Endometriosis is a disease whereby patches of endometrial tissue, normally found in the uterus, migrate to other areas of the body, usually within the pelvis. The implication is that the misplaced endometrial tissue responds to the same hormones as the endometrium and may bleed during the menstrual period, leading to cramps, pain, irritation and scar tissue. Researchers estimate that 5.5 million women suffer from endometriosis in North America.
Signs and symptoms of endometriosis include painful menstruation (cramps, abdominal pain, etc.). Diagnosing endometriosis on symptoms alone can be daunting due to their variability and overlap with other conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
In February 2008, the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology published a study investigating the clinical effectiveness of acupuncture on primary dysmenorrhea (painful periods). More than 200 women participated in the trial, which determined that 15 weeks of acupuncture treatment correlated with significantly lower pain intensity (1-10 scale) than those who received conventional medical care. The study authors concluded, "Acupuncture in patients with dysmenorrhea was associated with improvements in pain and quality of life as compared to treatment with usual care alone and was cost-effective within usual thresholds." The beauty of acupuncture in this scenario is that it has very few negative side effects (occasional bruising at the needling site and reports of dizziness) compared to the variety of drugs used to treat the condition.