We Need to Talk About… Endometriosis

Women's Health Physio and Manual Physio, Kayleigh RobinsonWomen’s Health Physio Kayleigh Robinson is shining a light on the condition and how physiotherapy can help some women to manage their symptoms.

Endometriosis is a chronic gynaecological condition where tissue that usually grows on the uterine lining throughout the menstrual cycle is found in other locations outside of the womb. These locations vary but can include the bowel, bladder, ovaries and fallopian tubes.

According to Endometriosis UK, which is the leading charity for people affected by the condition, endometriosis impacts 1 in 10 women and people assigned female at birth (PAFAB).

It affects people differently and for some women it can cause debilitating pain and impact their quality of life. Common symptoms include lower abdominal and pelvic pain, pain with bladder and bowel movements, pain during intercourse, diarrhoea and nausea, bloating and irregularity in periods. It can also affect fertility in some women.

The pain will typically flare up around menstruation, which is why historically women have had their symptoms brushed aside as ‘just bad period pains’, when actually there’s a lot more to it than that.

It can affect women of any age from as soon as you start puberty. Most women I see in clinic self-referring for help with endometriosis tend to be in their 30s to 40s, and there are lots more who present with endo symptoms, without a formal diagnosis.

Endometriosis is notoriously difficult to diagnose because of how varied the symptoms can be, and due to crossover with other conditions such as adenomyosis. The only way to know for sure if you have it is through a type of keyhole surgery called a laparoscopy, where a surgeon inserts a tiny camera through a small cut in your tummy to look for signs of endometriosis tissue growing where it shouldn’t.

There is a lot we still don’t know about endometriosis and frustratingly it remains a very poorly researched area. It’s not clear what causes it and unfortunately there is currently no cure.

However, there are steps you can take to manage the symptoms. Your GP might recommend common painkillers, hormonal medication, or surgery to remove patches of endometrial tissue.

Physiotherapy can also help ease the pain caused by endometriosis. Pain anywhere in the body usually leads to a build up of tension in the muscles, as this is your body’s automatic response to try and protect the affected area. The pelvic floor is the group of muscles that support your pelvic organs which is why pelvic pain is common in people who have endometriosis.

A specialist Pelvic Health Physiotherapist will examine your pelvic floor and can help increase your awareness of it. They will show you suitable exercises to help relax your pelvic floor and move through its full range. A physio can also work with you to encourage movement and exercise, which some women may find helps with the pain.

And if you have surgery to remove the tissue, a physiotherapist can assist with your post-op recovery, and provide guidance on returning to exercise.

Each person is different and so requires an individualised approach to the management of their pain and symptoms – what eases the pain for one woman might not for another, so it’s important to find what works for you.

My advice to anyone who is experiencing endometriosis symptoms would be to go and see your GP, and get it checked out.

It takes a long time for research to filter into new treatment options for endometriosis and improve general awareness. But in recent years there’s been a much louder discourse around Women’s Health issues and the impact they have, so I would hope that women are starting to be taken more seriously when they report pelvic health problems.

You also don’t need to wait for a diagnosis to start trying to manage the pain. If you are experiencing any form of pelvic, lower back or lower abdominal pain, a Women’s Health Physio appointment could provide you with some quick relief. It’s amazing the difference it can make to your quality of life.

Although it’s great to see more awareness around endometriosis and Women’s Health issues more generally, this does have its drawbacks. I’ve personally noticed an increasing amount of misinformation circulating online, as people chase miracles cures, so be careful out there and don’t adopt any crazy diets or exercise regimes without speaking to a trained healthcare professional first!

The gender inequalities within healthcare are well known and documented. As women, there’s a lot we go through that isn’t understood properly or that we don’t receive the right support for.

Endometriosis is one of them and it can be a truly life changing illness. Losing one week in every four to severe pain and other physical symptoms is hugely draining, and can have a big impact on your mental health, self-esteem, and your ability to work.

So if you know someone with endometriosis, please take them seriously, and don’t trivialise their pain! They might seem OK one week but the pain could be so severe the next that they can’t get out of bed. You can help them by ensuring they feel heard and understood, and by raising awareness of the support that is available.

For more information about endometriosis please visit the Endometriosis UK website here.

Six Physio offer Women’s Health Physio and Pelvic Floor Physio appointments at Chelsea, Finchley Rd, Fitzrovia, Kensington, Lindfield, Mansion House, Monument and Parsons Green. Browse our full range of services and book an appointment online here

Request An Appointment

We aim to get back to you within an hour

How should we contact you?