Endometriosis is a disorder caused when tissue that normally lines the uterus is found outside of the uterus, often, in the Ovaries, Fallopian tubes and pelvis. During a typical menstrual cycle endometrial tissue thickens to prepare for pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs, this lining is shed through menstrual bleeding. Unfortunately, the displaced tissue is still under hormonal (estrogen) control and will shed as if in the uterus but is not released from the body. This can irritate the surrounding area and lead to development of scar tissue and fascial adhesions.
The most common symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain, especially with your period and far exceeding “normal” menstrual cramping. Irregular periods are also common, leading to spotting, multiple periods, cramping and pain throughout your cycle. Low back and hip pain, constipation, bloating, and pain with sex can also be caused by endometriosis.
While there is no specific cure for endometriosis there are multiple treatment options available to manage the symptoms. Typically women are placed on birth control to decrease estrogen levels and regulate menstrual cycles. Laparoscopic procedures can be performed with the goal of removing the endometrial tissue, however, there is risk of added scar tissue and adhesion. Although these are the primary treatments, exercise is a great adjunct with absolutely no risk of side effects!
As a woman, I can appreciate that exercising seems like the last thing you would want to be doing when it feels like your pelvis is trying to murder you from the inside out, but, when done correctly it can provide short and long term relief. Women who suffer from endometriosis should start incorporating exercise into their daily routine because of the following benefits:
- Increases endorphins
- Endorphins are hormones released into the brain to decrease pain. Basically, they act as as a “natural pain-killer”
- Elevates your mood
- Decreases stress
- Decreases estrogen levels
- Estrogen is the hormone that controls the thickening of endometrial tissue. If there is less estrogen in the body, there is less signaling for tissue growth.
- Increases blood flow
- cells outside of the uterus are not shed through menstrual bleeding. Increased circulation allows this blood to move out of these areas and prevents stagnation.
- Decrease risk of scar tissue and adhesions
- moving and stretching the muscles and fascia promotes proper healing and keeps tissues pliable.
Exercise can include walking, stretching, yoga, lifting or anything else that gets you moving. If you are hesitant to start exercises, ask your doctor for a referral for physical therapy. A trained pelvic floor physical therapist will take a detailed history, establish goals and prescribe exercises specific to your individual needs, interests and capabilities. For our favorite pelvic stretches see our prior blog post 6 Simple Stretches for Pelvic Floor Pain and Tightness or call our office to schedule an appointment and start to eliminate pain caused by endometriosis.