Women with endometriosis are increasingly seeking alternative medical therapies for symptom relief

Women with endometriosis are increasingly seeking alternative medical therapies for symptom relief

Observing changes of alternative medical use in relation to various menstrual problems among women with and without endometriosis.

Key Points


  • Women with endometriosis are more likely to seek alternative medicines to treat their perimenstrual symptoms than women without endometriosis.

Key Results:

  • Compared to women without endometriosis, women with endometriosis and CPPD symptoms were at least 6 times more likely to utilize other health services to treat their symptoms.
  • Between 2006-2012, women increasingly turned to the services of chiropractors, osteopaths, massage therapists, and/or acupuncturists for symptom relief.
  • The mean prevalence rates for endometriosis, irregular periods, and severe period pain were 4.0%, 20.9%, and 23.7%, respectively.
  • Health professionals should be aware of the increasing amounts of women with endometriosis who are seeking alternative methods of pain relief related to endometriosis.

What’s done here?

  • This is a 7-year longitudinal study that aimed to observe rates and characteristics of endometriosis, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), irregular periods, heavy periods, and severe period pain in women with endometriosis who used alternative medicine as a form of treatment for their symptoms.

Limitations: Since this study relied upon a questionnaires to gather consensus data, recall bias may have affected the responses that were given.

Lay Summary

Cyclic premenstrual pain and discomfort (CPPD) encompasses a number of symptoms commonly experienced by many women including premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and is experienced by both women with and without endometriosis. CPPD includes physical and emotional symptoms associated with menstruation including anxiety, depression, bloating, headache, cramping, and breast tenderness. Thus, almost all women have or will experience at least one of these associated symptoms during their lifetime. Some women have found a benefit in using alternative therapies to alleviate some of these symptoms. Alternative therapies include herbal medicines, aromatherapy oils, meditation, yoga, and Chinese medicine. Other medical professionals including chiropractors, naturopaths, herbalists, massage therapists, and acupuncturists were also considered to fall under alternative medical treatments used by this cohort.

This study’s goal was to observe the rate and frequency at which women used alternative therapies and services of other health care professionals to alleviate their CPPD symptoms. Using a questionnaire method, researchers from Australia collected data from a study cohort of 58,000 women of all age groups. Questions pertaining to the frequency of experienced symptoms and use of alternative therapies were asked in women with and without endometriosis.

The mean prevalence rates for endometriosis (4.0%), irregular periods (20.9%) and severe period pain (23.7%) were consistent among the several questionnaires that were employed between 2006-2012. Over the 7-year time period, women with endometriosis were more likely to have consulted with a massage therapist (OR=1.26), acupuncturist (OR=1.88), and herbalist (OR=1.54) compared to women who had not been diagnosed with endometriosis.

Between these years, the study found a steady increase in the number of women who turned to the services of chiropractors, osteopaths, massage therapists, and/or acupuncturists. Women with endometriosis were significantly more likely to have used vitamins/minerals (OR= 1.40), yoga/meditation (OR= 1.35), herbal medicines (OR = 1.34), and Chinese medicines (OR= 1.99) compared to those without endometriosis.

It is important to note that the efficacy of conventional treatments for symptoms of CPPD vary depending on the individual symptoms and treatment used. While this study found that increasingly more women with endometriosis are utilizing alternative medicines and therapies to treat their symptoms, this does by no means prove that these therapies are effectively alleviating the symptoms associated with CPPD. While some studies have found an associated benefit of treating some symptoms using acupuncture, massage, and Chinese herbal medicine for women with endometriosis, this benefit is far from conclusive. Thus, individualization of treatment plans that aim to use many various aspects of conventional and alternative medicine may yield benefit on a case-by-case basis.

Research Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28805552

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