Endometriosis occurs when the cells of the uterus lining, the endometrium, grow elsewhere outside the uterus. Commonly this will be in the fallopian tubes or around the ovaries, sometimes in other areas of the pelvis such as around the digestive system and bladder or into the vagina; in very rare cases endometriotic tissues have been found in the lungs, eyes and even the brain! These cells react in the same way as they do in the uterus; during monthly hormonal changes the cells grow, as they would in the womb, to support the release of an ovum and, like in your period, if the ovum isn’t fertilised, the cells break down and bleed, although unlike the cells in your uterus, in cases of endometriosis where the cells are situated outside the womb, the blood can not simply leave the body.
This internal bleeding, as I’m sure you can imagine, can be incredibly painful! The angry site becomes inflamed and forms scar tissue which can cause even more pain and discomfort as it tugs on other organs and tissues. When these cells are present in the ovaries cysts form which fills with blood and can make ovulation excruciating. As well as the intense pain and heavy periods, sufferers often experience chronic fatigue and feelings of isolation and depression; it’s sometimes hard to enjoy a normal love life and to find a supportive network of professionals or friends who fully understand how you are feeling.
Although there has been no previous study published involving the effects of reflexology on endometriosis, documented research does exist involving the effects of reflexology on other gynaecological disorders, including PMS, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, hypermenorrhea, polycystic ovary syndrome and infertility. All of these studies have shown that reflexology has a significant effect on decreasing symptoms, though most of them are case studies, with two exceptions: Oleson and Flocco (1993) conducted a randomized, controlled, single-blind study of the effects of foot, hand and ear reflexology on women with PMS and found a significantly greater decrease in symptoms in the treatment group than in the placebo group.
Whilst we cannot definitively say that reflexology can help with this condition, our clients suffering from this condition have noted a significant improvement in their condition with regular reflexology treatments in the week before their period is due. With some reporting reduced pain and less intense symptoms.
One treatment available for endometriosis is an operation to remove endometrial cells. We have been able to support those who have undertaken this treatment with a combination of reflexology and the Emmett technique.