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Note: This article is not at all intended to be taken as medical advice. It’s just my anecdotal experience trying to deal with my endometriosis symptoms. If you have any questions or concerns about endometriosis or your menstrual health, please contact your doctor!
Through all of my n=1 experiments involving my health and nutrition, one thing has remained constant: I’m always looking to help alleviate the symptoms of my endometriosis, namely the cramps. The bloating and general ill feelings come and go and tend not to impact my life too much (though, I really could do without the nausea), but the cramping is by far the part that bothers me most. I don’t love waking up in the middle of the night in pain and then not being able to sleep for hours, just lying there in cramp-city. Diet and lifestyle have somewhat alleviated them, but every few cycles I’m hit with another bad round.
So, here we are, trying out more things to see what will actually help alleviate some of the pain. If you read my previous post on everything I’ve tried so far to help alleviate my endometriosis, you’ll know that I typically employ some combination of the following:
- low-carb/keto vegan diet (this is a constant)
- yoga & light exercise
- CBD (topical and internal)
- heating pad (infrared & regular)
- shoulder massage thingy (but on my lower abdomen)
- turmeric supplements
- various teas with the words “moon,” “cycle,” or “woman’s time” in the name
Do these things help? Kind of? Diet has been the factor in mitigating the severity of cramps. Exercise is the second runner up, and has also proven helpful in alleviating pain during cramping (mostly yoga and stretching). CBD can “take the edge off,” so to speak and the lotion I have that also has menthol is actually really, really soothing, as are the massager and heating pads.
As far as the turmeric supplement and teas go, I don’t really notice a huge difference cramp-wise, but I’m going to drink herbal tea anyway, so it might as well have some lovely floral imagery on the front of the box. I take the turmeric supplement for general inflammation to start with, so that’s a part of the routine anyway as well.
Okay, but reiki???
Yes, I know. Reiki and other energy healing modalities can be quite polarizing – people tend to react to seeing this word with either cautious curiosity or they completely shut it down as “woo woo.” So, while studies have demonstrated that reiki can be an effective complement to allopathic methods, I fully accept that a large chunk of the population is likely just going to disregard it off the bat. However, when dealing with chronic pain, you tend to be willing to try anything at least once, especially when there are no negative side effects.
So, yes, reiki. For those unfamiliar with reiki, UCLA Health links to a pretty comprehensive overview here. Basically, it’s an energy healing modality that also promotes calmness and can be quite meditative. I have received reiki treatments from friends who practice in the past, but thought for this adventure, I would learn how to do self-treatments. After all, the goal here is to help reduce my pain levels and they’re often highest at around 3 in the morning. I figure that no matter how much my friends like me, it’s not at 3-am-reiki-treatment levels…
Anyway, despite the fact that I was looking at classes long before quarantine started, I decided to go with an online course. This was pretty much for 2 reasons: convenience and cost. In-person courses weren’t really near me and were super expensive. I also liked the idea of being able to take classes in my pajamas, whenever I felt like it.
In the end, I took a few classes on Udemy (links and more info at the bottom of the post) and read a bunch of different books (shout out to my library app!). I have been regularly practicing for 3 months now, through several menstrual cycles, and feel like I can give a fairly comprehensive overview of how it’s going. I’ll keep updating this as things progress, if anything changes.
So, how do I practice reiki for endometriosis and period pain?
Okay, you’ve made it this far through the post, and now we’re ready to actually get into the details. Pretty much every night before I go to bed, I do a reiki self-treatment routine using the “traditional” hand placements. When I’m on my period, I tend to focus more on my lower abdomen, lower back and pelvic floor. I know I’ve complained about my hypertonic pelvic floor on this blog before, and it just gets worse during my period. Anyway…
If you are familiar with reiki, you know that there are typical hand positions that comprise treatments. While I do tend to do these on regular nights, when dealing with period pain, I also like to include a little “spot-treating” for my lower abdomen.
