Endometriosis pain management methods vary across age groups

Woman clutching abdomen due to pelvic pain

April 30, 2024— Methods to endure and alleviate endometriosis-related pelvic pain vary across age groups, according to a new study led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The researchers say the findings can help improve clinical care for the disease.

The study was published January 8 in Frontiers in Reproductive Health. Jennifer Mongiovi, postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology, was the study’s corresponding author. Kathryn Terry, associate professor, and Stacey Missmer, adjunct professor, also in the Department of Epidemiology, were among the co-authors.

The researchers used data from 357 participants from the Women’s Health Study: From Adolescence to Adulthood. All of the women had been diagnosed with endometriosis, completed questionnaires about their experiences with the disease, and reported experiencing acyclic pelvic pain—pain unrelated to their menstrual cycle—in the previous three months. The researchers zoomed in on what participants shared about pain management and evaluated the differences in the activities or methods that helped or exacerbated pelvic pain across age groups.

The study found that using a heating pad, lying down, and sleeping were the most frequently used coping mechanisms. For adolescents (participants below age 18), sleep and listening to music were more frequently reported compared to young adults (ages 18 to 25) and adults (above age 25). Young adults, meanwhile, more frequently reported using laxatives or enemas, and adults more frequently reported practicing yoga.

Stress, constipation, and exercise were the activities most cited as making pain worse. The most frequently reported factor that worsened pain among adolescents was exercise; among young adults, stress; and among adults, intercourse.

“This information may be especially useful for health care practitioners to provide information and support for patients as they manage this highly complex and poorly understood condition,” Mongiovi and her co-authors wrote.

Read an article in Healio: Coping methods for endometriosis-associated acyclic pelvic pain vary by age group

Read the study: Differences in characteristics and use of complementary and alternative methods for coping with endometriosis-associated acyclic pelvic pain across adolescence and adulthood

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