By Kathleen Rushall
Women of all ages and backgrounds can be affected by the condition of endometriosis. In fact, an estimated five to seven million American women currently suffer from this condition, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Endometriosis is derived from the word “endometrium,” which is the lining of a woman’s uterus. In this condition, organs like the ovaries, fallopian tubes, ligaments surrounding the uterus, and possibly the lungs, head, and other locations, are lined with the endometrium as well as the uterus. However, unlike the uterus, these linings are not expelled from the body during menstruation, but rather linger and are slowly absorbed into the body. This can cause symptoms ranging from pain during intercourse, before menstruation, low back pain, nausea, fatigue, and even infertility.
The Western diagnosis and treatment for this condition are both invasive. A laparoscopy is performed to diagnose the condition; this is when a lighted optical tube is inserted through a small incision in the navel. Western treatments for endometriosis include surgery and drug therapy. The causes of endometriosis are still unclear, although many theories have been made with attention to stress, genetic predispositions, and exposure to heat or cold during menstruation.
A non-invasive, more soothing approach to diminishing endometriosis is found in traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture, massage, and herbal therapy have all been linked with success regarding this condition. Traditional Chinese medicine considers endometriosis as a condition of Blood Stasis, which means that the woman’ s blood circulation is poor. The TCM treatment for endometriosis attempts to increase circulation by smoothing the channel, or pathway, that supplies blood to the body. A common method for this is the use of Chinese herbs such as pangolin scales, cinnamon twigs, fennel seed, and lindera, which have blood or qi regulating properties. Other herbs like corydal, corydalis, mastic, myrrh, and bupleurum are known for their efficient pain-killing properties.
Acupuncture can also be used to treat endometriosis. This can help to both relieve any painful symptoms of the condition as well as to help balance the body’s hormones. When acupuncture needles are applied to points influencing the nervous system, organ functions, and endocrine system, balance can be restored and blood stasis improved. The liver and kidneys are thought to be two of the most important organs regarding fertility and menses in traditional Chinese medicine. When acupuncture is performed with attention to these organs, many of the various pains of endometriosis can be alleviated.
Lastly, it is thought that high levels of stress can contribute to the cause or perpetuation of this condition. Another form of TCM that can help to regain good qi (a person’s life force), or to maintain optimal health is the practice of massage. In particular, the Tui Na massage is thought to be beneficial for endometriosis. This massage focuses on the grasping and pulling of certain muscle groups, and serves as a painkiller. Oriental medicine is often thought to be more effective and more comfortable a treatment for endometriosis than the alternative Western courses of action, and should be considered a powerful aid for women suffering from any of these unfortunate symptoms.
- Du, Li, Endometriosis Through the Eyes of Tradition Chinese Medicine, New Life Journal, 2003