Endometriosis & Menstrual Cramps: Success Stories from the Clinic
Since one of my acupuncture specialties is Women’s Health, a common issue that brings women in is endometriosis. If you’re suffering from severe menstrual cramps, have unexplainable abdominal pain that tends to worsen around your period, causes pain with intercourse, and/or affects your urinary or bowel functions, you may have endometriosis. The good news is, we can help!
This quiz can asses your likelihood of an endometriosis diagnosis. However, this entire post applies to any woman with painful cramps, not just those with this diagnosis.
(To skip the western and Chinese medical explanation of endometriosis as well as the detailed explanation of the patient’s monthly results during treatment, get right to the success story by scrolling all the way down to the “Summary”)
The Western vs. Chinese Medicine view & treatment of endometriosis
The basics: what is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is when the menstrual blood – your endometrium – moves out of the uterus and into the abdominal cavity, and doesn’t naturally get reabsorbed. Since this tissue is guided by hormones, its buildup and shedding mimic the menstrual cycle. In the case of endometriosis though, the blood doesn’t have an exit route like the blood in the uterus, so it causes inflammation and scarring in the abdomen.
In a normal system that doesn’t have an imbalance causing too much buildup of tissue without enough breakdown of it, this tissue would just get reabsorbed and not cause any problems. But in someone with endometriosis, there is a problem with the normal breakdown of blood and tissue so their body tends towards buildup of these tissues. In Chinese Medicine we call that “blood stagnation”.
What happens if you have Blood Stagnation
When blood stagnation goes on for years uncorrected, it then commonly turns into other types of masses such as fibrocystic breasts, fibroids, or tumors. It can also be at the route of increased markers like antiphospholipid antibodies; which attack blood vessels, increase the likelihood of blood clots, and impair fertility, including increasing the likelihood of miscarriage.
How western medicine addresses blood stagnation
Because “blood stagnation” is not recognized by western medicine as an underlying diagnosis (except in a systemic blood disorder such as thrombophilia), they treat each manifestation of it as a separate issue. If there’s endometriosis, they’ll do laparascopic surgery. If there’s a fibroid, they surgically remove that as well. If there’s other sorts of benign masses or tumors, again their general strategy is to remove them.
The problem with this approach is that the masses just keep coming back.
I see many endometriosis patients who have had laparoscopic surgery done, and in 6 months or a year, they’re right back where they were before surgery. I also see many women with fibroids or other masses who have a history of endometriosis or many surgeries to remove random masses throughout their bodies. Again, over time their body just continues to build up masses that have to be removed. That’s because the cause is not being addressed.
Chinese medicine addresses the root cause, which prevents future masses and tissue buildup
In Chinese medicine, as with every condition, rather than just looking at the symptom and treating that, we look towards the underlying cause and resolve it from its root.
When you treat “blood stagnation” instead of “endometriosis” or “fibroids” or “fibrocystic breasts”, you’re systemically removing the reason why a patient has the problem in the first place, thus preventing future continuous problems.
Clinical Success Story: Endometriosis Symptoms Gone
For confidentiality, I’ll just call this patient Jan. Jan came to me several months ago for typical endometriosis symptoms: debilitating menstrual cramps, pain with intercourse, and urinary and bowel pain all throughout the month. Her abdomen was tender to the touch even mid-cycle.
She had been to western doctors and their only option besides surgery was to have her on birth control pills almost 100% of the time so she just wouldn’t have periods. Every 4th month they had her stop taking the pills for a week, which would bring on a period and horrible pain. She wanted to get pregnant, so she had stopped taking the pills about a year before coming to me.
I put her on herbs at her second visit, and customized them so she would take a different herbal “formula” during different phases of her cycle. We started off with twice/week treatments.
In her first cycle after starting treatment, she immediately got noticeable relief from her mid-cycle symptoms of urine and bowel pain, as well as the abdominal tenderness. Her cramps were mildly reduced at her first period after starting treatment. Since she was already doing noticeably better, we went down to weekly treatments, except during her period.
In her second cycle, she had no mid-cycle symptoms at all, and sex was no longer painful. Her symptoms during her second period were typical once we start “moving the blood”: big dark chunks of black tissue came out, and her pain was the worst it can get. Her body was getting all that stagnant blood out, and working hard cramping up to dislodge all that old stuck blood. I assured her that this is more common than not, that it was a sign that the treatment was working, and that after this “worse” cycle I always see dramatic improvement.
Sure enough, by the third period into treatment, her cramps were reduced by about 30%. Now she was really seeing the affect of the treatment. At this point, we started scheduling all her treatments as close as possible to her period and stopped seeing her mid-cycle.
By her 4th period after treatment, her cramps were now about 60% reduced.
By her 5th period, her cramps were about 75% better.
By her 6th period, her cramps were so low-grade that she said if they stayed that way forever, she would consider herself “cured”.
We will continue treating her with acupuncture connected to “e-stim”as close as possible to the first day of her period, once/month, in order to continue her improvement and decrease problems with fertility. The fact that she has any pain at all is a sign that we want to continue moving to blood to prevent future problems from blood stagnation. Especially because she is hoping to start a family in the near future.
Summary of Treatment and Results
Jan came in for debilitating menstrual cramps that caused her to miss work at least one day/month, as well as pain during intercourse that was causing relationship problems. She had abdominal discomfort all month that made her dread urinating and having bowel movements.
By her second month of treatment all her symptoms except her cramps were gone. After 6 cycles of treatment, her cramps were mild enough that she considered herself “cured”. This was after many years of western treatment that hadn’t helped her problem at all, and had only masked it by halting her periods.
Jan is typical of many endometriosis patients
While Jan is just one example, this case is typical for many patients who come for acupuncture treatment for endometriosis. Some people have less severe problems, some are worse and can take possibly a year of treatment to get these results.
While that may seem like a long time, the fact that patients get relief of many of their other symptoms besides cramps pretty early on in treatment, as well as the fact that western treatment has no options at all to actually resolve the problem, makes most women very satisfied with the results.
If you have endometriosis and would like help resolving it, you can schedule an appointment today to get started on your new life without these debilitating symptoms.