If your shoulder or knee hurts, you see may see an Osteopath in order to treat the bones, muscles, nerves, fascia, and ligaments for some relief. Similarly there are bones muscles, nerves, fascia, and ligaments in your pelvis and abdomen that experience substantial adaptations from the disease process of endometriosis.
Specialist Women’s Health Osteopaths work with the pelvis, spine, and abdomen. They evaluate the alignment, musculature, fascial systems, and movement patterns in the pelvis and body for issues that activate your pain and decrease your quality of life.
From alleviating pelvic floor dysfunction to improving your sex life, here are 5 things Osteopathy can do for you:
Create a better pelvic floor
The pelvis is lined with muscles called the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor steadies the bony outlet of the pelvis, supports the organs of the pelvis, and stabilises connected joints like the hip and sacroiliac joint. The pelvic floor assists with faecal and urinary release and may aid in sexual performance like orgasm. The pelvic floor needs length to be able to accommodate pain free sex.
If the pelvic floor muscles cannot effectively coordinate contraction and relaxation of the pelvic floor (often seen in endometriosis) it is called pelvic floor dysfunction. Symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction include, but are not limited to:
- pain in the back, hips, and sacroiliac joint
- difficulty emptying the bladder
- urinary frequency, burning or pain
- constipation or diarrhea
- painful bowel movements and faecal incontinence
- painful sex
- inability to tolerate a speculum during a gynaecological exam, and
- pain with wearing tampons.
Osteopathy helps you normalise pelvic floor dysfunction with a number of different interventions that will encourage you to re-coordinate the pelvic floor.
Help sex to be less painful
Endometriosis can make sex extremely painful. However, in order to experience less painful sex, it is important that the muscles inside the pelvic floor are elongated, not shortened, and that nothing else in the pelvis is sending painful messages during sex.
It is proposed that endometriosis creates an environment of inflammation, scar tissue, and adhesions within the pelvic and abdominal cavity. These pelvic insults encourage the formation of myofascial trigger points within the pelvic floor, hip, and back muscles and abdomen. They also spasm and thicken the muscles inside the pelvis as they respond to the tension patterns the disease and surgery create.
Gentle treatment can help to ease these trigger points and encourage relaxation in the pelvic floor and surrounding musculature.
Treat other causes of pain
With endometriosis, not all pelvic pain is endometriosis. Therefore, treating just the endometriosis may not provide you with the pain relief you need.
Known as the evil twins, it is not uncommon for women to have both interstitial cystitis (IC) and endometriosis. Interstitial cystitis, in addition to causing bladder symptoms, instigates pain in the pelvic floor, lower abdomen, back, and legs. IC may spasm the pelvis because the body is trying to protect itself from the pain and irritation.
Women with endometriosis can also experience vulvodynia and pudendal neuralgia – two pelvic pain disorders with multiple components including muscle and nerve impairments that Osteopathy can help relieve.
Attack that endo belly
Many women with endometriosis complain of “endo belly” or excessive bloating for little or no reason.
Some of this bloating can be attributed to the inflammatory peritoneal insults of endometriosis. However, tightness in the pelvic floor may contribute to “endo belly” because the floor cannot provide the support the way in which it was designed and thus the belly balloons out. The body is spasming as a protective response against endometriosis.
Osteopathy can help relax that protective response. It also can help work the lymphatic system and venous return to encourage inflammation to be absorbed. When the muscles in the abdomen, including the hip flexor muscle or psoas muscle, have trigger points or spasms you get outpouching which looks like extreme bloating.
Years of disease in the peritoneum and organs can cause the fascia, a plastic wrap like substance that is around everything in the body, and the brain to sense pain and proprioception (position) of the organs differently. Osteopaths often use a technique called “visceral manipulation therapy”. Women usually see a noticeable difference in the bloating and distention, as well as their abdominal and pelvic pain with visceral therapy.
With the average diagnostic delay of seven years for women with endometriosis too many have suffered far too long without relief. Some women have been told the pain is all in your head, or you wait for a doctor to fix you after so many treatment options fail.
Perhaps you are afraid to try just one more thing because it has been such a difficult journey? Don’t be afraid. The refreshing thing about Osteopathy is that you are the most important person in the treatment team, your practitioner will take the time to really listen to what your symptoms are and come up with a plan to help relieve them.
Many women are surprised the relief they feel from treating muscuskeletal issues contributing to their pain. Learning how connected the body is, and how endometriosis has affected everything from the nerves to the core muscles to their sex lives, is tremendously empowering.
Likewise having techniques to use when at home during a pain flare and having another professional in your corner reminds you that despite all the things that have happened to your body, you have influence over your own daily life. You are not your pain and you can get better!