What Is Endometriosis, & How Can You Manage The Pain?

The painful disease endometriosis is gaining more attention lately. Lena Dunham candidly explained her struggles with endometriosis in the Lenny newsletter, noting that it left her "lying in the fetal position" on days when she was meant to be directing an episode of her television show. But exactly what is endometriosis, and how can women manage its symptoms?

Endometriosis is a painful disease caused by the growth of endometrial tissue outside of the uterus. This chronic condition affects 6.3 million women and girls in the U.S., as reported by the Endometriosis Association, and it can cause "pain, infertility, scar tissue formation, adhesions, and bowel problems." However, an endometriosis diagnosis does not have to prevent these women from leading full lives, as pain management techniques are available.

For instance, by utilizing the MELT Method of self treatment, women with endometriosis can help reduce the painfulness of this condition. To learn more about endometriosis and how the MELT Method can alleviate its pain, I spoke with Sue Hitzmann, creator of the technique. It’s a self treatment method that can help clients get their pain under control. Hitzmann shared in-depth information about this condition, as well as her best advice for making the pain more manageable.

Endometriosis 101

If the tissue that lines the uterus starts growing outside the uterus, the abdomen, fallopian tubes, and ligaments can become altered. This endometrial growth can affect a woman's vagina, cervix, bowels, and urinary tract. This misplaced tissue, which is more like a scar or a lesion, can get irritated during each menstrual cycle. "It's pretty shocking what occurs for these women,"Hitzmann says, adding that many have described feeling as though "something is taking a knife and ripping into their abdomen every month."

Endometriosis has been linked to issues with autoimmune diseases, fibromyalgia, asthma, and other conditions. It can also lead to infertility and pregnancy difficulties. Overall, endometriosis is a serious condition that can cause tremendous pain and additional health consequences for many women.

Identifying Endometriosis

Most women can tell the difference between the symptoms of endometriosis and a regular period. "It is infinitely worse," Hitzmann says. Women with endometriosis have "excessively high bleeding" that often warrants a doctor's check-up. She also notes that these women experience horrible cramps and debilitating pain that prevents them from even getting out of bed. They may also experience symptoms of painful sex or urination.

The MELT Method

Techniques to self manage pain can help women who suffer from endometriosis. For instance, the MELT Method uses four sequences to help each client. As Hitzmann said, it's a way to help these women "manage to get their life back."

  • Soft Ball Foot Treatment

Endometriosis can cause scar tissue in the pelvis, which can shift the pelvis forward and distort posture and gait. This treatment helps negotiate pelvic positioning and balance while improving stability. Overall, working on the feet helps clients maintain a better foundation, especially in the case of most endometriosis sufferers.

  • Rebalance Sequence

For some women, even taking a deep breath can trigger pelvic pain. This sequence is a hands-off approach to restoring balance and reducing scarring in the pelvic floor. It stimulates the diaphragmatic motion and improves the sliding surfaces of connective tissue in the deep abdomen and pelvis to lessen pain by reducing adhesions.

  • Lower Body Compression Sequence

This sequence helps draw hydration and fluid back into the pelvis. It is designed to alleviate pelvic, low back, and hip pain by helping clients gain more fluid flow through the sliding, supportive layers of connective tissue that connect the legs and the deep pelvic floor. Hitzmann notes that this technique can help offer immediate relief during an endometrial flare-up.

  • Lower Body Length and Low Back Release Sequence

Many endometriosis sufferers have awful low back pain. This technique works directly on the pelvis to improve lumbopelvic stability. It ultimately releases the low back and helps reduce inflammation by using gentle tensional pull against the tissue that supports the spine.

To learn more about the MELT Method of endometriosis alleviation, you may look into at-home methods or find a local MELT instructor or class near you.