Could acupuncture help with endometriosis?
Founded over 3000 years ago in China, acupuncture was developed to help maintain the body’s overall balance. The practise involves the insertion of fine needles at specific points around the body in a bid to address pain, illness and restore balance to your mind, body and soul. Over the years, it has been used as an alternative complementary therapy to help those that suffer from the chronic and often debilitating medical condition, endometriosis, which according to the latest statistics affects 1 in 10 women in the UK.
WHAT IS ENDOMETRIOSIS?
This condition occurs when cells – like the ones in the lining of the womb – are found elsewhere in the body, such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries or along the pelvis. Each month these cells react in the same way as those in the womb, building up and then breaking down and bleeding. But, unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, this blood has no way to escape. This internal bleeding can lead to irritation, inflammation, pain and the formation of scar tissue.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ENDOMETRIOSIS?
- Very painful menstrual cramps
- Pain with periods that gets worse over time
- Chronic pain in the lower back and pelvis
- Pain during or after sex
- Intestinal pain
- Painful bowel movements or painful urination during menstrual periods
- Heavy and/or long menstrual periods
- Spotting or bleeding between periods
Women with endometriosis may also have gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhoea, constipation or bloating – especially during their periods.
HOW CAN ACUPUNCTURE HELP WITH ENDOMETRIOSIS?
Chinese practitioners observed that there are passages within the body known as meridians through which energy, or Chi, flows through.
It is believed that the destruction of these paths causes physical and emotional imbalance. The insertion of acupuncture needles works to restore mental and physical wellness by stimulating certain pressure points within the body. This stimulation releases endorphins and allows the free flow of energy to continue.
Using fine needles just under the skin at particular points stimulates the nerves within the skin and muscle. Doing so releases the body’s natural pain relievers, endorphin and serotonin, which alters how pain signals are received.
WHAT DO STUDIES SHOW?
When looking at the effect that acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbal medicine can have on treating endometriosis, the results are pretty conclusive.
- In a 2006 study in the International Journal of Clinical Acupuncture, researchers concluded that the combined use of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine had a ‘significant effect on endometriosis and the adverse reactions are less than with danazol’ (an Endometriosis medication).
- Whilst another study in the same year confirmed that the Shu-Mu acupuncture point combination needling method had an ‘obvious therapeutic effect on endometriosis with lower adverse effects than danazol’.
- Acupuncture has been used to treat pain for centuries, but new research has shown that it can ‘significantly reduce period pain by at least 50% for up to a year.
- Acupuncture is safe for everyone to use and it can make you feel very relaxed.
- The idea of needles may suggest otherwise, but acupuncture is also relatively painless (honest!).
- The needles are so fine that even confirmed needle-haters may hardly notice them. Sometimes there’s tingly or a dull ache, but that’s a sign that Chi is being stimulated.
Osteopath Denise Callaghan is trained in both Medical and Traditional Chinese Medical Acupuncture. She studied in China, the birthplace of acupuncture, alongside the best in the field to perfect my technique. Denise now use acupuncture in combination with osteopathy and has helped patients with conditions from pain to addiction, receiving great testimony to the benefits of using the two treatments together.