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New Study Finds That Cannabis Use Eases Pain and Other Symptoms of Endometriosis

Results published from a recent Australian study suggest that cannabis may help improve endometriosis symptoms. The study was published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada and involved surveying almost 500 women on the ways they manage their endometriosis. Participants were recruited using social media posts and online endometriosis advocacy groups. Women were invited to participate if they were between 18 and 45 years old and had surgically-diagnosed endometriosis. The survey collected information on life with endometriosis and management techniques using the Pelvic Pain Impact Questionnaire (PPIQ).1

Strategies to manage endometriosis symptoms

Overall, over 75 percent of all participants reported using some kind of self-management strategy in the last 6 months. These are techniques used outside of or in addition to traditional medical therapy. Self-management options included yoga, exercise, breathing techniques, diet changes, meditation, and cannabis use. About 13 percent of those practicing self-management said they used cannabis. This was about 1 out of every 8 women.

The efficacy of cannabis for endo pain

Those using cannabis reported doing so to help manage their endometriosis pain and other symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, sleep issues, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, of all the self-management techniques, cannabis was considered the most effective. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most effective, those using cannabis rated its effectiveness as a 7.6, higher than any other self-management option.

The most common side effects reported while using cannabis included fast heartbeat, anxiety, and sleepiness. However, only about 10% of those using cannabis experienced one or more of these. Cannabis had fewer people reporting side effects compared to several other treatment options, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioid pain relievers.

Over half of the women using cannabis said they decreased their traditional endometriosis medications by 50 percent or more. About 44 percent of those using cannabis reported doing so at least once a day.

How cannabis works

Cannabis acts within the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the body. Some experts think this system and the pain-relieving and/or anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis may be helpful for endometriosis. The effect on the female reproductive system may be especially significant, since there are many cannabis receptors on cells in that area of the body, potentially leading to symptom relief.

These results suggest that cannabis use may be an effective pain and symptom relief option for some women with endometriosis. However, much more research is needed to determine the true relationship between the two. This need is especially great as more women are turning to self-care alongside of or instead of traditional treatment options that may not be providing adequate relief, and as the legality of cannabis is changing in many areas. If you or a loved one is interested in complementary or alternative treatment options for endometriosis, contact your doctor or healthcare team for information and strategies for safe practice.1

  1. Sinclair J, Smith CA, et al. Cannabis use, a self-management strategy among Australian women with endometriosis: Results from a National Online Survey. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada. Epub 7 Nov 2019. doi: 10.1016/j.jogc.2019.08.033.

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