Last Updated on June 6, 2023 by melissanreynolds
Endometriosis and fibromyalgia are two of the most common chronic illnesses affecting women today. While they are separate conditions, they share many similar symptoms and can often be misdiagnosed. In this post, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatments of both endometriosis and fibromyalgia.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus, causing pain and discomfort. It is estimated that 1 in 10 women of reproductive age suffer from endometriosis. The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, but it is believed that genetics and hormonal imbalances play a role.
The most common symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Painful periods
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Pain during sex
- Heavy periods
It is important to note that not all women with endometriosis will experience all of these symptoms. For example, infertility, often noted when discussing endometriosis, is estimated to affect 30-50% of women with it. Which is a high incidence, but that leaves 50-70% for whom infertility is not an issue. I’m one of them!
The endometriosis specialist who will perform my operation said that while some pain during periods is normal, the pain that doesn’t respond to ibuprofen, is overwhelming and stops you from going on with your day is not normal. Despite this, I was ignored with severe period pain for over 20 years. And many women experience the same. More advocacy and awareness is needed.
While there is no cure for endometriosis, there are several treatments available to manage symptoms.
Treatment options include:
- Pain medication
- Hormone therapy
- Holistic lifestyle management (as listed under treatments for fibromyalgia below)
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes widespread pain and fatigue. It is estimated that 2-10% of the population suffer from fibromyalgia, with women being more likely to be diagnosed than men. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it is believed to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and spinal cord.
- Widespread pain across all four quadrants of the body
- Trouble sleeping
- Brain fog
As we know many conditions sit alongside fibromyalgia and can be blamed on the fibromyalgia. Conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and depression – they are their own conditions and may coexist with fibromyalgia and endometriosis.
While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, there are many treatment options. I share about what works for me on this blog. A summary of what can help is:
- Sleep hygiene and medicine
- Low dose Naltrexone
- Pain relief
- Gentle movement
- Eating for optimal nutrition
Endometriosis and Fibromyalgia: The Connection
While endometriosis and fibromyalgia are separate conditions, they share many similar symptoms. Some women with endometriosis also suffer from fibromyalgia, and vice versa. Medical News Today shared: “A 2019 study found that rates of fibromyalgia were 6% higher in women with endometriosis.” This can make diagnosis and treatment even more challenging.
It is believed that the hormonal imbalances associated with endometriosis can also contribute to the development of fibromyalgia. As can central sensitization (the brain adapting to living in constant pain, expects more pain). Additionally, the chronic pain associated with both conditions can lead to depression and anxiety, further complicating treatment.
For many years I was told that my heavy, painful periods were “just” the fibromyalgia. It was par for the course. So it had to get very bad before I got taken seriously, and by then the public system was so overwhelmed that it would have taken a long time before I received treatment. In this video I share about my surgery news.
When managing both endometriosis and fibromyalgia, it is important to take a holistic approach. This includes addressing both the physical and emotional aspects of the conditions. Pain management, hormone therapy, and other holistic factors may all be used to manage symptoms.
Diet, exercise, and stress reduction techniques may also be helpful in managing both conditions. Sleep is vital in supporting the nervous system and pain response, though both conditions can interfere with sleep.
While I share about what I do and what works for me, with many resources for you to follow up, it is important to work closely with your healthcare providers to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. And to push them if you feel they aren’t treating appropriately.
Endometriosis and fibromyalgia are two complex and challenging conditions that can greatly impact our quality of life. While there is no cure for either condition, there are several treatments available to manage symptoms. By taking a holistic approach and addressing both the physical and emotional aspects of these conditions, we can find relief and improve our overall well-being.
I look forward to sharing my journey as I learn more about endometriosis and have my operation.