I also like to do little treatments whenever I’m actually in pain, not just as a part of a nightly routine. For this, I only spot-treat and just place my hands where the pain is until it goes away.
Okay, so, does reiki help with endometriosis and period pain?
The short answer is that it does seem to be working for me. Will it work for you? I don’t know.
A more complicated answer would look into why this is working for me. I do feel a tingling in my hands and body when receiving reiki, but I think the relief I feel goes beyond that. Part of my reiki practice involves meditation at the start of each session. Additionally, during sessions, I practice yogic breathing (also called pranayama). Both of these practices have demonstrated the ability to decrease markers of inflammation and improve overall health, so it’s hard to say whether or not it’s the reiki, the meditiation, the breathing or some combination of any of the three.
How has reiki improved my endometriosis and period pain?
The big queston. Saying “reiki helped my endometriosis cramps” isn’t particularly useful if there isn’t any other info. So, I’ll just recap the effects I’ve noticed. One thing to note is that for the most part, larger trends tend to be more important than isolated incidences. While individual episodes where my cramps are alleviated are nice, I also like to look at the overall picture.
Spot-treating efficacy: I feel a little crazy saying this, because I’ve been pretty skeptical of this kind of thing my whole life, but I do genuinely feel relief while doing self-reiki treatments. It’s not immediate, but typically within 5-10 minutes of starting, the cramping begins to subside. If I do nothing, cramps can last for an hour or more, so this is a lovely improvement. Again, is it the reiki, the meditation, the breathing or the placebo effect? Unclear. Neither meditation or breathing alone (or in combination) has that effect, so I’m thinking it’s either the addition of the reiki, or a placebo effect. For the cost of a $10 course, I am fine with either of these answers.
Long-term results: Like I mentioned, long-term trends are important, too. My biggest issue is that I usually wake up 1-2 nights of my period with severe cramps that keep me up for a few hours at a time. While the CBD, heating pads and stretching work for the “regular” cramps, nothing touches these. They can get so bad that I have even thrown up before because of them. I really do not like these cramps. Anyway, I thought it would be worth tracking my period over some time (I will definitely keep doing this), and I started my reiki regimen about three months ago. It has been 4 cycles (yes, my cycle is also very short, so I get about 15 e per year), and here are my results:
- Cycle 1 (no reiki yet): woke up 2 nights
- Cycle 2 (just starting reiki): Woke up 1 night
- Cycle 3: woke up 0 nights (!!!)
- Cycle 4: woke up 0 nights (!!!)
Admittedly, this isn’t super scientific, but I plan on keeping track of this particular metric, because it’s the one that I think most impacts my life the most.
How did I learn reiki?
Like I said before, I took a few online classes and read a bunch of books from the library. I also read a book about energy healing in general that I enjoyed a lot, called The Energy Cure. The rest of the books sort of blur together for me, but this one definitely sticks out for providing a different and interesting perspective.
The online classes I took at Udemy. I purchased three courses during one of their super-sales where everything is $9.99, and would highly recommend two of them. There was nothing wrong with the third one, per se, but the course creator heavily promotes MLM essential oils on the website where you go for additional resources, and I’m not about that life.
The first course I took (well, second, but first that I would recommend) is by Melissa Crowhurst. It is a good, simple introduction with some exercises and short quizzes. While I really enjoyed this course, I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing at the end of it and still sought out more info.
The other course I recommend is called Heart-Centered Reiki and is incredibly comprehensive. There are loads of interactive exercises and the instructor actually engages with the course. 10/10. Highly recommend.
A note on learning reiki online: there are plenty of people who will say that you can’t learn reiki online and that it needs to be passed down in-person through special rituals, but this kind of ignores the point of reiki energy: it’s the universal life energy (ki, qi, chi, prana, etc) that is in all of us. There’s nothing super special or clandestine about it. Many people can already feel it without taking classes at all. So, while there are certainly some people who learn things better in person and would benefit from a real class with an instructor to physically show them how to do everything, if you learn well online, there is nothing wrong with online classes.