Acupuncture treatment can help patients deal with the pain and discomfort of Endometriosis. The unfortunate truth is that endometriosis can come with a multitude of symptoms, and if not treated over time can cause severe health problems such as infertility or cancer. In fact, research has shown that infertility affects 30-50% of those with Endometriosis, and only 20-25% of women with Endometriosis have no symptoms.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic gynecological condition in which tissue similar to the tissue that forms the lining of the uterus, grows outside of the uterine cavity. Endometriosis can appear anywhere in the body, but most commonly occurs in the pelvis and lower abdomen.
Symptoms of Endometriosis:
- Dysmenorrhea (painful periods with pelvic pain, excessive bleeding & heavy menstruation)
- Low back pain
- Pain with intercourse
- Pain with bowel movements
Granted, these symptoms do not always indicate Endometriosis. These symptoms can often be confused with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), both of which can actually accompany Endometriosis, making it more complicated to diagnose. Although the precise cause of Endometriosis is still unknown, there are triggers that are common in those who do have Endometriosis.
Potential Triggers for Endometriosis:
- Surgical Scars – after a C-section or hysterectomy, endometrial cells can attach to the incision from the surgery.
- Immune System Issues – problems with the immune system can inhibit the body from identifying and destroying the endometrial tissue from growing outside of the uterus.
- Endometrial Cell Transport – the lymphatic system can potentially transport endometrial cells to other areas of the body.
Ultimately, in western medicine, the way to deal with these issues is usually with over the counter pain medications or hormone therapy such as hormonal contraceptives, progestin therapy, Gn-RH agonists and antagonists, and aromatase inhibitors. The last resort is a hysterectomy or oophorectomy.
Acupuncture & Endometriosis
According to eastern medicine, Endometriosis is an issue of blood stasis, and treatment should be focused on increasing blood circulation, and guiding it to the lower abdomen, uterus, and other affected areas. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can be very effective in decreasing the severity of Endometriosis and its symptoms, and effects tend to be cumulative with greater improvement achieved with longer term treatment.
Common Endometriosis Patterns:
- Yang deficiency with blood stagnation
- Qi sinking with blood stagnation
- Qi stagnation with blood stagnation
Acupuncture Points for Endometriosis:
- UB30 – White Ring Shu – Bai Huan Shu – located 1.5 cun lateral to the GV line, used for kidney related gynecological disorders.
- KD11 – Pubic Bone – Henggu – located 5 cun below CV8, .5 cun lateral to CV2, used for abdominal and/or gynecological problems.
- L1 Huatuo – Sides of Spine at L1 – Huatuojiaji – located .5 cun lateral to the lower border of the L1 spinous processes, used for a wide variety of hormonal issues.
- UB20 – Spleen Shu – Pi Shu – located 1.5 cun lateral to GV6, even with T11.
In addition to regular acupuncture treatment, patient education on lifestyle or dietary changes to help address their Endometriosis may prove to be beneficial. Patients who have Endometriosis may find that incorporating a high-fiber, low-fat, and mostly plant-based diet helps to relieve some symptoms, in addition to incorporating herbal formulas.
Herbal Formulas Beneficial for Endometriosis Issues:
- Move Qi – Xiang Fu, Chi Shao
- Increase Blood Circulation – Dan Shen, Dang Qui
- Decrease Inflammation – Mu Dan Pi, Gui Ban
- Decrease Pain – Mo Yao, Yan Hu Suo
- Stop Heavy Bleeding – San Qi, Pu Huang
Infertility from Endometriosis
Unfortunately, the symptoms that come with Endometriosis can prevent natural fertilization from occurring, ultimately keep the egg and sperm from uniting, and even damaging them both completely. Patients with endometriosis who also are having trouble conceiving should seek to regulate their menstrual cycle. The main goal is to create the optimal environment for conception to take place by regulating smooth blood flow to the uterus while decreasing the body’s immune response. By regulating menstruation, this will optimize fertility preparation, and also aid in their endometriosis symptoms.
Acupuncture Points for Infertility from Endometriosis:
- EX Zingongxue – Palace of the Child/Uterus Point – located 4 cun below the umbilicus, 3 cun lateral to the anterior midline, used for uterine problems such as infertility, prolapse, and dysmenorrhea.
- KD18 – Stone Pass – Shiguan – located 3 cun above CV8, .5 cun lateral to CV11, used for fertility issues involving stagnation in the lower warmer.
- ST28 – Waterway – Shuidao – located 2 cun lateral to the AML level with CV4, used for fertility issues cold in the uterus.
- UB23 – Kidney Shu – Shen Shu – located 1.5 cun lateral to GV4, and level with L2, used for female sexual and reproductive disorders such as infertility and irregular cycles.
Acupuncture Endometriosis Treatment
According to recent research, the therapeutic effect of acupuncture on endometriosis pain management involves promoting blood circulation, and regulating hormones. One study from 2019, Acupuncture for Endometriosis, and another study from 2017, Effects of Acupuncture for the Treatment of Endometriosis-Related Pain, both showed the efficiency of acupuncture treatment for Endometriosis pain and reduced serum CA-125 peripheral blood levels. Although current research needs further larger studies, acupuncture for Endometriosis is an effective option for those who suffer from it and its effects.
Obtaining a certification in oriental reproductive medicine, if you see a multitude of patients with these issues, would be a good idea. You can find out more about this type of certification at the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine. Regular acupuncture, especially when treating a condition like endometriosis, can improve blood flow, decrease pain, and reduce inflammation.