Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Endometriosis

The most effective approach to chronic pain management associated with endometriosis combines traditional medical and surgical treatment(s) with complementary therapies provided by a multidisciplinary team. Part of the treatment involves breaking the pain cycle which often includes the use of the following approaches:

  • Acupuncture
  • Herbal medicine
  • Behavior modification with lifestyle changes
  • Biofeedback
  • Physical therapy

Acupuncture is an alternative approach to pain management and relaxation, acupuncture has gained wide popularity. Of the several studies that have examined the effectiveness of this treatment, two recent studies suggest that patients who receive acupuncture treatment tend to be more relaxed. Since muscle tension and stress play an important role in chronic pain symptoms, it is reasonable to explore whether acupuncture might provide some pain relief as one of the components of a pain management plan. 

Life style modification, physical therapy and massage can help endometriosis patients successfully manage pain. The goal of these treatments is to help patients relax by decreasing stress, improving muscle tone and quality of life. Some options to achieve these goals are focused pelvic PT, biofeedback, transcutaneous electrical nerve (TEN) stimulation and care by an osteopathic or chiropractic physician. Additionally, regular exercise has been shown to significantly improve the quality of life for endometriosis patients by decreasing stress, strengthening muscles, preventing depressive symptoms, providing relaxation and an over all sense of well being.

Biofeedback teaches patients to alter their response to pain signals by controlling their heart rate, respirations, muscle tone and temperature. Initially patients’ learn to recognize and control these responses by using skin electrodes that translate physiological changes into auditory or visual signals.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve (TEN) stimulation is the direct electrical stimulation of the skin overlying pain trigger-points to provide relief. After a complete PT (physical therapy) evaluation, patients who may benefit from such treatment may obtain a portable TEN unit to manage their symptoms.

Osteopathic treatment manages the patient with a holistic pain care plan that includes manipulation of muscles, ligaments and skeletal alignment in conjunction with analgesic and anti-inflammatory medication.

Chiropractic management primarily focuses on correcting dislocations of the musculoskeletal system.

Herbal Medicine and Dietary modification includes: Chinese herbs, homeopathy, ayurvedic medicine and naturopathy. Some patients have complete resolution of symptoms while others do not report much relief. Studies looking at the effectiveness of these treatment options are limited however; the consensus appears to be that such alternative medicine approaches require patience and time to achieve their desired goals.

Ultimately under the guidance of a patient’s primary gynecologist, successful management of some of the often debilitating symptoms of endometriosis may be achieved by the combined effort of a multidisciplinary healthcare team that includes alternative therapies.

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