Endometriosis Care: How I Integrated Complementary Medicine with Traditional Medicine

Written by Arielle Denise Dance, MA in Women’s Health

Pause for a moment and take a deep breath. Now take another breath and imagine a warm, healing light flowing through your body and hovering over any areas that may be causing you pain or discomfort. Now, one more relaxing deep breath.

This is a common guided imagery exercise I use to calm myself when I am having bouts of pain due to endometriosis or simply need to be reminded to be grateful for my body in spite of my ailments. Endometriosis is a women’s reproductive disease which impacts millions of women of worldwide. Women, like me, with the disease often experience extreme pelvic pain related and unrelated to their menstrual periods, pain with bowel movements and urination, infertility, pain with sexual activity, nausea, vomiting, pain in the legs, back pain, and many more complications.

Personally, I love to blend some complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) with traditional medicine to cope with these symptoms. Treating endometriosis can be very complicated and working closely with one’s care team on an individual treatment plan is essential. Medical treatments for endometriosis include surgery (laparoscopy which are also used for diagnosis), birth control pills, pain medications, or GNRH analogs which suppress menstruation.

Throughout my journey I acknowledged that healing modalities that may not have been prescribed by medical providers were often equally, if not more so, comforting to me. I began integrating practices as slight as managing stress and modifying my diet (though I don’t have the discipline for the Gluten Free Endo-Diet). Throughout my life, practices like meditation/prayer and dance (but not necessarily exercise) have always been deeply engrained into my life. So I used these practices to cope with my illness and keep me centered. Over the years, I also explored other areas of healing like Reiki energy healing and guided imagery. Research also supports the use of acupuncture and yoga for endometriosis symptom relief. Like some treatments, these may target some symptoms but not others.

It is my belief that the combination of these CAM practices with the traditional treatments is what has helped manage my endometriosis pain. I truly encourage women to find their own CAM techniques that work for them and discuss these with their medical providers. Having open conversations about how biomedical and CAM therapies can work together is what truly makes healthcare holistic.

If you are not sure where to begin, here is my suggestion:

Take a deep breath. Imagine yourself in a healthy place. Imagine warm and healthy light flowing and beaming to your abdomen, around to your back and down your legs. Allow each breath to clear your mind from thoughts and memories of pain and discomfort– letting each breath replace any negative thoughts with healing and mending thoughts. Take several deep breaths, focusing only on calm, healing, warm light.  (Repeat when needed!)

Arielle Denise Dance, MA in Women’s Health, is a PhD student in Mind Body Medicine at Saybrook University. Diagnosed with endometriosis at 15 years old, Arielle has spent the majority of her academic career being an advocate in the women’s health community focusing on topics of chronic pain, disability, and minority groups. Arielle currently works for the American Cancer Society but is extremely passionate about her work within the field of Mind Body Medicine especially geared towards women’s health research. Upcoming research includes endometriosis and specific relaxation techniques including meditation, deep breathing, and guided imagery.

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