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Pain Management Strategies for Adenomyosis Sufferers

Understanding Adenomyosis Pain

Adenomyosis is a condition where the inner lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium, breaks through the muscle wall of the uterus. This infiltration can lead to an enlarged uterus and, more notably, significant pain. The pain experienced by adenomyosis sufferers is not just the typical menstrual cramps many are familiar with; it's often more intense and prolonged. This pain can be sharp, chronic, and can even radiate to the lower back and legs. It's not uncommon for women with adenomyosis to describe the pain as a heavy, dragging sensation that intensifies during their menstrual cycle.

Factors that exacerbate this pain can vary from individual to individual. For some, stress can be a significant trigger, amplifying the intensity of the pain. For others, certain foods or activities might lead to increased discomfort. Recognising and understanding these triggers is the first step in effective pain management, allowing sufferers to make informed decisions about their lifestyle and treatment options.

Download our Simple Guide to Adenomyosis


Hormonal Therapies

Hormonal interventions target the root causes of adenomyosis by modulating estrogen and progesterone levels.


Birth control pills, patches, and vaginal rings

These methods, primarily used for contraception, can also relieve adenomyosis symptoms by regulating hormonal levels. By maintaining a consistent hormone level, they can help reduce heavy bleeding and pain associated with the menstrual cycle.


Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists

GnRH agonists, such as Lupron, are drugs that reduce the production of estrogen in the ovaries. They create a temporary post-menopausal state, which can relieve pain and reduce menstrual bleeding. However, because of the induced low estrogen state, long-term use can lead to side effects like osteoporosis.


Progestin therapy

Progestin can help counteract the effects of estrogen on the uterine lining. Options include intrauterine devices (like Mirena) and progestin-only pills. These can decrease menstrual flow and offer pain relief.


Pain Relievers

When adenomyosis pain is profound, over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers might be needed.


Over-the-counter pain medications 

Non-prescription drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen can be effective in managing the pain and inflammation caused by adenomyosis. These should be used as directed and always under the guidance of a healthcare provider, especially if used regularly.


Prescription painkillers

In cases where over-the-counter options are insufficient, doctors might prescribe stronger painkillers. These can include narcotics or other specialized medications to address severe pain, but they come with potential side effects and risks, including dependency.


Surgical Options

For those who don't find relief through hormonal or pain-relieving treatments, surgery might be an option.

Endometrial ablation

This procedure destroys the lining of the uterus to treat heavy menstrual bleeding. While effective for bleeding, it might not always relieve the pain associated with adenomyosis. Moreover, pregnancy is highly discouraged after this procedure.



This involves the removal of the uterus and, sometimes, the cervix. While it’s the only definitive cure for adenomyosis, it's considered a last resort because of its invasive nature and potential side effects. This option is usually explored when adenomyosis severely affects the quality of life, and other treatments have failed.


Interventional Radiology: A Modern Approach to Pain Management

Interventional Radiology (IR) provides cutting-edge techniques that are revolutionizing the way adenomyosis and various other conditions are treated, offering alternatives to traditional surgical procedures.


Definition and overview of Interventional Radiology (IR)

Interventional Radiology is a sub-specialty of radiology that uses imaging guidance, such as X-ray, CT scans, or ultrasound, to perform minimally invasive diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. By using small instruments, like catheters or needles, interventional radiologists can treat conditions through tiny incisions, minimizing patient discomfort and reducing recovery time.


How IR offers less invasive treatment options

IR stands out because it targets specific areas, reducing the trauma to surrounding tissues. This precision enables treatments to be less invasive than traditional surgery. Instead of large incisions, IR procedures often involve punctures smaller than the tip of a pencil, resulting in less pain, less scarring, and a faster return to normal activities.


Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE)

UAE is one of the innovative IR procedures that has proven effective in treating adenomyosis, providing symptomatic relief and improved quality of life for many sufferers.


Explanation of the UAE procedure

Uterine Artery Embolisation involves the deliberate blockage of blood vessels to reduce blood flow to an adenomyotic uterus. Guided by real-time imaging, an interventional radiologist introduces a catheter into the femoral artery, usually accessed from the groin. This catheter is navigated to the uterine arteries, where tiny particles (embolic agents) are released. These particles block the blood vessels that supply the adenomyotic tissue, leading to its shrinkage and symptom relief.


How UAE helps in reducing pain in adenomyosis sufferers

By decreasing the blood supply to the adenomyotic tissue, UAE causes it to shrink. This reduction in size and vascularity alleviates the pressure and inflammation that contribute to the characteristic pain of adenomyosis.


    • Minimally invasive: UAE doesn't involve major surgery, large incisions, or removal of the uterus.

    • Preserves the uterus: For women who wish to maintain their uterus, whether for fertility reasons or personal preference, UAE offers a uterus-sparing option.

    • Shorter recovery time: Given the procedure's minimally invasive nature, most patients experience a quicker recovery, often returning to their normal activities within a week or so.


Potential risks and complications

While UAE is generally safe, as with any procedure, there are potential risks. These can include infection, injury to the artery where the catheter was inserted, or inadvertent embolization of nearby structures. There's also a slight risk of early menopause if the embolic particles affect the ovaries. Some women may experience post-embolization syndrome, which includes symptoms like fever, fatigue, and abdominal pain. It's crucial to discuss these risks with a healthcare provider and weigh them against the benefits when considering UAE as a treatment option.


The journey with adenomyosis is personal and varied, underscoring the importance of exploring diverse pain management strategies. With the evolution of medical treatments, Interventional Radiology emerges as a beacon of hope, offering minimally invasive solutions like Uterine Artery Embolization. Such innovations are not only reshaping the treatment landscape but also providing patients with more choices for better quality of life. In essence, as we progress in medicine, the future for adenomyosis sufferers looks promising, emphasizing collaboration and informed decisions in the path to relief.


Book a consultation with Dr Quigley


Shaun Quigley

Shaun Quigley

Dr Shaun Quigley operates Northern Beaches Interventional Radiology, and specialises in minimally invasive treatment options for a range of conditions, including benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), fibroids, adenomyosis and varicocele.

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