Endometriosis is a chronic, often painful condition in which the tissue that normally lines the uterus (called the endometrium) starts growing outside the uterus. The overgrowth most commonly affects the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and pelvic lining but can also spread beyond the pelvic area.
Endometriosis is commonly treated with hormone therapy, surgery, pain medications, and lifestyle changes. Still, because it can be so difficult to treat, many women will turn to natural therapies, such as TCM, to support the medical treatments prescribed by their doctors.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been used to treat endometriosis for a long time. The treatments include acupuncture, acupressure massage and herbal medicine.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of tiny needles in the skin, mainly to treat pain. A 2017 review of studies published in the journal PLoS ONE found evidence, albeit slight, that acupuncture can reduce abdominal and pelvic pain and the size of the endometrial overgrowth in women with endometriosis.
Massage therapy is also believed to relieve the symptoms of endometriosis in two ways: By gently releasing adhesions that stick uterine tissues together and by alleviating stress that can amplify pain sensations and trigger uterine spasms.
A small study conducted in 2010 reported that 23 women with endometriosis had a significant reduction in pelvic pain after six weeks of massage therapy. In total, the women were given 20 twenty-minute sessions focusing on the abdomen, sides, and base of the spine (sacrum). No other treatments were prescribed during the six-week study.
Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) typically used a combination of herbs to treat uterine conditions like endometriosis.
Endometriosis is not categorized as a disease in TCM but is rather described as a "blood stasis syndrome" characterized by the formation of abdominal lumps.
A comprehensive review of studies published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that Chinese herbs used to treat blood stasis appeared comparable to the steroid gestrinone in relieving endometriosis pain after laparoscopic surgery.
When used outside of surgery, the Chinese herbs appeared to be just as effective as the synthetic androgen danazol in providing endometriosis pain relief.