This post was written by H&W instructor Michelle Lyons, PT, MISCP, who authored and instructs the course, Special Topics in Women’s Health: Endometriosis, Infertility & Hysterectomy. She will be presenting this course this February!
Endometriosis is a common gynaecological disorder, affecting up to 15% of women of reproductive age. Because endometriosis can only be diagnosed surgically, and also because some women with the disease experience relatively minor discomfort or symptoms, there is some controversy regarding the estimates of prevalence, with some authorities stating that as many as one and three women may have endometriosis (Eskenazi & Warner 1997)
There is a wide spectrum of symptoms of endometriosis, with little or no correlation between the acuteness of the disease and the severity of the symptoms (Oliver & Overton 2014). The most commonly reported symptoms are severe dysmenorrhoea and pelvic pain between periods. Dyspareunia, dyschezia and dysuria are also commonly seen. These pain symptoms can be severe and have been reported to lead to work absences by 82% of women, with an estimated cost in Europe of €30 billion per year (EST 2005). Secondary musculoskeletal impairments caused by may include: lumbar, sacroiliac, abdominal and pelvic floor pain, muscle spasms/ myofascial trigger points, connective tissue dysfunction, urinary urgency, scar tissue adhesion and sexual dysfunction (Troyer 2007) – all of which may be responsive to skilled pelvic rehab intervention.
Endometriosis can lead to inflammation, scar tissue and adhesion formation and myofascial dysfunction throughout the abdominal and pelvic regions. This can set up a painful cycle in the pelvic floor muscles secondary to the decrease in pelvic and abdominal organ/muscle/fascia mobility which can subsequently lead to decreased circulation, tight muscles, myofascial trigger points, connective tissue dysfunction and pain and possible neural irritation.
Abdominal trigger points and pain can be commonly seen after laparascopic surgery for diagnosis or treatment. We know that fascially, the abdominal muscles are closely connected with the pelvic floor muscles and dysfunction in one group may trigger dysfunction in the other, as well as causing associated stability, postural and dynamic stability issues.
The pain created by muscle tension and dysfunction, may lead to further pain and increasing central sensitisation and further disability. Unfortunately for the endometriosis patient, as well as dealing with the problems already associated with endometriosis, she may also develop a spectrum of secondary musculo-skeletal problems, including pelvic floor dysfunction – and for some patients this may actually be responsible for the majority of their pain (Troyer 2007).
The skilled pelvic rehab therapist has much to offer this under-served patient population in terms of reducing pain and dysfunction, educating regarding self-care and exercise and helping to restore quality of life. Interested in learning more? Join me for my new course: ‘Special Topics in Women’s Health: Endometriosis, Infertility & Hysterectomy’ in San Diego this February or Chicago in June.