Second in a series on endometriosis, for Endometriosis Awareness Month.
More than five million women in America are currently suffering from endometriosis, which is a leading cause of infertility. Endometriosis occurs when the endometrial tissue that lines the inside of the uterus finds its way outside and into other organs of the body, such as the abdomen and fallopian tubes. When this happens, the misplaced tissue develops into lesions which respond to the woman’s menstrual cycle. Each month, the tissue builds up and then sheds. Inside the uterus this natural shedding becomes part of the menstrual flow. Outside of the uterus the tissue has nowhere to go and backs up, causing internal bleeding, varying levels of pain and cramping, inflammation, adhesions and eventually for many, infertility.
While the most common symptom that women who have endometriosis experience is pain, the amount of pain or discomfort that a woman feels does not indicate how severe her endometriosis is. Many women experience no outward symptoms despite the fact that their endometriosis is affecting a large area of their internal organs.
- Symptoms that indicate endometriosis may include:
- Pain, including severe cramping during menstruation
- Chronic nagging discomfort or pain in the pelvic area and lower back
- Pain during and/or after sexual activity
- Pain in the intestines
- Painful bowel movements and / or urination
- Diarrhea, bloating, or constipation
- Nausea during menstruation
- Spotting between menstrual periods
Long known for her commitment to supporting women's education about infertility, we turned to AFA National Spokesperson, Emmy nominated actress, Brenda Strong, to discuss yoga and its potential role in pain management for endometriosis. Brenda is a certified yoga instructor and creator of the Strong Yoga4Fertility program.
Says Strong, "I remember as a young girl my mother suffering with intense pain brought on by endometriosis, which eventually concluded in a hysterectomy. In addition to extreme discomfort, it can be a deterrent to conception and brings the emotional pain of infertility to the already excruciating physical pain of this condition. There are a few natural things that can be done to relieve the muscle tension in the abdomen and pelvic region brought on by endometriosis. Yoga, the ancient science of balancing the body through breathing and physical postures called asanas can have a detoxifying and rejuvenating affect on the organs. This can also help to bring more balance to the bodies hormonal and circulatory systems, in addition to promoting the relaxation response and lowering a person’s stress reaction triggered by pain. Studies have shown that individuals who practice yoga have a higher pain threshold because of their ability to breathe through discomfort and not react to it, a term popularized in yoga called “equanimity”.
Some experts believe that massage can also have a positive effect on endometriosis symptoms, including pain management. Massage may improve lymph and blood circulation and also decrease nerve irritation. Massage may also support the body to produce less of the hormones related to stress such as cortisol and norepinephrine, as well as increase the production of endorphins, which can help to alleviate pain.
Strong's Fertility Ball puts the relief of acupressure and the benefit of yoga into the hands of the woman, to help her activate the pressure points which can relieve tension, connective tissue adhesions and relax the muscles in the low back and pelvis. Of course, you should consult your physician before starting any pain management or exercise program for endometriosis.