My first memory of true pain was when one of my older cousins shut my fingers in the car door. I cried a little, and my mum put my hand in icy water. To this day, the knuckles on my left hand are slightly flatter than the ones on my right.
The second time I experienced pain was when my first crush came to the dance with me only to hang out with my best friend, who he’d fallen for. So, little me thought she knew pain — until endometriosis said hello a month after my 12th birthday.
A couple decades later, I can safely say that endometriosis is truly the most painful thing I have ever experienced, and I’ve had my feet and ribs tattooed. My periods can be monstrous. I was once in so much pain that I punched my kitchen sink and dislodged it a little. A fellow endometriosis patient would clench her fists so hard during a flare-up, she pierced her skin with her nails.
Pain is probably the main reason many of us go to the doctor to begin our endometriosis journey. We’d explain our discomfort, and the doctor would ask, “Is it mild pain? Is it severe? Does it happen during sex? During ovulation?”
Pain is very personal and can vary a lot. Endometriosis symptoms differ greatly from one patient to the next: Some of us howl in pain, while others barely feel a thing.
The National Health Service in the U.K. included endometriosis on a list of the 20 most painful conditions. So, how does this disease actually feel? Following are some of the types of pain it has been compared to:
For many patients, endometriosis pain can be as bad as a heart attack. While some people experience mild forms of discomfort during a heart attack, many describe it as an extremely painful event. Other symptoms are shortness of breath and nausea, which many endometriosis patients also experience when struggling through a bad flare-up.
Being kicked or hit
Being kicked in the stomach or hit with a baseball bat is probably the most accurate way to describe the type of pain I experience when I’m on my period. It feels like repeated trauma — an endless sucker punch — and it makes me lose my mind. It hurts so much I struggle to speak or open my eyes.
Gout generally consists of extremely painful attacks on the foot, knee, ankle, hand, and wrist joints. Endometriosis can cause nerve damage that results in pain in other parts of the body. Many patients complain of shooting leg pains, and lower back pain. My leg pain is sometimes so bad that it turns into very uncomfortable spams.
A friend of mine who has given birth to four babies (three of them during the same “animated” morning) once asked me to describe my period pain. When I finished, she said, “Jess, giving birth doesn’t even hurt that bad.” Just like contractions, endometriosis pain can come in waves, taking over your entire body. You may get a couple minutes of solace before the next wave takes over.
When endometriosis hurts really badly, whether it feels like a rabid goat jumping on your abdomen or like being hit by a small bus*, there are things that can help. A TENS machine, a hot water bottle, painkillers, and CBD oil are among my favorite ways to manage the pain.
Most importantly, no matter how bad it gets, it eases up eventually. The dark clouds always clear up, and the sun comes out.
What does your pain feel like?
*Actual pain descriptions by endometriosis patients.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.