by Meredith Nathan, LMT
My mother suffered from endometriosis for most of her adult life. She was riddled with extreme pain every time she had her period. She was put on heavy doses of birth control to control it, but the drugs made her feel crazy, and created more issues than they solved. To add insult to injury, she found it difficult to conceive and even harder to stay pregnant. Two miscarriages later, she said she felt like she was at war with her own body.
‘For many, pregnancy is a cure,’ her doctor informed her. The irony of the comment wasn’t lost on her. The truth is that endo then, as well as now, has a lot of mystery surrounding it. Endometriosis, the expansion of the uterine lining onto the surrounding organs and tissues, can create extensive bleeding and scar tissue in the abdomen. Symptoms run the gamut: one woman can be walking around completely unaware that she has endo, while another may be begging her husband to put her out of her misery every time she gets her monthly visitor. Theories on why it occurs range from estrogen dominance and hormonal imbalance to structural abnormalities and retrograde bleeding during menstruation. And since the extreme pain it can cause is often misunderstood as severe menstrual cramps (and the only way it’s diagnosed is through surgery), many women don’t know they have it until they find themselves unable to conceive.
There is currently no known cure for endometriosis (other than menopause). But there are ways to handle the scar tissue and pain associated with it. In my mother’s case, the endo required two painful surgeries. But for others, massage may offer a gentler solution. Massage can help break up scar tissue from previous internal bleeding. It can also help to soften the stiff abdominal tissue often associated with endo. And as it relieves congestion it may also release endorphins and dopamine in the body, helping to diminish pain. 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.
My mother’s story ends happily. Despite the pain, the drugs, and the surgeries, she ultimately had two healthy children. But back in the 1970’s she didn’t have access to the resources and information we have today. Could there have been a gentler way to handle her endometriosis? Due to it’s severity, my mother would most likely have needed surgery anyways. But massage could have provided a wonderful compliment to her treatment plan with her doctor, providing additional tools for relieving congestion and scar tissue. It could have eased her pain and created a sense of well-being. And perhaps in nurturing her belly with positive touch, it could have helped her find peace with the body she so often felt at war with…