By Brittany Schmidt, DC
I was in in the restroom my first year of chiropractic school changing for my Adjusting Methods class, when suddenly I experienced the worst pain imaginable. I crumpled to the floor, unable to move, sweating, nauseated, with stabbing pain in my lower right abdomen. Is this appendicitis? I thought. I called one of my friends to take me to the Emergency Department immediately.
This day was the start of my painful journey with endometriosis. Endometriosis is a chronic disease where the tissue inside the uterus grows in ectopic places (meaning outside of the uterus). With every menstrual cycle this tissue grows further and becomes irritated, creating very painful periods for Endo sufferers. Endometriosis can grow on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and ureters, and even bowel tissue. Endometriosis is a condition that affects nearly 10-15% of women (Mehedintu, 2014); it is incredibly common and is sadly often overlooked or missed by health care providers.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Painful periods (dysmenorrhea). Pelvic pain and cramping may begin before your period and extend several days into your period. You may also have lower back and abdominal pain.
- Pain with intercourse. Pain during or after sex is common with endometriosis.
- Pain with bowel movements or urination. You’re most likely to experience these symptoms during your period.
- Excessive vaginal bleeding. You may experience occasional heavy periods (menorrhagia) or bleeding between periods (menometrorrhagia).
- Infertility. Endometriosis is first diagnosed in some women who are seeking treatment for infertility.
- Other symptoms. You may also experience fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea, especially during menstrual periods.
That day in the Emergency Department I learned that I had an ovarian cyst that had ruptured—and had another cyst growing. Over the course of a year I would have two surgeries and multiple cyst ruptures; I tried every natural remedy available, went on strict diets, and tried a medication that put me through chemical menopause. It was the hardest time in my life– endometriosis affected me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Since then my endometriosis has thankfully calmed down, although some days are still considerably difficult. Even though endometriosis has caused me much grief, I am grateful for the experience. Having endometriosis has undoubtedly made me a better Doctor. It has allowed me to connect with patients who have chronic pain conditions, inspired me to become an expert in women’s health, and given me an opportunity to educate and create awareness around this condition. I can even sympathize with women going through menopause after experiencing it myself! I have suspected endometriosis in several patients and have been thanked by them for finally taking their pain seriously and referring them to reputable OBGYN to provide a diagnosis—a thank you like that from a patient is priceless.
Unfortunately, the only way to diagnose endometriosis is by surgery, and unfortunately, there is no cure or definitive treatment for it. Endometriosis should be managed by a qualified OBGYN that specializes in endometriosis. What I have found is that treatment by an OBGYN in conjunction with a more natural or holistic approach works for me. I have responded well to chiropractic treatment that targets the parasympathetic nervous system, and the nerves that innervate the pelvis and reproductive organs. Having a healthy nervous system is essential! I have also benefited from Acupuncture and Chinese herbs, supplementation and proper nutrition, counseling to address the emotional hardship of dealing with a chronic pain condition, and massage therapy. Having a disease like endometriosis can make someone feel powerless, but I want Endo Warriors to know that there are LOTS of things you can do to help you heal, and it can be beneficial to have a variety of healthcare providers on your management team.
I am always willing to discuss endometriosis and happy to share my story. I want to increase awareness about this condition that affects too many women. As mentioned earlier, having endometriosis has, of course, been devastating… but it has also been a gift, and I am determined to use my experience to help others whether it is through chiropractic care, nutrition, or just connecting with other Endo Warriors and giving them support. And although no cure exists today, I am hopeful that a more definitive answer for endometriosis exists and one day we will find it!
“There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow.” –Orison Swett Marden.
Please do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with me to further discuss endometriosis or any women’s health issue; I would love to hear from you! email@example.com
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Mayo Clinic. Accessed electronically on 3/29/2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354656
Mehedintu C, Plotogea M, Ionescu S, Antonovici M. Endometriosis still a challenge. Journal of Medicine and Life. 2014;7(3):349-357.