The Art of Chronic Pain Control
It can take a long time to diagnose endometriosis, which can mean years of painful menstrual cycles. So finding methods of pain relief is imperative.
Endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue that lines the uterus begins to grow in other places inside the body, can be difficult to diagnose because many women assume the pain they are experiencing is normal period discomfort.
According to the World Endometriosis Research Foundation, there is an average of seven years between the first symptoms and a diagnosis among women ages 18 to 45. Additionally, most diagnoses are made between 30 to 40 years of age.
Pain management 101
There is no cure for endometriosis, but medication, lifestyle changes and surgery can help manage the pain. After you've been diagnosed with endometriosis, your doctor may recommend some of the following:
- Medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory): These medications can be either over-the-counter or prescribed by your physician, and include ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin and naproxen (Aleve).
- Hormone therapy: Adjusting hormone levels may help relieve endometriosis pain. These medications come in the form of pills, vaginal rings, intrauterine devices, nasal sprays and injections.
- Acupuncture: The use of small needles, applied to specific areas of the body, is another possible method of pain control.
- Pelvic floor physical therapy: Pelvic muscles that are too tight can cause muscle pain (myofascial pain) and muscle irritation. A specially trained therapist can perform internal and external treatments of the pelvic floor muscles, specifically relaxing contracted muscles to ease the pain.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: CBT is based on the theory that positive and healthier thought patterns can be used to treat chronic pain, as well as help people cope with their symptoms. Studies on the use of CBT on endometriosis are uncommon, but it has successfully managed chronic pain caused by other conditions.
- Stress management: Chronic pain and its relation to stress is a vicious cycle. Stress causes pain and pain causes stress. It's important to find healthy ways to manage your daily anxieties, especially when dealing with disorders like endometriosis.
- Lifestyle changes/improvements: Exercise, sleep and a healthy, balanced diet can help you better manage your endometriosis symptoms and pain. Talk to your doctor about healthy changes you can make to your day-to-day life.
- Surgery: While the surgical approach may not be your doctor's first path (and it usually isn't), it is good to keep an open dialogue about the possibility. Having surgery to destroy or remove abnormal tissue growth may help alleviate the pain caused by endometriosis. It can also help improve your quality of life.
While there are many ways to deal with chronic pain, the key is finding the right method for you. The options above are just the beginning. Deep breathing, meditation and chronic pain support groups are other routes to look into. Whatever answer is right for you, always keep an open and honest dialogue with your physician. Pain management is an art. It's time to get creative!