8 tips on managing endometriosis symptoms at home

For many people with endometriosis or suspected endometriosis, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that they are now managing their symptoms at home.

Whilst at HCA Healthcare UK, you are still able to book an appointment with our GPs and be referred to our various endometriosis clinics - which remain open to see and treat patients, we understand that people might need support from home, especially as the pandemic might be exacerbating symptoms. Here, Dr Robyn Cohen, Women’s Health GP at HCA Healthcare UK, provides eight top tips for those who might need help managing endometriosis symptoms from home.

A little bit about endometriosis

Endometriosis classically affects women in their 20’s, 30's and 40's. It is a common condition, where the endometrial tissue that usually lines the inner womb is found outside of the womb cavity. Endometriosis pain can be complicated. There isn't necessarily a relationship between the amount or location of the disease and the amount or type of pain experienced and this type of pain is likely to be chronic and long-lasting if left untreated.

For those people who might be awaiting endometriosis treatment, or might need some support with managing symptoms, here are my eight tips:

1. Don't be afraid to seek help from your GP or specialist

It's your job to listen to your body and report any changes that you’re concerned about to a medical professional, and it is the job of the medical professional to act appropriately on these concerns. Don't stop taking any medication previously prescribed to manage your endometriosis.

Even during the pandemic, you can contact your GP clinic to request repeat prescriptions so things don't flare up. Book an appointment with your GP if you’re struggling with symptoms and be sure to convey their severity. From here, you can be referred to a specialist from one of our several endometriosis clinics across the HCA Healthcare UK network.  

If you want to find a private GP

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2. Pain management

Studies have shown that over the counter pain medications such as paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or naproxen can help.

  • Paracetamol guidance:1gm every six hours
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen): 400mg every eight hours
  • Naproxen: 250mg every 6-8 hours

This medicines can be taken alone or in combination with the hormone treatment your doctor prescribes.

3. Keep an eye on what you eat

What you eat can impact endometriosis symptoms and their severity. Your diet is likely to have changed during the pandemic and various lockdowns and you might have moved to eating more comfort food and alcohol. However, it’s important to stay on the right track to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Things to avoid are fried and processed ‘fast food’, caffeine and red meat as these can impact bowel function. Women with sensitive bladders have also often reported that the pain is worsened by alcohol consumption. The foods on the ‘yes’ list include:

  • Fibrous foods: fruits vegetables, legumes and whole grains 
  • Iron-rich foods: dark, leafy greens, broccoli, beans, fortified grains, nuts and seeds 
  • Food which is rich in essential fatty acids: salmon, sardines, herring, trout, walnuts, chia and flax seeds
  • Antioxidant rich foods: colourful fruits and vegetables such as oranges, berries, dark chocolate, spinach and beets 

It’s also incredibly important to stay hydrated, as dehydration can lead to constipation and to more concentrated urine, which can irritate the bladder and bowel respectively.

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4. Get outside for some daily exercise

It’s really important to get outside, whilst also sticking to government guidelines on social distancing and isolation.

If you have found in the past that long walks cause flare-ups of your pain, then just try a couple of shorter walks or go for a bike ride.

Completing ‘pelvis-friendly’ exercises at home could also be beneficial for you.

5. Try to get enough high-quality sleep

There is increasing evidence to suggest that sleep deprivation can amplify pain, so it’s important that you do all you can to get as much sleep as possible. It’s also key that you understand that as a person with chronic pain, your body is constantly working overtime to get to a baseline where you can function, so make sure you replenish that activity with sleep. If you think you’re not sleeping enough, it’s important you:

  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine and give yourself enough time to wind down before bed
  • Keep your bed for sleep if you can
  • Set a regular rise time
  • Avoid napping
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine before bed 

6. Stay connected to others

It can be incredibly useful to talk about your endometriosis with loved ones, friends and colleagues. It's important that you let them know about your symptoms and how endometriosis is affecting you.

The severity of endometriosis is often not acknowledged and therefore it can be a lonely condition to have – but it’s important you talk to people. There are also a lot of online support groups on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, where you can also share your symptoms and experiences with others.

7. Seek physiotherapy

Physiotherapy, and in particular, pelvic floor physiotherapy, could be helpful, particularly if you have adhesions or scar tissue from endometriosis surgery.

Physical therapy can help to relieve and soften some of the pressure you might be experiencing, so reach out to a GP or endometriosis specialist and see what help can be offered.

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8. Try to manage stress and anxiety

There have been some studies which suggest that endometriosis pain can be exacerbated by stress. However, trying to reduce stress levels can be very difficult when you’re living with chronic pain.

Instead of trying to eliminate stress, instead focus on how you manage stressful or anxious situations when they do arise. It might be worthwhile trying meditation or self-expression through writing in a journal, for example.