By I.Soussis MD
Experts have only recently begun to recognize how widespread leg pain may be in women with endometriosis. Usually endometriosis patients experience extremely painful, heavy periods, pain after or during sexual activity (called dyspareunia) and pelvic pain. When endometriosis growths though impact the nerves surrounding the pelvis, they can cause pain in the legs, hips and buttocks.
As many as 50 percent of women with endometriosis may experience some form of leg pain, according to a 2016 study.
Diagnosing endometriosis-related leg pain can be tricky because of a wide range of other medical conditions that are better understood and easier to diagnose can also cause leg pain.
During regular menstruation, the uterus lining sheds and leaves the body through the vagina. This happens in response to changing hormone levels. When endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus, the cells still shed, but they cannot leave the body, causing painful symptoms.
In some cases, endometrial tissues grow in and around the many nerves that travel through the pelvis and hip. Abnormal growths can put pressure on the pelvic nerves. This may cause pain and numbness in the hips, buttock, and legs.
Nearly all of the documented cases of leg pain associated with endometriosis involve abnormal growths on the sciatic nerve or one of its branches.The sciatic nerve is considered the largest and longest nerve in the human body. It begins in the lower back, runs through the pelvis, and down the leg into the foot, branching into several smaller nerves along the way. Pressure on this nerve can cause pain in the lower body.
The sciatic nerve provides sensation to most of the lower portion of the body. Pressure on the sciatic nerve can, therefore, cause a lot of different symptoms, most commonly pain, numbness, and tingling that radiates into the following areas:
- outside of the leg
- back of the thighs and calf
- sole, heel, and top of the foot
Everyday tips for finding relief include:
- gentle stretching focusing on the buttocks, thighs, calf, and feet muscles
- gentle exercise, such as yoga, swimming, or walking can often help ease inflammation.
- counter pain medications and pain-relieving topical treatments on painful areas can ease inflammation and pain.
Patients have seen good results when they eat:
- fruits and vegetables rich in fiber and antioxidants (such as leafy green vegetables, berries, and citrus fruits).
- lean meats and nuts that contain anti-inflammatory compounds, such as omega-3 (such as fish, walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds)
Also, when they avoid:
- foods linked with inflammation (such as red meat, alcohol, heavily refined or preserved foods)
Drinking a lot of water also helps. Dehydration can intensify inflammation and pain throughout the whole body. Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and massage therapy have proven to be effective for some endometriosis patients who experience leg pain.