Women's Health: Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a fairly common condition in which cells that usually line the uterus are found elsewhere in the body. These uterine cells (endometrium) can occur in several places in the body, most commonly including the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, the bladder, the bowel, the intestines, the vagina and the rectum.

These endometrial cells behave in the same way as those that line the uterus, so every month they grow during the menstrual cycle and then shed blood, although some do not bleed. As there is no way of this endometrial tissue leaving the body it is 'trapped' which leads to pain (endometrialgia), swelling and bleeding wherever the tissue is and emotional distress.

Research suggests that oestrogens and prostaglandins probably play key modulatory roles in endometriosis and endometrialgia. Consequently many of the current medical treatments for the condition include oral drugs, like non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, contraceptives, progestogens, androgenic agents, gonadotrophin releasing hormone analogues, as well as laparoscopic surgical removal of the endometriosis lesions. Surgery can lead to scar tissue formation that can reduce fertility and also it is often difficult to remove all the tissue. Management of pain in women with endometriosis is currently inadequate for many.

Treatment with Chinese Medicine

The type and length of the treatment will depend on the nature of the endometrial tissue: type, location and extent. A Chinese medical diagnosis will look at underlying influences and address these in the treatment plan.

In some cases, surgery will be the best form of intervention. Bulky endometrial tissue can impair the function of the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes by causing blockages and distortions. This can contribute to infertility. Acupuncture can help prepare the pelvic area for surgery through regulating blood circulation and then if required, afterwards a course of treatments can be given to promote fertility.


A research study in China compared the therapeutic effects of acupuncture and western medicine for the treatment of endometriosis. 90 patients were randomly assigned to either two acupuncture groups or a western medicine group to be treated with oral administration of Danazol. Clinical symptoms and signs, tumour marker serum CA125 values and adverse effects in the groups were investigated before and after treatment. The results showed that a particular combination of acupuncture points (Shu-Mu point combination) was found to be the most effective at improving the symptoms caused by endometriosis including: dysmenorrhoea, irregular menstruation, and lumbago.

Reference: Sun YZ, Chen HL. (2006) Controlled study on Shu-Mu point combination for treatment of endometriosis. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. Dec;26(12):863-5.

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