What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory condition, affecting every 1 in 10 women.
When uterine tissue starts to grow in other areas outside the uterus along the abdominal wall, attaching to the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder and bowels.
This atypical growth of uterine cells causes scarring and plaque formation. When these tissues thicken and bleed as they would normally behave in the uterus, they can cause excessive pain and bleeding.
Symptoms can vary from;
- Heavy bleeding
- Pelvic pain
- Bladder and bowel dysfunction (diarrhoea, constipation, frequency of urination)
Some women never experience pain with endometriosis. However, around 50% of diagnosed individuals have chronic pelvic pain and 70% of women will experience pain only during menstruation. Heavy periods and pain to follow are not always ‘normal’ responses to a menstrual cycle.
If you feel like your symptoms are atypical, listen to your body and speak to your GP or OBGYN about your symptoms.
- Increasing age
- Alcohol use
- Early menarche
- Family history of endometriosis
- Low body weight
- Prolonged menstrual cycle
- Short menstrual cycle (Peterson et al., 2013
The average time frame for a diagnosis of endometriosis is 8.6 years (Bontempo & Mikesell, 2020). The longer endometriosis goes diagnosed, the longer accumulation of inflammation occurs and the potential severity of symptoms as the body attempts to manage the condition. The scarring of tissue can further perpetuate symptoms of infertility in patients diagnosed with endometriosis.
The alleviation symptoms (typically coinciding with a menstrual cycle) through exercise have been shown to drastically reduce the incidence of pain and heavy bleeding.
Endometriosis is triggered by excessive inflammation in the body at a cellular level. A sedentary lifestyle places pressure on the vascular system of the body, reducing the body’s ability to circulate the blood effectively with the nutrients it needs to stimulate healing processes via endorphin release. Exercise actively decreases the number of inflammatory markers in the body by the reduction of adipose tissue.
Pain and discomfort are positively reinforced by the brain when muscles contract in an attempt to “guard” the area causing pain sensations. With the help of a trained exercise professional, we work to rewire the body systems to relax overactive muscle groups to interrupt the pain signals sent to the brain via muscle guarding.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is a common result of pain stemming from endometriosis. When the body is in pain around the pelvis, the musculature surrounding the tissue can become overactive or spasm. This further perpetuates chronic pelvic pain or pain during a menstrual cycle. Exercise has been proven to significantly decrease maladaptive postures stemming from endometriosis pain response, as well as significantly decrease the intensity of endometriosis pain after following a structured and consistent exercise program (Awad et al., 2017).
Exercise is one of the most effective courses of treatment to reduce symptomatic endometriosis, while increasing energy levels, boosting mood and building a stronger, more resilient body.
At the Body Refinery, our women’s health Exercise Physiologist, Tori, will assist you in managing your diagnosis and symptoms of endometriosis.
Tori is available every Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning at our New Farm location.
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Awad, E., Ahmed, H., Yousef, A., & Abbas, R. (2017). Efficacy of exercise on pelvic pain and posture associated with endometriosis: within subject design. Journal of physical therapy science, 29(12), 2112–2115. https://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.29.2112
Bontempo, A. C., & Mikesell, L. (2020). Patient perceptions of misdiagnosis of endometriosis: results from an online national survey. Diagnosis (Berlin, Germany), 7(2), 97–106. https://doi.org/10.1515/dx-2019-0020
Peterson, C. M., Johnstone, E. B., Hammoud, A. O., Stanford, J. B., Varner, M. W., Kennedy, A., Chen, Z., Sun, L., Fujimoto, V. Y., Hediger, M. L., Buck Louis, G. M., & ENDO Study Working Group (2013). Risk factors associated with endometriosis: importance of study population for characterizing disease in the ENDO Study. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 208(6), 451.e1–451.e4511. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2013.02.040