By Steve Dechan
As our society becomes increasingly aware of gender inequities, women’s health has become a critical priority for our country’s healthcare system. Despite this, so far, not enough attention has been paid to the ways in which chronic pain has an impact on women specifically.
Chronic pain is a symptom of a wide array of conditions, including some that are particular to women. I wanted to draw special attention to one of these – endometriosis – given that this month is National Endometriosis Awareness Month. Endometriosis, a disease involving unusual growth of endometrial cells, affects over 1 in 10 women of menstrual age in Britain.
One in ten women in the United Kingdom suffer from endometriosis, where cells that typically line the inside of the uterus start to grow outside the uterus. These cells respond to bodily hormones and begin to bleed during the menstrual cycle, causing a buildup of blood and subsequent inflammation. The inflammation in turn often causes a band of scar tissue – referred to as an endometriosis adhesion – that can bind bodily organs together.
Both the inflammation itself and the subsequent organ binding can be extremely painful. Around 80% of patients with endometriosis reported feeling pain, with up to 50% stating that they had chronic pelvic pain. If endometrial tissue forms near the sciatic nerve, chronic leg pain can also be an issue, which in extreme cases can make it difficult for women suffering from endometriosis to walk.
Endometriosis can be difficult to treat, with a variety of current treatments offered on the NHS doing little to tackle the pain and help the women affected. However, innovative new products have shown great success in tackling it.
Isabelle Myenne, a 25-year-old endometriosis patient, has described how posterior tibial nerve stimulation (PTNS) treatment was extremely effective in addressing her condition:
“When I was roughly 18 years old, I began developing some symptoms of endometriosis, particularly back pain and sciatica. This pain was so intense that it stopped me from doing the things I enjoyed: surfing, walking, yoga and exercising at the gym. By 2018, my endometriosis was having a huge impact on my quality of life. Eventually, after many visits to my GP and no clear diagnosis, I was diagnosed in 2019. Between early 2019 and mid-2020, I relied heavily on acupuncture as my primary form of pain relief. Although I found this highly effective, the appointments and the travel time were taking up too much of my week, I was bending my work hours to meet my appointments, and most of all, the weekly cost was far too much, and I knew that I couldn’t afford to have the treatment regularly enough to keep my back pain away.
“This is when I happened across BioWave. Within 10 days of using it for 30 minutes per session, I began to feel a distinct improvement in the levels of pain that I was suffering from. Within another week, I was surfing again, walking miles at a time and regularly attending yoga classes. BioWave has been life changing for me. The ease of use and flexibility of using BioWave in my own home, on my own time, was a game changer. I’d plug myself in every evening in bed, grab a book for half an hour and that’s it. As of writing, it’s been 6 months of use and I can say that the improvements are permanent now, and I feel like I have my freedom back. My physical and mental health has improved no end and I cannot recommend the BioWave enough to any other women who are suffering from endometriosis.”
Having heard Isabelle’s compelling testimony, my company, Platform 14, is proud to announce that we will be investing in a PTNS-Endometriosis Multi-Centre Study to further research the pain-relieving effects of implantable and non-implantable devices on endometriosis patients.
If the NHS truly wants to prioritise women’s health, it must tackle chronic pain in an effective and innovative way by exploring the untapped potential of PTNS. Only then can we make positive steps as a nation to alleviate the suffering of the millions of British women suffering from endometriosis.