Tips to Manage Endometriosis While at Work

Endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK.

Suppose you are one of the 10% of women (over 1.5 million) living with the condition. In that case, it’s possible you suffer from a number of symptoms, including pelvic pain, bad period pain, pain during and after intercourse, feeling sick, constipation, or diarrhoea during your period.

Although everyone is affected differently, that’s an awful lot to live with. But what happens when you suffer from chronic symptoms while having to work?

In this article, we’ll show you the best tips and tricks to help alleviate discomfort while you’re at work, to help make your days a little easier.

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a medical disorder in which tissue, similar to the lining of your uterus, grows outside of the uterine cavity.

It can grow on your ovaries, bowel, and tissues lining your pelvis. During your menstrual cycle, hormonal changes affect the misplaced tissue, which can cause it to become painful and inflamed. These changes cause the tissue to thicken, grow, and break down, eventually leading it to get trapped in your pelvis.

This can cause several issues, including irritation, fertility problems, adhesions, pain, and scar formation.

Not everyone suffers from the same symptoms, and some may experience none to mild side effects, while others have more moderate to severe symptoms, which can be debilitating.

While endometriosis has no cure, the symptoms can be managed so they don’t stop you from enjoying your day-to-day activities. There are conservative, medical, and surgical treatments, so it’s important to have regular appointments with your doctor to monitor your symptoms.

Dealing with Endometriosis While Working

Endometriosis can affect your ability to work or be productive in the workplace, as such, you need more support at work to get your job done efficiently. As symptoms are generally worse during your period, it can cause you to feel this way for a week or more each month.

Taking sick leave every month isn’t always an option, so here are some tips and workaround options to help you manage your endometriosis symptoms.

Communication Openly

Talking about endometriosis with coworkers or your manager can be tricky, especially as it is a female body condition surrounding pelvic pain and painful periods. But, while you don’t have to share your condition if you don’t want to, it might help your employer understand why you might not be at your best some days.

If you choose to share your condition, it can also help your employer come up with ways to support you, and relieve some of the stress you’re feeling. Whether that’s a flexible work model (for example, working from home one week a month), or delegating tasks to other members of the team.

Find a Confidante

When you’re struggling with endometriosis at work, it can help to find a trusted colleague who you can confide in, so they can listen and support you.

Having someone at work who understands what you’re going through can make it a little easier to open up. They can have your back and even speak up for you if you’re feeling particularly unwell or stressed.

Bring a Heat Pad to Work

A heating pad is a great home remedy for endometriosis pain. Heat can loosen and soothe the muscles in the pelvic area that cramp up, causing pain, which can help bring a little relief to the discomfort.

You can buy self-heating pads that stick to the skin and provide several hours of warmth, a hot water bottle is also an economical option, or, invest in a wireless heating pad that you can charge and use as often as needed.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking lots of water can help reduce bloating and cramps that can come with endometriosis. Invest in a large, refillable water bottle, and keep sipping throughout the day to keep hydrated and help alleviate discomfort.

Try a TENS Machine

TENS machines (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), are often used by women going through labour to help with the pain of contractions.

The machine emits vibrations that can relax the muscles in the pelvic area and help ease the pain. TENS machines can be borrowed by physical therapists, but they’re also available to purchase.

Take Breaks

Needing to take breaks throughout the work day is completely normal. Allow yourself some mental breaks when you need them to help space out tasks, allow your pain medication to kick in, or going for a walk can help you refocus and keep going.

Plan Ahead

If you’ve been living with your condition for a while, then you might have picked up the pattern of when your symptoms are at their worst. This can help you predict when the discomfort or other symptoms might get in the way of your daily activities, so you can give yourself extra time, get your medication prepared, and let your manager know that you might not be your best for a few days.

Eat Well

Though there haven’t been many studies on this topic, one study has shown a connection between low vegetable intake and endometriosis. Vegetables contain a lot of fibre, which can help your digestion and make going to the toilet a little easier.

Before going to work, fill up a bag with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to snack on. There is also a link between omega-3 fatty acids and endometriosis, so fill up on omega-3-rich foods such as salmon, sardines, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans.

Try to avoid a diet high in trans-fat and red meat and enjoy food that is nutrient-dense and full of vitamins and minerals to help fight inflammation.

Incorporate Some Gentle Exercise

Try and use your lunch break to enjoy some gentle exercise. Moving can reduce estrogen levels and release “feel-good” hormones. Sitting for hours at a time can compress the nerves in your pelvis, which can trigger endometriosis pain.

Something simple such as yoga, a light jog, or even frequent walks are all great options and can be done easily during a lunch break.

External Resources:

Endometriosis UK: Support groups for endometriosis

NHS: Information and advice for endometriosis