Endometriosis pain

Endometriosis is a common condition where tissue similar to the lining of your womb (endometrium) starts to grow elsewhere and attaches to other organs, such as your ovaries and fallopian tubes. This can cause severe period pain, as well as chronic (long-term) pain outside of your periods and fertility problems. 

What does endometriosis pain feel like?

Endometriosis pain can feel like very painful period cramps. You may also have other symptoms including:

Pelvic pain

As endometrium tissue grows elsewhere in your pelvis, it can cause pelvic pain.

Back pain

Endometrium tissue can adhere to your lower back and front of your pelvis, causing back pain.

Leg pain

Endometrium tissue can grow on or around your sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back, down your legs and to your toes. This can cause leg pain, which may feel sharp, stabbing, throbbing, dull or like a twinge or leg cramp. It may also make it difficult to walk comfortably and stand up quickly.

Pain during sex

Endometrial tissue can cause scarring, which results in the formation of nodules that hurt when moved or touched. These nodules can develop in your womb, entrance to your womb (cervix) or pelvis, causing sharp pain during sex, either in your vagina or abdomen.

Painful bowel movements

Endometrial tissue can grow between your vagina and bowels. This is called rectovaginal endometriosis and can cause sharp pain, as well as: 

  • Diarrhoea
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Irritable bowels
  • Pain when opening your bowels

Symptoms of endometriosis pain

Endometriosis can cause a range of symptoms, including: 

  • Anaemia
  • Extremely painful cramps
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms — this includes:
  • Headaches and difficulty concentrating
  • Symptoms that affect your reproductive system — this includes:

Getting a diagnosis for endometriosis

The symptoms of endometriosis vary and also overlap with several other conditions. This makes it difficult to diagnose. According to Endometriosis UK, it takes around eight years from the start of symptoms to getting a diagnosis of endometriosis. 

The endometrial tissue that grows outside the womb often can’t be detected by a sonogram, ultrasound scan or MRI scan. A diagnosis is often only confirmed after a minimally invasive surgical procedure called a laparoscopy.

Finding relief from endometriosis pain

There are steps you can take to manage your endometriosis symptoms yourself, including: 

  • Applying a heat pack to relieve abdominal, back and pelvic pain 
  • Exercising — light to moderate exercise may reduce the spread of endometrial tissue outside your womb
  • Keeping a food diary to determine if certain foods worsen your symptoms (eg bloating)
  • Taking over-the-counter painkillers and/or anti-inflammatory drugs

Endometriosis pain FAQs

How painful is dysmenorrhea?

Pain from dysmenorrhea varies in intensity. For some women, the pain is mild and lasts only one to two days. For others the pain persists for the duration of their period and is so severe that they can’t perform their usual daily activities. 

When should you go to the hospital for severe period cramps?

If your period pain is so severe that you are doubled over in pain, fainting or vomiting, call NHS 111. They will talk to you about your symptoms and may suggest you go to hospital. 

Why is my period pain unbearable?

Severe period pain can be caused by a variety of underlying health conditions, such as endometriosis, fibroids or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (a severe form of PMS). 

Do periods get more painful with age?

Some women develop more painful and/or heavier periods after age 40. If your period pain is affecting your quality of life or you are concerned, see your GP. 

We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.

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Author Information

Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.

The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:

Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor

Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.