Endometriosis Awareness Month: symptoms and management

Endometriosis is a disease of the female reproductive system. 1 in 7 women experience endo, it takes 6.5 years to be diagnosed with endometriosis, and there are 830, 000 women living in Australia with endometriosis. 

What is endometriosis?

The endometrium is the type of tissue that lines the uterus or womb. When this tissue begins to grow outside the uterus, on other organs and other places it is called endometriosis. 

Endo is typically found on the:

  • Ovaries
  • Fallopian Tubes
  • Bladder
  • Bowel
  • Vulva
  • Rectum
  • Cervix

When the endometrial cells found outside the uterus grow, they begin to attach to other organs. These cells can cause pain, bleed and leak fluid. This leads to adhesions, lumps (nodules), inflammation and scarring. 

Throughout the period of menopause, the hormones oestrogen and progesterone that are created in the ovaries begin to decrease. Once the levels of these hormones diminish enough, periods stop. 

What are the main symptoms of endometriosis?

Everyone is affected by their symptoms differently, however pain is an extremely common symptom. It is common for women to experience a slow increase in symptoms over time. 

Endo can cause different types of symptoms, some of the main ones are:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Pain with bowel movements and constipation or diarrhoea 
  • Pain when you urinate
  • Fatigue 
  • Pain in your pelvic region, low back or legs
  • Difficulty holding on when you have a full bladder
  • Heavy or irregular bleeding
  • Painful periods
  • Pain on or around ovulation
  • Infertility
  • Stomach and digestive problems

Who gets endometriosis? Am I at risk?

11% of women experience endometriosis. It can happen in anyone who has menstrual periods. 

The exact causes of the disease remain unknown. Clinical research is investigating possible causes such as:

  • Genetic links – you are 7 to 10 times more likely to develop the condition if your mother or sister has it
  • Menstrual cycle irregularities
  • Hormones
  • Previous surgeries

Management options

Effective management of endometriosis necessitates a comprehensive approach that combines medical interventions for hormonal regulation and adhesion removal with non-surgical strategies focused on addressing musculoskeletal and pelvic floor dysfunctions through physiotherapy. 

Within physiotherapy management, a thorough assessment to identify areas of concern, including suboptimal musculoskeletal strategies and diaphragm function, as well as pelvic floor dysfunction. 

By conducting a holistic evaluation, an individualised treatment plan that targets specific contributing factors, aiming to alleviate symptoms and improve overall well-being. This collaborative approach emphasises personalised care and aims to optimise pelvic health for those affected by endometriosis.

Collaboration between all the practitioners you see is imperative, including physiotherapy, specialists, dietetics and naturopathy, pilates instructors and more.