People with endometriosis often choose massage therapy as a complementary treatment to ease pain associated with the condition. Massage therapists can address endometriosis symptoms without medication and potentially reduce reliance on pharmaceuticals.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is the expansion of the uterine lining into nearby organs and tissues. Uterine tissues then grow outside the uterus, causing sensitivity, bleeding, and pain.
Endometriosis typically arises in women of childbearing age, and those with the condition usually experience extreme cramping during menstruation. The pain associated with this condition is often severe enough to disrupt daily activities.
Medical experts have not identified an exact cause of endometriosis. However, some suggest hormonal imbalances—such as high estrogen levels—may contribute to the condition. Other physicians suggest environmental toxins or genetic abnormalities may be factors in endometriosis.
How Do Massage Therapists Treat Endometriosis?
Physicians typically recommend surgical intervention for those with endometriosis. Surgeons remove uterine tissue from the areas into which the tissue has expanded. Some doctors also recommend hormone therapy as an alternative or complementary treatment to surgery.
However, the body of research on massage for pain relief continues to grow. Modern physicians frequently recommend massage therapy for pain relief as an alternative to potentially addictive pain medications. In February 2017, the American College of Physicians changed its recommendations to include massage therapy as a first-line treatment for lower back pain. Opioid medications are now only recommended as a last resort.
Many endometriosis patients prefer massage therapy to more aggressive endometriosis interventions, such as surgery. Massage therapy has fewer side effects and typically costs less than other endometriosis treatments. Massage therapists treat cramping and other endometriosis symptoms by manipulating the abdominal regions surrounding the ovaries and uterus.
Research shows massage therapy can effectively reduce symptoms of endometriosis. In one study, researchers recorded pain relief data for people with endometriosis who underwent massage therapy treatments for six weeks, ultimately finding significant levels of pain relief.
How Do I Use Self-Care Massage for Menstrual Cramps?
A primary care physician can help you integrate self-massage into any pain relief treatment regimen. It might be beneficial to ask for information about self-care abdominal massage as well as a referral for a licensed massage therapist who specializes in endometriosis pain relief.
It might also help to give yourself a simple abdominal massage. Start by warming up a small amount of massage oil in your hands. Gently move your hands in small circles from your navel and out across your abdomen. Then, create a heart shape with both hands, flattening them against your stomach and keeping your thumbs and forefingers close together. Apply enough pressure to ease the cramping sensation, but be careful not to push too hard.
For another self-massage option, place your dominant hand on your stomach (palm down) just above your navel. Place your other hand on top. Rub your stomach clockwise (which can aid digestion because it follows the digestive pathway of the colon) for a minute or two. Stop and take a few breaths to balance yourself and process any physical or emotional sensations that may arise. Place your hands under your rib cage and massage your abdomen in long downward strokes going toward your hips. After stopping for another set of breaths, knead your lower abdomen briefly, again in a clockwise direction.
Acupressure, Aromatherapy, and Self-Care Massage for Menstrual Pain
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends acupressure for menstrual pain and cramping. A research team at the University of Maryland found a combination of acupressure and ibuprofen significantly reduced study participants’ pain.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, pressure points may be effective in relieving menstrual pain and cramping. The pressure point on the top of the foot between the first and second toes, called the Bigger Rushing point, can help relieve cramping. Pushing on the sacrum, which is between the lumbar spine and tailbone, can also help relax the uterus.
Consider combining aromatherapy with self-care massage to further soothe cramping and pain associated with endometriosis. Research has shown massage with lavender oil to be more effective than massage with placebo oils.
Research continues to prove the efficacy of massage therapy for endometriosis pain, however, massage therapy may not be the right treatment for all cases. Always consult your primary care physician before seeking a massage therapist.
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