Endometriosis affects every woman differently, so there isn’t a treatment plan that’s guaranteed to work for everyone. But certain lifestyle changes, home remedies, treatment strategies, and prescription medications can make this condition more manageable on a day-to-day level.
Keep reading to find out what you can do to ease endometriosis pain and other symptoms.
How to reduce pain
Endometriosis pain reduction is different for everyone. Finding a way to reduce your pain might be a process of trial and error.
Here are some things you can try to help ease your symptoms:
1. Invest in a wireless heating pad. A heating pad is one of the best home remedies for endometriosis pain, according to Meg Connolly, who was diagnosed in 2015. “Prior to my surgery, my heating pad was perpetually plugged into the wall, and I took it everywhere with me when I traveled,” she told Healthline via email. “It really loosens and soothes the muscles in the area that cramp up when you’re dealing with endo pain.”
2. Use a rice sock. Some women prefer to use a rice sock instead of a heating pad. Taking a clean sock, filling it with uncooked rice, and microwaving it for up to two minutes creates a mechanism to deliver heat to your aching muscles.
3. Take warm baths. Much like applying dry heat, warm baths can also work to relax your muscles and ease pain from cramping.
4. Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water can help reduce bloating and cramping. On days that feel especially hard, dehydration might be a factor.
5. Try a TENS machine. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units emit vibrations that can cut down on pain and relax muscles. You can try a TENS machine at a physical therapist or purchase an affordable home unit online.
6. Keep medication on hand. Sharon Rosenblatt, who was diagnosed with endometriosis at age 26, shared that she used to always take ibuprofen (Advil) for her endometriosis pain. “I’ve winnowed down now,” she shared, since she started continuous hormonal birth control.
How to manage pain
You might not be able to fully get rid of your endometriosis pain. But that doesn’t mean you have to be paralyzed by the way the pain affects you. It also doesn’t mean you should pretend that the pain doesn’t exist. Pain management comes down to being prepared to deal with symptoms before they actually start.
Here are some things you can try to help manage your symptoms:
1. Use an app to track your symptoms. Many period tracking apps, like Eve, let you input your symptoms and rate their severity. Take advantage of this feature to help predict how your cycle will influence your symptoms and pain.
2. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Taking care of yourself by not smoking, not binge-drinking alcohol, and avoiding narcotics will keep your body feeling at its best.
3. Plan ahead. You know your body, and managing endometriosis means you’re getting to know it even better. Give yourself extra time to get to events and get ready for work on the days of your cycle that you suspect your symptoms will flare.
4. Schedule self-care. Taking time to unwind, listen to your body, and fit your endometriosis needs into your schedule will help you feel in control of your symptoms.
5. Eat your veggies. There’s a lot we still don’t know about what causes endometriosis. But one study showed a connection between low vegetable intake and endometriosis. Most vegetables are also high in fiber, which can help your digestion when you’re on your period.
6. Know that fatty acids are your friend. If you eat foods with lot of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, you may feel better overall. Omega-3’s may also improve endometriosis symptoms.
7. Go natural. Dioxin, a chemical found in some pesticides and animal food sources, may trigger endometriosis. By cutting down on animal products that you consume and aiming to eat a low-gluten and organic diet as much as you can, you’ll be cutting your exposure to environmental toxins like dioxin. “I try to eat pretty cleanly to manage my symptoms and avoid soy at all costs due to the hormonal spike it can cause,” Connolly told us.
8. Try acupuncture. Researchers have been optimistic about acupuncture as a pain management tool for endometriosis.
How to relieve associated stress
Chronic pain can raise your cortisol levels, which changes the way that you experience stress. When cortisol levels remain high over time, they can result in a hormone imbalance, which can actually make your endometriosis worse.
Developing stress-relief strategies may help you keep your cortisol levels low and reduce your symptoms over time.
Here are some things you can try to help relieve stress:
1. Meditate. Meditation apps can guide you through the process of learning this ancient practice. By meditating for even five minutes a day, you can reduce stress.
2. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is an arm of meditation that involves accepting your surroundings and staying aware of them. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
3. Try essential oil aromatherapy. Using a diffuser and a few drops of your favorite relaxing scent can help you feel at ease. Lavender oil and cinnamon oil are both popular essential oils for reducing anxiety.
4. Drink herbal teas. Drinking decaffeinated green tea, ginger tea, and chamomile tea is known to be an easy and fast way to decompress. Try incorporating a warm brew into your nightly routine to cut stress.
5. Do yoga. Yoga has been established as an effective pain management technique for endometriosis. It also decreases stress.
6. Practice breathing techniques. Deep breathing techniques are simple to learn and easy to do anywhere. These techniques can de-escalate your stress levels and help you feel less pain.
7. Take vitamin D and vitamin B supplements. Vitamin D is known as the “happiness supplement” because it decreases anxiety and depression. Vitamin B helps by giving your energy a boost on days when your endometriosis symptoms hit hard.
8. Visit a green space. Taking a trip to a local garden or park may decrease your stress.
9. Go for a run. Running, resistance training, and other kinds of aerobic exercise help your body cope with anxiety. They can also help decrease side effects of certain pain medications.
MAINTAINING QUALITY OF LIFE
How to maintain relationships and activities
Endometriosis isn’t a condition with an easy answer or quick-fix treatment. You may be working toward an effective treatment solution for some time. In the meantime, you don’t have to lose every day that you have to severe pain.
Here are some things you can try to maintain your quality of life:
1. Be honest with yourself. You don’t have to do things you don’t want to do, nor do you have to give up things just because endometriosis makes them intimidating. Evaluate how you feel about your condition on a frequent basis.
2. Be honest with others. Communicate your diagnosis to your friends and family. Let them know ahead of time that you might sometimes need to stay home at take care of your endometriosis. This conversation will help them understand later if you decide to skip some events to take care of your needs.
3. Have a safe space. When you arrive at a bar, restaurant, or event venue, scope out your surroundings. Identify a space where you can go if you need to take a minute to breathe, practice mindfulness, or wait for pain relievers to take effect.
4. Find a point person at work. While you may be open about your condition with your friends and family, having a specific person at work that is close to you and is invested in how you’re feeling can also help you feel less alone. In addition, this means there’s someone in your corner if you’re taking days off for treatment or doctor’s appointments.
5. Travel prepared. Keeping an endometriosis care pack in your vehicle, at your desk, or in your suitcase can ensure that you’re never without what you need. Travel-sized heat wraps, packets of pain relievers, and relaxing essential oils can all be transported easily wherever you go.
6. Find a mental health professional. Processing your diagnosis with a mental health professional can save you a lot of questions and confusion later on. Endometriosis can increase your risk for anxiety and depression, so having a counselor or psychotherapist to check in with can be a lifeline.
7. Join online support groups. Connolly found her support online, and it made a huge impact on her. “Join Facebook endo support groups,” she shared. “It’s so important to talk to women who understand what you’re going through. It’s a very lonely disease otherwise, because people who don’t have it cannot possibly imagine what your pain is like.”
8. Stay optimistic. Rosenblatt reminds women with endometriosis not to lose hope. “For other women out there, don’t stop fighting,” she said. “If something hurts, keep persisting until you get the right diagnosis. Trust your body, and keep fighting to feel better.”