How to Deal with Endometriosis Flare-Ups
How to Deal with Endometriosis Flare-Ups
By Jazmin Stearne
Endometriosis (commonly known as “endo”) effects approximately 1 in 10 women. This is a debilitating disease, known for its extremely painful “killer cramps”. It is now known (from research) that the pain from endometriosis is similar (on a pain scale) to a heart attack. That’s right, a heart attack. An “endo flare” (as it’s called in the chronic pain community) can stop a person in their tracks. It is not the kind of pain that you can just “grin and bear” (although many of us have tried). I have lived with this disease for years. I’ve come up with 7 tips that help when going through a flare up. Since this disease is so common, chances are you have encountered an “endo warrior” at some point in your life (if you don’t have the disease yourself). So, if you have endo, please read on. If you know someone with endometriosis, please share this post with her.
What exactly is endometriosis?
The tissue that lines the uterus is called the endometrium. In a woman without endo, this tissue is shed monthly during the menstrual cycle. Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to that of the endometrium is shed and attaches (implants) itself onto the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix, and/or vagina. Occasionally, this misplaced tissue can spread elsewhere in the body including the intestines, stomach, and bowel. This tissue then becomes trapped onto the pelvic floor. Since it has nowhere else to go, it can cause scarring, tearing, internal bleeding, fatigue, and extreme cramping. This happens every month. In some women, endo can cause their reproductive organs to bind together, this is known as “frozen pelvis”. Scientists don’t know what causes endo. It can be thought of as a cancer-like disease that can spread. Battling its symptoms each month can get tiring and exhausting.
There’s a reason why they call us “endo warriors”. Here are my 7 flare up must haves….
Heating pad or hot water bottle
If you have been diagnosed with endometriosis, or even if you just have more painful cramps than normal, a soft heating pad will be your best ally on flare up days. A warm heating pad can feel very soothing when placed on the abdomen. Alternatively, try using a hot water bottle. Hot water bottles offer a different kind of heat than just a regular electric heating pad.
Most of the time, the pain from endometriosis can make a sufferer very nauseous. The nausea can come from nowhere. Ask your doctor for anti-nausea medicine if this happens to you. If you’re like me and want to take as few medications as possible, try something else to quell your nausea. I have found peppermint tea to be soothing and it normally helps my nausea. When I’m not in the mood for the taste of peppermint, I’ve found that chewing on ginger candies also help.
Warm shower or bath
Most of us with endometriosis will agree that heat can be very soothing when dealing with a flare up. In addition to a heating pad or hot water bottle, a warm shower or bath can help ease the pain as well. When heat is applied to the body, it can help relax tight muscles and that can help take the edge off cramps. I personally love to soak in a warm bubble bath. I’ll add Epsom salts or even fancy bath bombs. I’m fortunate enough to have a jacuzzi tub to relax in. Endometriosis can make your whole body hurt, so soaking in a warm tub can be incredibly helpful.
A lot of women with endometriosis suffer from horrible migraines. These migraines aren’t usually like other migraines, they are worse. These are called menstrual migraines. Applying ice to the head and neck can help. Also, if you have menstrual migraines, be sure to drink plenty of water so that you stay hydrated.
I’m not an expert on CBD. However, I do know that it has helped many people, including those with endo. Living with endometriosis can understandably cause anxiety, making it hard to relax and sleep. This is where CBD oil can come in handy. I’ve met many women who say that CBD helps them to relax when they are in pain, and that it helps calm feelings of anxiety. It is important to note that CBD does not get you “high” (like THC). Using CBD is a personal choice, but here’s my advice: keep an open mind.
I like to use topicals when I’m in pain. As I mentioned, endo is a whole-body disease. It can affect your back, legs, and spine. Plus, it can cause severe joint pain (a lot of us with endo were misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia because the joint pain can get that bad). I often use topicals like Thermacare heat wraps, Biofreeze, and any other kind of pain relief lotion. A good pain relief lotion can take the edge off back pain, for example.
Rescue medicine is anything you can take for the pain when it’s not helped by using the things I mentioned above. I reach for my rescue medicine when nothing else can help me, and when the pain gets too severe—every now and then this will happen. For times like this, it is wise to have the necessary pain medication (Tylenol, ibuprofen, or stronger meds like Norco) on hand for when you need it. Obviously, you’ll have to work very closely with your doctor on that one. Never take more pain medications than prescribed. If possible, see a pain management doctor. I’ve personally found pain management helpful.
Those are my flare up tips. I hope this list is helpful to those of you with endometriosis. March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. This post would not be complete without me pointing out one major thing: since endo is such a painful disease, it can be hard to tell when a flare up is just a flare up, or something more serious. It is important to listen to your intuition and your body. When something doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to call your doctor or visit the ER. This comes from personal experience.
If you have endometriosis or suspect that you have it, please know you’re not alone. There is help available. There are thousands of us around the world who are going through it with you.
Give our office a call if you are dealing with the stress of chronic pain.
Sending love to my fellow warriors.