Endometriosis is an issue for 5-15% of reproductive-age women and can result in chronic visceral pelvic pain and infertility. Acupuncture may be an effective treatment for pain relief associated with this condition and there is growing evidence suggesting the benefits of acupuncture in treating endometriosis.
It is likely that endometriosis is caused by neuroplasticity (i.e., changes in the peripheral and central nervous system), predisposing those affected to other long-term pain disorders. Common therapies are pharmacological and surgical, however they often do not treat pain thoroughly and for many women, come with considerable side effects. Acupuncture can serve as an alternative or substitute therapy to treat endometriosis.
Cancer antigen 125 (CA125) is a protein found on normal and cancerous cells in the body that is secreted into the blood stream and can be measured. With endometriosis, CA125 is elevated. Many studies have reported that acupuncture can reduce the level of serum CA-125, thereby relieving pelvic pain associated with endometriosis [1-4]. A number of mechanisms associated with acupuncture have been suggested as the driver(s) for successful treatment of endometriosis.
Like most physiology, the endocrine system plays a role. Endometriosis and the growth of endometrial tissue requires oestrogen. Studies have shown that acupuncture can reduce oestrogen levels and inhibit growth of the endometrium and thereby relieve pain . Endometriosis and immune function are also related. Acupuncture enhances the ability of the immune system to better fight against malignant cells. Lastly, there may be an analgesic effect. That is, acupuncture seems to increase pain threshold by releasing dopamine.
More research is needed but with the body of evidence we have now, acupuncture is an efficacious treatment for endometriosis.
- Sun YZ, Chen HL. [Controlled study on Shu-Mu point combination for treatment of endometriosis].Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2006; 26 (12): 863–865. Chinese. PMID: 17313008
- Xiang DF, Sun QZ, Liang XF. [Effect of abdominal acupuncture on pain of pelvic cavity in patients withendometriosis]. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2011; 31 (2): 113–116. Chinese. PMID: 21442808
- Chen GX. [Clinical study on the treatment of endometriosis dysmenorrhea with catgut implantation at acupoints]. Doctoral Dissertation, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine. 2014: 16–20.
- Zhang XX, Li W. [Efficacy on endometriosis treated with electroacupuncture]. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2015; 35 (4): 323–326. Chinese. PMID: 26054137
- Ma J, Yun-guang H, Zhang DH. Effects of acupuncture on bone metabolism and serum estradiol level in ovariectomy-induced osteoporosis rats. Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. 2008; 33 (4): 235–239. PMID: 18928114