Menstrual cramps are almost a universal experience, with most menstruating people experiencing menstrual cramps at some point during their lifetime.

Cramps have been shown in research studies to affect a person’s participation in work, school and sport and is a significant contributor to the amount of pain medication that a person takes in a given month.

But what if your menstrual cramps aren’t just “simple cramps”?

Menstrual cramps can be caused by muscular cramping in the uterus as menstrual tissue is released during the period. Cramps are influenced by inflammatory markers, muscle tension, hormone changes and even bowel symptoms such as IBS. Cramps typically respond well to analgesic medications and can be positively affected by anti-inflammatory nutrients and healthy lifestyle changes.

But what if your cramps don’t get better with simple solutions?

Endometriosis is a gynecological condition that involves endometrial tissue growing outside the uterine cavity. This displaced tissue causes significant inflammation, growth of tissue in the pelvic cavity and causes significant pain and discomfort – including menstrual cramps.

How can we tell the difference between “just cramps” and endometriosis?

In the past, a patient was only formally diagnosed with endometriosis if they had a surgical procedure to visualize the endometriosis in the pelvic cavity. In other words, a surgeon had to actually see the endometriosis with a camera or with surgery in order for us to begin supporting the patient as if they had more than “just cramps”.

Advancements in technology and our understanding of endometriosis has improved our ability to diagnose patients with non-invasive techniques such as ultrasound or using biomarkers in blood work, but this still means that many patients are left unnoticed and unsupported.

If you’re noticing the following about your cramps or your personal history, talk to your Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor about the possibility of having endometriosis

  • Your cramps don’t respond to analgesics or you have to take more than the label suggests to get relief.
  • You have pain in the middle of your cycle, not just when you have your period.
  • You have pain with intercourse.
  • You are being supported for infertility, and have menstrual cramps.
  • You have a family history of endometriosis.
  • You have pain with bowel movements or urination, especially during your period.
  • You have significant bloating that accompanies your pain during your period.

The first step towards better care for your endometriosis is a diagnosis from a doctor who can recognize the signs. There are highly effective medical and natural therapies to support patients – but only if we correctly identify them.

Our practice is the official off-site Naturopathic team for the Endometriosis Clinic at McMaster University, and we support patients of all ages, stages and genders with endometriosis. Whether you are suspicious you are struggling with this condition, or have been suffering for years, our endometriosis-focused Naturopathic Doctors have the training and experience to support you through your journey. Dr. Moira Kwok ND is one of our endometriosis-focused practitioners. You can read more about her journey and practice here.