Complementary and Alternative Treatment for Endometriosis
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2023
When a person is undergoing treatment for endometriosis that has been prescribed by their doctor, this is called standard medical care. In some cases, a person may want to seek additional symptom relief or other treatment options to help them feel like their best self while undergoing standard medical care.
Treatment options used along with standard medical care that have been approved by a doctor are called complementary therapies or complementary medicine. In some cases, under a doctor's guidance and observation, a person may choose to use an alternative treatment option instead of standard medical care. This is referred to as alternative medicine.1
There are several complementary and alternative medicinal practices that people with endometriosis may consider. It is important to note that no complementary or alternative medicine methods should be attempted without the support and guidance of your doctor.
Acupuncture is a type of traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting small, thin needles into the skin. The goal is to provide pain relief and reduce stress, among other potential health benefits.
The theory behind acupuncture centers around balancing the body's flow of energy. This flow of energy is called chi (chee). Practitioners believe a person's chi flows through pathways in their body, called meridians. The needles placed during acupuncture are thought to help re-balance the recipient's chi, providing pain relief and other health benefits. The points where the needles are placed are often places where muscles, nerves, and connective tissue can be stimulated, according to practitioners of Western medicine. This stimulation may be what provides relief.2,3
Chiropractic care, also called chiropractic, focuses on the body's structure in relation to its function. Practitioners of chiropractic care are called chiropractors. Chiropractors are professionals who perform a variety of chiropractic care, including spinal manipulations (also called spinal adjustments). They often see people who are struggling with lower back pain, headaches, general back pain, and whiplash, among other issues. Chiropractors most commonly perform adjustments to the spine. Adjustments involve applying a controlled force to joints that are not as mobile as they normally would be as a result of an injury, overuse, or another issue.
Chiropractors also perform adjustments to other parts of the body. Adjustments are thought to restore mobility, reduce pain, decrease inflammation, reduce muscle stiffness, and improve bodily function without the use of medicines or surgery. Chiropractors may also perform other kinds of chiropractic-related care, such as massage. They may also recommend rehab exercises, provide lifestyle counseling, and nutritional or dietary advice.4,5
Herbs and supplements
Some people with endometriosis have turned to herbs and supplements in hopes of experiencing additional relief from their symptoms. Currently, there is no scientific consensus on the effect of using herbs and supplements for endometriosis and its symptoms. Herbs and supplements can impact people in different ways. Common herbs and supplements used by people with endometriosis include:
- Milk thistle
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Curcumin (found in turmeric)
- DIM (diindolylmethane)
- Vitamin B6
It is important to talk to your doctor before trying any herbs or supplements. This is because some of these products can cause unwanted side effects or interact with medicines. Also, before you start a new medicine or treatment, tell your doctor if you are taking any herbs or supplements.
Chinese herbal medicine
Chinese herbal medicine is a type of traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Other types of TCM include tai chi and acupuncture. The practice of TCM and Chinese herbal medicine dates back thousands of years. Chinese herbal medicine uses hundreds of herbs from a variety of sources. Some are common pantry staples, including ginger or cinnamon. Others are uncommon, such as astragalus (huangqi) or bupleurum (chaihu). Practitioners of Chinese herbal medicine believe that in the right combinations and amounts, these herbs can prevent or treat conditions including digestive issues, infertility, joint pain, endometriosis, anxiety, and more.
The Materia Medica is a Chinese reference book that informs the practice of Chinese herbal medicine. It describes all the substances used and where they come from. It also helps practitioners make specific combinations of herbs. These herbs can come in loose form or in powder form to be made into tea. However, some Chinese herbs come in capsule or tablet form.6,7
Mind-body practices are techniques and therapies that aim to connect the body with the mind to help reduce stress and provide other health benefits. People who practice and teach mind-body therapies believe in the mind-body connection. The mind-body connection refers to the mind's ability to potentially impact the body's well-being and experiences, positively and negatively. It refers to the thoughts, feelings, and mentality that a person has toward themselves, their personal experiences, and the world around them. Stress is known to play a role in the development and progression of many different physical and mental health-related conditions, and decreasing it may improve overall health.8,9
According to the mind-body connection theory, focusing on having a positive, relaxed attitude and outlook toward a situation may improve physical outcomes. In turn, having a negative outlook and believing in poor outcomes may negatively impact the body. Examples of mind-body practices include:
- Tai chi
This is not an exhaustive list of all complementary and alternative therapies for endometriosis. Talk to your doctor before starting any complementary and/or alternative therapies.