), opioid receptors, and cytokines are all involved. Cytokines play a role in inflammation; acupuncture can help prevent inflammation and increase the body’s ability to relieve pain naturally.
May regulate the menstrual cycle by increasing ovulation. Acupuncture may normalize the menstrual cycle and aid in fertility by restoring ovulation.
Moxibustion is another traditional Chinese treatment used to treat menstrual pain. TCM experts often use it in combination with acupuncture. Moxibustion consists of burning leaves of dried artemisia herb (also called mugwort), which can stimulate acupuncture points. The practitioner places the herb a small distance away from your skin, where it remains for several minutes and warms the skin.
Moxibustion is said to improve qi and enhance the circulation of blood. Research suggests that moxibustion can regulate the menstrual period and improve ovulation among women diagnosed with PCOS. It is also thought to relieve pain and improve circulation in the pelvis when used by people with endometriosis.
Acupressure for PCOS and endometriosis pain
Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but acupressure uses touch rather than needles to stimulate specific points on the body. It’s simple and noninvasive and is easily done at home.
A 2018 study found that acupressure can be an effective treatment for menstrual pain. However, the study focused on women with primary dysmenorrhea, or menstrual pain with no clear cause.
Because menstrual pain in people with endometriosis and PCOS is considered secondary dysmenorrhea, it’s not clear from the study results if these results would also apply to people with these conditions.
If you are interested and would like to give it a try, we recommend talking to an acupressure practitioner about your symptoms and whether it might be helpful for you.
Your TCM practitioner can show you which acupressure points to use to relieve pain from PCOS and endometriosis.
A typical acupressure treatment might look like this (which you can do yourself at home):
Spleen 6 is a point on the inside of your legs, just above your ankles. Apply pressure over the point and then massage it for 4-5 seconds to relieve cramps and insomnia. Do not use this pressure point if there is any possibility you may be pregnant.
Large intestine 1 is between your thumb and index finger. Massage it deeply for one to one and a half minutes to relieve pelvic pain.
Liver 3 is about a half-inch in from the area between your great and second toes. Massage this spot for 60 to 90 seconds to help move qi.
TCM dietary approaches for PCOS and endometriosis pain
TCM practitioners may recommend the following nutritional habits and foods to prevent and relieve pain caused by PCOS or endometriosis.
Eat warm foods, such as soups made with rich bone broths.
Use warming spices, including cinnamon, ginger, and pepper.
Enjoy a wide array of whole grains.
Avoid cold foods and beverages.
Limit raw foods.
Avoid fatty foods.
Limit dairy products.
Don’t drink alcoholic beverages.
TCM lifestyle recommendations for endometriosis and PCOS
TCM practitioners believe that lifestyle can cause pain and other symptoms. Here are lifestyle changes a TCM practitioner might recommend:
Pay attention to your emotional health so that your qi and the circulation of your blood are optimized.
Avoid fatigue, especially before and during your period.
Avoid sexual activity during menses, as it increases stagnation of blood and energy flow.
Adapt to a slower life pace.
Meditate or relax for at least 20 minutes per day.
Engage in vigorous exercise for at least thirty minutes per day to enhance circulation, aid digestion, improve moods, and improve sleep.
TCM offers many solutions for treating pain
TCM approaches such as herbalism, acupuncture, moxibustion, and acupressure are time-tested treatments for relieving pain. Nutritional and lifestyle approaches can also reduce the pain caused by endometriosis and PCOS.
TCM practitioners believe these approaches can do much more than relieve pain. They can help balance your energy, improve your overall level of health, enhance your mood, and manage your chronic condition.
If you want to learn more about TCM and other complementary and integrative therapies, follow our blog.
Visit our provider directory to find a TCM practitioner near you who can help relieve your endometriosis, PCOS, and period pain.