Last updated: April 2019
Most months, it will happen like this: I will wake one morning aching all over. In those spots of my body that are particularly prone to soreness due to degenerative changes or past injury, the pain is especially bad. I will think back over the previous couple of days, trying to recall what I did to provoke this pain flare... Did I overexert myself? Did I trip and fall or bang into something? But then later that day, as other symptoms kick in or when I go to the bathroom and find blood in my underwear, I will realize the culprit: my period. Or more specifically, my endo.
Pain in new areas
For many years, my endo-associated pain was primarily restricted to the pelvic region or "belt area" (including my lower back) and to the days of the month when I was actually bleeding. But in the past decade or so, after I hit my thirties, things began to gradually (and then it seemed, swiftly) change. And then, starting around a couple of years ago, I would wake up to body-wide aches in unusual places- my hips and shoulders and knees and toes. It would be that general soreness one expects to feel a day or so after a strenuous hike up a mountain, or after running a marathon... or when they feel a flu or cold coming on. Sometimes, I have even noticed I will have a sore throat and swollen glands some mornings the day before my period starts or the day it begins.
Why does it hurt?
But, why is this? I don't think anyone knows for sure. But from what I've read, endometriosis is not just about the mechanical changes in the body- that is the growth of the rogue endometrial in inappropriate areas. Endo is also characterized by chemical and hormonal changes in the body that are less likely to be experienced in a person without endo or other disease. Endo can adversely impact the immune system and the immune response, and is essentially an inflammatory disease.
In fact, a study published in 2012 that reviewed past research on the inflammatory response in endo noted that while endo patients had abnormally high levels of immune cells in their pelvic cavity, that those cells, for some reason, couldn't seem to detect and there eliminate the ectopic endometrial cells. So, it seems people with endo have this faulty wiring where our bodies release all these immune cells, but the cells can't seem to do their job. The 2012 review not only classified these immune cells as "dysfunctional," but asserted they could potentially be a contributing factor in developing endo in the first place.1 Another study I found made a correlation between endometriosis and an increase in cytokines (a protein in the body) that impact the expression of certain genes that instigate inflammation.2
Not just period pain
Whatever the culprit, at least in my case, as I am sure in many others, endo is not just period pain or pelvic pain. And so, I try to employ treatments that address pain all over my body (massage, acupuncture, warm baths, nutrition, etc.).
Do you have pain in other parts of your body beside your "belt area"? What do you do to help soothe your sore body?
Do your endo symptoms ever cause you to feel socially awkward?
Join the conversation