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How to take endometriosis into your own hands

Written by Stephanie Kanaris | Wednesday, 23 March 2022

natural health

Having Endometriosis is tough. Every day is a learning curve with a rollercoaster of symptoms and emotions.

After more than 15 years of pain and discomfort, I was finally diagnosed with ‘endo’ in late 2020.

I was relieved to have an answer for years of unexplained pain and health issues, but I also struggled to come to terms with the fact that I had been diagnosed with a chronic illness.

With Endometriosis awareness being raised around Australia and the world this month, here are a few ways I’ve learned to live with ‘endo’ and manage my illness.

Don’t stop looking until you get the help you need

According to Endometriosis Australia, it takes on average more than six years to be diagnosed with Endometriosis. Looking back over the years I believe my symptoms weren’t picked up by doctors, probably because there’s so much that’s still unknown about Endometriosis and it’s only recently that we’re starting to understand more about the illness. Over the years, I had doctors diagnose gastrointestinal-related issues or just refer to my pain as "bad periods" and prescribe the pill.

I am extremely lucky to work in the health sector and when a colleague recommended a naturopath who specialises in women's health, along with one of the best Gynaecologists on the Gold Coast who has dedicated his practice to Endometriosis, I got more answers in two months than I did in 15 years of back and forth with doctors and other specialists. As soon as I was diagnosed with stage 3 Endometriosis, I had surgery, and could finally look to the future with more certainty.

Get hands-on with the pain

It’s hard to get to the root of Endometriosis pain. Affecting 1 in 9 women, Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to that of the uterus grows outside the uterus. This tissue can grow on any internal organ within the abdominal region and it responds to hormones, which can cause inflammation, pain, and bloating. I have found that massage has been the most beneficial way to decrease my levels of pain and inflammation.

With a clinical background in massage and myotherapy, I have a deep understanding of the benefits of massage and when it can be useful. The flow-on effect of Endometriosis is associated with muscular pain and dysfunction caused by persistent pain or even a change in holding patterns or posture during an "endo flare". Abdominal massage in a circulatory motion is a hands-on way ‘endo’ sufferers can take control of their pain and do some self-treatment on those really rough days. Massage has helped me more than I can explain.

Try something different

Any woman who has bad period pain or suffers from Endometriosis will know the traditional treatments such as a heat pack, a warm bath, and ibuprofen. But sometimes a hot water bottle just doesn’t cut it and it’s time to try something different. When my ‘endo’ flares, I incorporate a few extra tools to help with the pain. I find meditation and mindfulness practices help lift my mood and stop me from being so irritable, while stretching and yoga can bring some calm to my raging body.

Be kind to yourself

What I have learned since being diagnosed is that you have to take the good with the bad, respect the disease and be as in tune with your body as you possibly can. I know this journey will continue for the rest of my life so I try to take each day as it comes and not get too down when my body reacts and has a "flare" episode. A flare can last for a few hours, a day, a few days, or even up to a week so it can be a major part of my life.

There is no warning or trigger so I just do the best I can, make the most of my downtime when it strikes, and prioritise a healthy lifestyle with regular massage treatment to help manage my pain and symptoms. I never used to pay any attention to self-care and self-love but now looking after myself is my number one priority.

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Stephanie Kanaris

Stephanie Kanaris is a qualified remedial massage therapist and myotherapist who spent more than 10 years working with AFL teams (Carlton and the Gold Coast Suns), and now shares her years of experience and knowledge as a massage lecturer at Endeavour College of Natural Health.

Read more by Stephanie Kanaris