Women with endometriosis or pelvic pain often feel helpless, at the mercy of their condition. But new research is challenging this idea, and giving patients a way to take back control of their health.
In two studies -- (one randomized controlled trial and one qualitative study) -- yoga was shown to have significant benefits for women with endometriosis and pelvic pain. Both studies were presented at the 2017 International Pelvic Pain Society. With two sessions a week for 8 weeks, participants reported significant improvements in pain levels, sense of well-being, body image, and overall quality of life.
"The participants have developed greater self-knowledge, autonomy, and self-care and have reduced the use of pain and psychiatric medications."
“Yoga practice was association with a reduction in levels of chronic pelvic pain and an improvement in quality of life in women with endometriosis."
More than 90% of women with endometriosis have painful trigger points on their abdomen, pelvic floor, or surrounding muscles. Yoga is something we often encourage our patients to try. Physically, many yoga positions help to stretch and open up the pelvic floor. These are similar to the stretches we recommend, particularly focusing on the inner thighs, hamstrings, and hip flexors. Some positions that can be very helpful for pelvic pain include:
Yoga often encourages mindfulness, a form of meditation that may offer its own benefits. Yoga involves mindful movement and breathing, which helps to teach mindfulness. This form of meditation has been shown to reduce pain and may be a large reason why yoga is so effective in combating pelvic pain. Yoga can be done anywhere, from a yoga studio to your living room. If you’re just starting out, be sure to find a gentle form of yoga that doesn’t over-exert the body and gradually work to more advanced poses. You can also ask your physical therapist about different poses to make sure they are right for you.
Dr. Nicole Cozean is the founder of PelvicSanity physical therapy, Orange County's premier pelvic floor physical therapy clinic. One of only 270 PTs to be board-certified in the pelvic floor, and the first PT to serve on the ICA Board of Directors, Nicole is the author of the acclaimed and best-selling book The Interstitial Cystitis Solution (2016). She is an adjunct professor at her alma mater, Chapman University. The PelvicSanity blog focuses on presenting practical, positive information to help patients beyond the walls of Nicole's clinic.