Inversions

Regular readers will be familiar with my burning buttocks pain. Pain shooting through my spine and burning in my buttocks, during menstruation but lately stretching throughout the entire follicular phase. Which I assumed to be caused by endometriosis, given my history, though an MRI could not find anything. Pain that had me seriously wonder how I was going to lead a normal life with, how I would be able to work, especially standing up.

I’m still slightly afraid of saying anything, for fear of jinxing my luck, but it seems I have found a solution. And I’m not talking about prescription-strength painkillers. This could become a long post, but bear with me.

Over the holidays I re-discovered a book about yoga, which I had bought years ago, with the intention of starting, but then I met H and everything changed ;-) and when we moved here I left it back as I wasn’t actually doing any yoga. But a few months ago I bought “Fully Fertile” and began yoga practice they suggest, and so I looked up some poses. Now, whereas Fully Fertile just recommends not to do inversions during menstruation, this other book, in true spirit of my fellow countrymen, provides a more detailed discussion of the issue, finishing with the statement that endometriosis was a clear counter-indication for practicing inversions during menstruation.

Point taken, I thought. Probably because of retrograde menstruation, a theory of how menstrual flow back into the peritoneal cavity could cause endo. I had heard about it when I was first diagnosed, and basically dismissed it because it could not explain all cases of endo. (For example, the first documented case of a woman with endo happened to occur in a patient without an uterus. No retrograde flow here, clearly.) Anyway, I had stuck with the Fully Fertile instructions, so I thought this was not an issue.

Half an hour later, it hit me. While I had avoided inversions, I had been practicing Ai.ki.do, and all those rolling movements could well have the same effect. If you’re wondering why I practiced despite all this pain — exercise actually helped relieve the pain. My first bout of endo, which was finally diagnosed one day before I had major surgery to remove it, started about 9 months after I began practicing Ai.ki.do. Then I rarely practiced for a long time (for other reasons), was on a progesterone-only pill, and pain-free. But last spring I took it up again — somewhat reluctantly, because, you know, I could get pregnant the following month and then I’d have to stop (I wish). And, over the summer, my lovely burning buttocks pain surfaced.

I had dreaded getting my period during the holidays, in anticipation of yet more pain. But, due to travels and sickness, I had not done any Ai.ki.do. And I was in so much less pain, it was unbelievable. This time around (today is CD3), it is even better. Not quite pain-free yet, but if you had promised me this a few months ago, I would not have believed it. And all that because of less exercise? Even if this does not get me pregnant, I’ll take it, any day.

Maybe I got it all wrong. It could be the EPO finally working, or pure coincidence. But this connection is too strong for me to ignore. Oddly enough, I could not find much on the topic online. I’ve read this article about yoga, which supports that you should not practice inversions during menstruation, but claims that retrograde menstruation, and therefore endometriosis, are not an issue. Frankly, I don’t buy it. My body tells me otherwise. And I think this is the key point here. I have to learn to listen to my body. As a scientist, I would love to have well-designed, controlled, double-blind studies for whatever medical or reproductive problem I worry about. Apart from the fact that these simply often do not exist, they can only tell us what works in the majority of patients (ok, actually in a small set that hopefully is representative…). But, identical twins aside, we are all slightly different. We suffer from different side effects, don’t respond in the same way to drugs, hell, some are drunk after one cocktail and others still standing after 3. With badly understood problems it seems to be even worse, whether that be endo or “bad eggs” or what else doctors may have thrown at you, shrugging, not really knowing what to do either.

(It seems like there should be conclusions here, but that feels premature. We’ll see over the coming months if my pain stays away. I’m hopeful. And that is a wonderful feeling.)

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12 thoughts on “Inversions

  1. Really interesting. There are just so many variables with endo, all you can do is what you are doing – whatever works for you. I don’t think the Docs take enough account of a person’s individual biology – maybe medicine is just not there yet.
    It’s nice to hear you’re relieved from that awful pain – long long long may it continue!

  2. What an intriguing possibility! I SO hope you’re right! I mean, we’ll have to change your nickname from Burning Buttocks to something else, but how totally great that you noticed this connection.

  3. You know, I don’t think that endo is caused by retrograde menstruation, but I definitely don’t think it helps. I mean, you’re body is ridding itself of blood…there’s nothing good that can come of gravity NOT being allowed to do it’s job there…
    So yeah, I’ve always avoided certain yoga poses (and pretty much all yoga, to tell you the truth) during my period. Ive never done any other activities that required any rolling or positions like that, so it would never have occurred to me that there could be another source of your pain!
    So glad you had less pain this month – you can try your experiment again next month and hopefully get a clearer answer!
    And by the way, I’ve never had any endo show up on an MRI and I had Stage IV endo all OVER the place.

  4. I agree with your outlook wholeheartedly. Many times well controlled research studies are the answer. But there will always be people who don’t fit into those groups. And, there aren’t studies for everything that is effective. Glad you found something works for you! Listening to our bodies is important.

  5. Avoiding inversions during menstruation is recommended for everyone in yoga. (You can substitute supta baddha konasana or viparita karani in your practice.) I’ve never really known why, but every teacher I’ve ever had has given alternative poses for anyone who may be menstruating.

    I’m so glad you had a less painful month. It makes such a huge difference, doesn’t it? I’m hoping for many more pain-free months for you.

  6. That’s so interesting–I was just reading about this last week. I’ve never had anyone tell me to avoid inversions during menstruation until I started looking up yoga for fertility. Do all practitioners know about this? What are you experiences with EPO? I’ve been curious to try it.

    Thanks for your comment and visit today!

  7. I’m really glad your pain is down, and I think that sort of thing is often NOT a coincidence, and that you’re absolutely right about listening to your body. I know science shakes its head at a lot of things, but I often think that’s just because science decides on the basis of research that has already been done. And there is very little research out there on this type of thing (shocking, actually). But just because it hasn’t been researched does NOT mean that it isn’t valid. Here’s hoping that your butt pain is a think of the past.

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