It is estimated that at least 1 in 10 women are living with endometriosis and many more going undiagnosed. With the stigma surrounding the condition, sensitive symptoms may be uncomfortable to disclose and diagnostic surgeries are considered invasive.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is an estrogen-fuelled condition where endometrial-like tissue grows outside of the uterus. This tissue can be found growing in places like the ovaries, fallopian tubes and bowel. The tissue mimics the cyclic nature of endometrial tissue, breaking down and bleeding with your monthly period. As it can’t leave the body in the same manner that endometrial tissue does, it creates an inflammatory response within the pelvis and surrounding structures at the site of tissue growth. This response can leave an individual experiencing the following debilitating symptoms:
- Pain (e.g. during menstruation, sexual intercourse, bowel and bladder movements and with the insertion of tampons)
- Heavy bleeding
- Bowel and bladder dysfunction
- Changes in mood
Exercise for Endometriosis management
Currently, there is no cure for endometriosis. However, an individual can manage their condition through pain medication, physical therapy, and surgical, hormonal, and dietary interventions. Exercise Physiologists are equipped with the tools to manage pain levels and help you safely return to exercise and activities of your daily life.
Exercise has the ability to reduce estrogen levels (the main driver of Endo), elevate anti-inflammatory markers (reducing the nasty symptoms associated with inflammation) and increase blood flow to regions affected by tissue growth (clearing out all the by-products of inflammation in the process). However, there is too much of a good thing! One third of women with Endo choosing to manage their own exercise regime reported symptom flare-ups. So, consulting with an Exercise Physiologist about what type and intensity of exercise is vital to appropriately manage symptoms.
Exercising at an intensity that your body is not yet prepared for increases your risk of adverse events (injury, symptom flares, etc.). Women with pelvic floor hyper-tonicity require special breathing and stretching exercises to release these tight muscles.
Rushing into exercise without addressing the pelvic floor may result in pain and bladder and bowel dysfunction. Working with an EP will help you prepare for and manage force exerted upon the pelvic floor.
Exercise is also useful in the pre and post-surgical phases to ensure optimal recovery. Working with an EP prior to and following your surgery will help you safely return to physical activity, whether that is to structured exercise, physical jobs, or housework!
Working closely with a trusted health professional will help you better understand the safe forms of exercise to undertake during your pain cycles, and how your pelvic floor should function during movement. Whilst exercise may seem like the last thing you want to do, an EP will provide you with a program catered specifically to you, safely progressing you into regular movement.
What will my consultation with an Exercise Physiologist look like?
Your practitioner will obtain a comprehensive medical history, an understanding of your experience living with Endo and your personal goals. They will then take you through a physical assessment to see how you move. From this, an individualized exercise program will be prescribed and in your following sessions, appropriate progression and regression adjustments will be made to ensure safe management of your condition. You should always have a say in your health journey, so your practitioner will always liaise with you about the next steps in your progression.
If you’re an individual living with Endometriosis looking to better manage your condition, be sure to book in with an Exercise Physiologist today.