Endometriosis is a very common disorder in women that causes infertility and pelvic pain. While much research has been done, and its findings made some causes and nature of the disorder clearer, much of the disease’s development remains unknown. Western treatment methods of endometriosis typically involve hormonal therapy or surgical procedures, both of which have a limited success rate. Traditional Chinese medicine, on the other hand, works well as an alternative as well as a complementary treatment method, and because the modalities of traditional Chinese medicine are comparatively safe and have few minimal side effects (such as an occasional bruise, for example), it should certainly be tried first, before trying any of more drastic treatment approaches of western medicine. If endometriosis is diagnosed and treated in early stages, then a higher success rate can be achieved in western and traditional Chinese medicine.

Endometriosis and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Worldwide, between 6% and 10% of all women of reproductive age live with endometriosis. Endometriosis is the cause of pelvic pain and infertility in 50% of women who suffer from these two conditions. On the one hand, much has been discovered about this disease. It is now well known, for example, that endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent inflammatory disorder and that about half of the incidences of endometriosis are caused by a genetic factor. On the other hand, the pathogenesis of endometriosis is poorly understood, and the 50% of women who do not have a contributing genetic factor are believed to have the disorder because of environmental or unknown causes (Montgomery & Giudice, 2017). One of the main characteristics of endometriosis is the presence of the tissues that typically are found inside the uterus outside of the uterine cavity. This typically occurs in women who suffer from pelvic pain and/or have infertility. The recent research findings have been that “early age at menarche, shorter menstrual length, and taller height are associated with a higher risk of endometriosis while parity, higher body mass index (BMI), and smoking are associated with decreased risk. Endometriosis often presents as infertility or continued pelvic pain despite treatment with analgesics and cyclic oral contraceptive pills” (Parasar, Ozcan, & Terry, 2017). The endometrial cells (those cells that are normally found inside the uterus) typically form lesions. Histologic analysis of such lesions shows that endometriosis is benign, but these cells still can and do invade other tissues, which is cancer’s characteristic. Research shows that endometrial cells can mutate in multiple ways, adding to the complexity of the disorder (Montgomery & Giudice, 2017).

Endometriosis and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Research suggests that traditional Chinese medicine can be effective in the treatment of endometriosis. Chinese herbal medicine has been studied as an alternative treatment for endometriosis more than other modalities of traditional Chinese medicine, and it appears to be just as effective as western medical treatment but with fewer side effects. Studies have also shown that traditional Chinese medicine can be effective as an alternative as well as complementary treatment method (Flower et al., 2012). Acupuncture has primarily been studied as a treatment for pelvic pain, and considering its effectiveness, relative safety, and minimal side effects, acupuncture should be on top of the list of treatment options for endometriosis (Lund & Lundeberg, 2016). Even though acupuncture has been study as an alternative and/or supplementary method for treating pelvic pain, it should also be effective for treatment of endometriosis, in general. A large portion of endometriosis is inflammatory process, which acupuncture treats quite effectively. As North American Spine Society states on its website, “acupuncture may decrease pain-causing inflammation by stimulating the body’s pituitary gland to release cortisol, a hormone that is known to reduce inflammation.” As one group of researchers point out, “Acupuncture has a beneficial effect when treating many diseases and painful conditions, and therefore is thought to be useful as a complementary therapy or to replace generally accepted pharmacological intervention (Zijlstra, van den Berg-de Lange, Huygen, & Klein, 2003). The truth is, the effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine can vary greatly from person to person, and the best way to find out whether or not it can help you is to try it yourself.

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