When women talk about endometriosis or adenomyosis, they talk about pain. Every woman has a memory of the first time when she knew that the pain in her pelvis was not normal, a memory about the missed days from school, work and life. And the most frustrating of all, the memory when she tried to convince everyone that it was not “all in her head”. When she talks about her fears, infertility takes first place. Approximately half of the women with endometriosis struggle with infertility.
Endometriosis affects one in ten women of reproductive age, spreading like a matrix through their pelvis and causing agony and infertility. Rebel endometrial cells that are lining the uterus escape or grow outside of this organ into the pelvic cavity. These cells are sensitive to hormones just like the uterine lining and they bleed every time she menstruates. This blood cannot escape like menstrual blood would and remains in the pelvic cavity initiating an inflammatory cascade that builds up scar and adhesions. When surgeons go in, they will see bowels, ovaries, fallopian tubes and other organs or nerves bound in a knitting of scar tissue. In the case of adenomyosis these cells grow inside the uterine wall causing crippling pain during menstruation.
Similar with all chronic inflammatory diseases, the cause is not one but many, pointing to immune dysregulation, retrograde menstruation, inflammation, and toxicity. Retrograde menstruation refers to the back flow of menstrual fluid during a woman’s period through her fallopian tubes into her abdomen. This tissue then takes residence here causing scaring and inflammation. The immune system plays a role, and it is expected that a robust immune system will remove these cells before they adhere to the pelvic organs and scar down. A study at Vanderbilt University found that environmental toxins such as dioxin (PBC’s) play a role in the cause and certainly worsen the symptoms of endometriosis. These toxins cause hormonal havoc and inflame endometrial lesions. Xenoestrogens are substances that mimic our own estrogen and are found in soft plastics, conventional cosmetics and body care products. Since excess estrogen is inflammatory, these toxins put more gas on the endometriosis fire.
How can a natural and holistic program help? While some women find some relief on hormonal contraceptives, most struggle indefinitely. Not to mention, that these drugs will rob them of their own progesterone which is beneficial for pain modulation. Although we do not fully understand all the factors that play in the development of endometriosis and adenomyosis there are drug-free therapies that can support her body and provide relief. An anti-inflammatory diet is known to improve immune function and overall hormonal balance. Along with nutritional therapies, supplementation and exercise, she needs to learn ways to decrease toxic exposure, and menstrual hygiene habits that minimize retrograde flow. Visceral manipulation techniques can be quite impactful at mobilizing and softening endometriotic lesions.
Mercier Therapy includes a series of gyno-visceral manipulations that are targeting the pelvic organs in order to restore their natural position, improve blood flow and soften scar tissues and adhesions. This therapy can improve a woman’s chances of conceiving and decrease her pain and can be utilized alone or along with laparoscopy to improve pelvic organ mobility and function.
Chronic pain in endometriosis changes her brain function and structure. Biofeedback therapy is a drug-free therapy that helps modulate stress in chronic pain sufferers. Regular exercise including cardiovascular and strength training augments the therapeutic effects of a healthy diet, provides the body with endogenous endorphins (drug like molecules that decrease pain) and aids in the detoxification of excess estrogen.
Adherence to healthy lifestyle habits, including nutrition, reconditioning exercises and mental health, are important things one can do for themselves to reduce the risk factors for all chronic diseases. Taking a holistic approach to help better manage endometriosis and adenomysis by utilizing pelvic health physical therapy, biofeedback therapy and seeking a certified Mercier Therapist will help lessen the pain and help those trying to conceive.