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Endometriosis and cannabis: THC improves symptoms

A new study has highlighted the effectiveness of cannabinoid compounds found in cannabis for pain relief in women suffering with endometriosis, leading to a clinical trial launching in Spain.

Endometriosis is a painful condition where the lining of the uterus grows on other parts of the organ such as the fallopian tubes. The new study, published in eLife, shows initial results from treating endometriosis in mice with cannabinoids – suggesting they can alleviate symptoms of the disease.

The researchers say this new finding will pave the way for further clinical research.

The findings have led to the start of a clinical trial in collaboration with the Gynecology Service of the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, Spain. The trial will evaluate the possible benefits of the naturally occurring cannabinoid ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC; the main psychoactive constituent of the cannabis plant) in women with endometriosis.

Endometriosis cannabis treatment

Endometriosis is a common, chronic and painful disease caused when the lining of the womb – the endometrium – grows outside of the womb cavity. These growths affect reproductive organs and can cause pain, infertility, anxiety, depression and result in a considerable impact on quality of life. Treatment options include surgery or hormone therapy, but these are not always effective and often have significant side-effects.

Rafael Maldonado, Professor at the University Pompeu Fabra of Barcelona, Spain, said: “With a lack of effective treatments, women with endometriosis usually rely on self-management strategies like dietary changes or exercise. Although cannabis comes with a large number of potential side effects, its medicinal properties could provide pain relief in endometriosis and other conditions.

“Since medical THC is available in some countries, the findings of our study may be of interest for gynecologists and pain specialists who manage the treatment of women with endometrial pain.”

THC improves symptoms and growths

The team studied mice with endometrial implants in their pelvis to mimic endometriosis in humans. Those with the implants were more sensitive to pain in their pelvis that can also be associated with emotional and cognitive alterations – similar to symptoms seen in some women with endometriosis.

The team next found that mice with endometriosis had similar anxiety-like symptoms experienced by some women with the condition. This was measured by the amount of time the animals spent in open areas of a maze, as those with higher anxiety levels tend not to explore too far. However, their experiments could not reveal whether THC had any significant effects in treating this anxiety.

As endometriosis can be known to impair cognitive function in some women, the team also studied memory performance in the mice. They provided the animals with two identical objects and allowed them to become familiar with them. They then replaced one of the objects and timed how long the mice spent exploring the new versus familiar object, to give an indication of what the animals remembered.

The team found that memory was impaired in the mice with endometriosis compared with those that did not have the condition. However, mice treated with THC did not show this impairment, suggesting that THC may have a protective effect.

Finally, the team studied the effects of THC on the endometrium inside and outside of the womb, and found that mice with endometriosis treated with THC for 32 days had smaller endometrial growths.

First author Alejandra Escudero-Lara, a PhD student at the University Pompeu Fabra of Barcelona, said: “Together, our findings show that THC limits the development and symptoms of endometriosis in an experimental model, and highlight the interest of conducting further research to ensure the safety and beneficial effects of this treatment in women with endometriosis.”

A new study has highlighted the effectiveness of cannabinoid compounds found in cannabis for pain relief in women suffering with endometriosis, leading to a clinical trial launching in Spain.

Unexpected Ways to Ease Endometriosis Pain

Take Pain Relievers in Advance

Some painkillers work best if you take them before your pain is severe. Ask your doctor if non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen are an option for you. You can take them up to 24 hours before you expect menstrual pain to start. They block your body from making chemicals that cause inflammation. You can take NSAIDs regularly until your period or ovulation ends. Check the label so you don’t overdo it.

Do Physical Therapy

PT isn’t just for rehabbing sports injuries or after an accident. Endometriosis can affect the way your pelvis and abdomen work, which can cause more pain. A pelvic or women’s health physical therapist can come up with a plan to help get those areas working right again.

Get Up and Moving

It’s understandable if you feel like lying on the couch when you’re hurting. But regular exercise can help you feel better. It doesn’t have to be extreme. Walking, stretching, and doing breathing exercises can all help ease your endometriosis pain.

Go Gluten-Free?

Some women who switch to a gluten-free diet feel less endometriosis pain. But it doesn’t work for everyone. Try cutting wheat from your diet for a few months to see how you feel. Instead of regular pasta, eat rice noodles or corn pasta. Replace wheat-based foods with rice, buckwheat, and lentils. After a month or two, you can try wheat again. If pain and bloating get worse, go back to a gluten-free diet. Talk to your doctor before you do.

Do Pelvic Floor Exercises

Endometriosis affects your pelvic floor muscles, and when they don’t work right, you can have even more pain. Pelvic floor exercises can strengthen the muscles and help you feel better.

Keep It in Perspective

It can be tough to face an ongoing disease, and some ways of handling it are healthier than others. It’s better to focus on the problem and what you can do about it rather than your emotions and how those feelings make you want to act. For example, when you’re in pain, think about what you can do to feel better instead of how bad it makes you feel. This can reduce stress and depression and help your body feel better.

Could CBD Oil Help?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of two keyВ molecules in marijuana. The other one, THC, gets you high, while CBD doesn’t. Research suggests CBD can help with pain and inflammation. While there isn’t much research on CBD and endometriosis specifically, some women say taking CBD oil helps ease their pain. If you want to try it, be sure to check with your doctor about getting CBD oil from a safe and legal source.

Try TENS

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy that uses mild electric currents to treat pain. The currents hit your nerves and stop them from sending pain signals to your brain. Ask your doctor if TENS therapy would be a good addition to your treatment plan.

Relax With a Massage

A spa day might be just what the doctor ordered. A back or abdomen massage can help ease your menstrual pain, both right after the massage and even more in the weeks after. Massages can help you beat stress, too.

Tap Into Acupuncture

This traditional Chinese medicine practice uses very thin needles to stimulate nerves and muscles. It is thought to release natural painkillers in your body, and research shows that acupuncture can help curb endometriosis pain.

Sprinkle on Cinnamon

This spice could counter inflammation and may lower a hormone in your body that causes discomfort during your period. It’s not clear if it works for endometriosis pain, but in an Italian study, about a teaspoon helped some women with their menstrual pain. If you like the taste, it’s a safe and natural option to try on food or in a drink.

Botox Perk?

Botulinum toxin (Botox) isn’t just for smoothing wrinkles on your face. Because it relaxes the muscles that it’s injected into, doctors use it to treat things like cerebral palsy, migraine, bladder problems, and eye twitching. A small study also found that it lessened pelvic pain and spasms for women with endometriosis. Though this sounds promising, more research is needed before it can become an approved treatment.

Don’t Skip Your Morning Coffee

A few studies have looked at a possible link between drinking coffee or caffeine and endometriosis. There doesn’t seem to be a link between the two, so if your daily routine includes a cup of joe, there’s no need to change that. It might even play a role in lowering your chances of getting endometrial cancer.

Take a Nap

Many women with endometriosis feel tired a lot. Try to keep a consistent sleep schedule and listen to your body. If you need a nap, take one. One study found that a short mid-afternoon nap in the days right before your period can boost your mood and make you more alert.

Talk to a Counselor

The physical pain of endometriosis can also affect your emotions as you adjust to life with the condition. Make time to take care of your mental health. Meet with a wise friend, counselor, or psychologist to get support. It helps to talk through what it looks like to live with an ongoing disease.

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Patients with endometriosis using positive coping strategies have less depression, stress and pelvic painPatients with endometriosis using positive coping strategies have less depression, stress and pelvic pain.”

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Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on October 12, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

You may be surprised by these ways to ease your endometriosis pain.