Uterine Fibroids, also called myomas or uterine leiomyomas are benign tumors made up of connective tissue and smooth uterine muscle. About a fourth of women over 35 years of age in the United States suffer from this disease. Although uterine fibroids do not sometimes manifest any symptoms, but when they do, they can cause pelvic pain and/or discomfort, pain during sexual intercourse, lower back pain, urinary frequency (polyuria), constipation (due to a compressed rectum), bloating or discomfort in the stomach, menstrual cramps, heavy menstruation and other various symptoms.
Fibroids can lead to complications such as infertility especially when they begin to block the opening into the uterus from the fallopian tubes or the uterine cavity.
Women who have uterine fibroids who would rather undergo a more natural treatment approach to their problem may be wondering whether acupuncture can effectively treat their condition, especially if they have a large fibroid condition. The following are some facts on the effectiveness traditional Chinese in the treatment of uterine fibroids:
• Acupuncture can help reduce the size of fibroids, but it is more effective when it is combined with Chinese herbal medicine.
• A procedure that combines Chinese herbal therapy and acupuncture can alleviate fibroid symptoms such as menstrual cramps, heavy menstruation, etc.
• Chinese herbal therapy and acupuncture combined can cure a small fibroid (less than two or four centimeters in diameter).
• If the fibroid is large, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture combined can decrease its size, although not so much; nevertheless, it can help prevent the further growth of the fibroid.
• Dietary and lifestyle modifications are necessary (combined, of course, with traditional Chinese medicine treatment) to help treat uterine fibroids.
Causes of Uterine Fibroids
Fibroids, according to the view of traditional Chinese medicine, are caused primarily by the stagnation of blood (blood stasis) in the uterus. This stagnation develops due to various factors that include heat (the factor that causes the fluids to dry and the blood to thicken resulting in blood stagnation), qi stagnation (the qi is the force that moves the blood and so if qi does not move, blood is then unable to circulate), and cold (causes the blood to coagulate). Women with poor digestion (sign of a qi deficiency in the spleen) may have phlegm build-up in the body accumulated over the years. The phlegm may develop into a mass mixed with stagnant blood in the uterus resulting in differentiations (pathological patterns) leading to the development of the fibroids.
It is really important to understand the role diet plays in the development of fibroids. A poor diet will result in weak digestive function resulting in qi deficiency in the spleen, and eventually fibroid. So the type of food you eat and the way you eat your food is quite important.
The real reason why uterine fibroids develop is still a mystery although scientists suspect that the female hormone estradiol plays an important role in their growth.
The Relationship between Fibroids and Stress According to Traditional Chinese Medicine
The unhindered circulation of qi throughout the body is governed by the liver. When a blockage arises in one of the channels where qi circulates, the liver always gets affected. One of the most common causes of blockage is stress which often results in blood stasis. When qi flow slows down (stagnates) for a long period of time, heat is generated in the body.
This is the reason why lifestyle modifications are important for fibroid treatment; to lower the levels of stress in your mind and body. Both Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture can help you get rid of stress, as well.
When it comes to the treatment of uterine fibroids, Western medicine uses modalities that include surgery (myomectomy or hysterectomy) and hormone therapy. Current modern techniques are now used in lieu of these invasive surgical procedures. They include MRI-guided ultrasound therapy and UAE (uterine artery embolization). These modern procedures have a much quicker recovery compared to the older surgical procedures. But if you desire a less-invasive and more natural treatment, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is an excellent option. However, since, it’s a natural form of treatment, the process of healing takes much longer as the body treats and heals itself in a natural way.
Some helpful tips to help you deal with fibroids:
If you suffer from menstrual cramps and heavy menstruation caused by uterine fibroids, consider TCM for treatment. They may not help shrink your fibroids but they can be very effective in eliminating or reducing your symptoms.
TCM treatment of uterine fibroids may require a long period of time before significant results are seen. If you are considering TCM treatment for your fibroids, then I suggest getting an ultrasound of your fibroids first before starting and another ultrasound exam three months after the start of treatment to see how effective the treatment is. Based on the results of your ultrasound you can discuss with your TCM practitioner on whether to continue or discontinue treatment.
If menopause is still years away and you suffer from a large fibroid, then it is good to have treatment to prevent the fibroid from growing any larger and for the relief of your symptoms. It is important to understand that fibroids grow by consuming the estrogen in your body. So, when you are in menopause the fibroids will shrink since by then your estrogen levels are gradually decreasing as well.
You need to immediately have your small fibroid treated before it develops into a large one.
Amy-Sui Qun Lui is a board certified and licensed acupuncturist in Cleveland, OH and the founder of Asian Health Center.