Nonsurgical Treatments for Ovarian Cysts
Can an acupuncturist’s needles, a nutritionist’s food plan or an exercise therapist’s coaching help manage an ovarian cyst? Many people interested in holistic treatments try these and other surgical alternatives first.
How an ovarian cyst is treated — and which nonsurgical treatments can be beneficial — depends in part on what kind of cyst it is and whether it is causing symptoms.
Some women develop benign (harmless) cysts related to the monthly release of an egg from one of the ovaries. These are called functional cysts. They usually resolve on their own within one to three menstrual cycles and tend not to produce any symptoms. Occasionally they cause bleeding before or after ovulation and mild lower belly pain on one side.
Other, less common kinds of cysts are not associated with egg production. They have the potential to grow large, twist, rupture, interfere with fertility, prove cancerous or otherwise create problems that call for intervention by a GYN specialist.
Common symptoms of some nonfunctional ovarian cysts include pelvic, thigh or lower back pain; pain with intercourse or just before or after a period; abdominal swelling; and nausea or vomiting. Severe or sharp pelvic pain, fever, rapid breathing and dizziness can be signs of a ruptured cyst or one with torsion (twisting) and require immediate medical care.
If a pelvic exam and imaging or other diagnostic test discover an ovarian cyst that does not seem to pose an immediate cause for concern with your doctor, you may be able to manage symptoms or prevent new ones with one or more nonsurgical treatments.
Before you pursue any kind of treatment, however, make sure an ovarian cyst specialist like those at The Center for Innovative GYN Care evaluates your case. They can:
- Confirm that it’s safe to pursue cyst management rather than surgical treatment. Certain kinds of ovarian cysts can potentially lead to complications if not removed.
- Discuss the advantages and drawbacks of various nonsurgical treatments with you.
- Help you steer clear of fake products marketed as a “quick fix” for ovarian cysts.
Research-based, nonsurgical health care treatments are offered at The CIGC Wellness Center, the holistic treatment arm of The Center for Innovative GYN Care’s surgical practice. Schedule a Wellness Center evaluation today.
Treating Ovarian Cysts Without Surgery
Nonsurgical approaches for ovarian cysts will not make an existing cyst go away but may help manage symptoms like pelvic discomfort, prevent new cysts from forming or keep existing cysts from growing. These alternative treatments fall into three categories: watch and wait, medication and holistic therapies/at-home treatments.
Determining the right treatment for you will depend on the kind and size of your ovarian cyst as well as your age and any symptoms you may be experiencing.
Some OBGYNs routinely follow a “watch and wait” approach to treating ovarian cysts that have not ruptured. This may involve repeating ultrasounds over several months to make sure the cyst is not growing.
Watch and wait might be appropriate for small, simple, fluid-filled follicular cysts that aren’t causing any symptoms. This kind is likely to resolve naturally.
However, waiting to treat questionable cysts — such as those that persist over several months, are accompanied by pain and bleeding or cause concern on an ultrasound — can lead to complications such as a rupture with hemorrhaging, infertility, destroyed ovarian tissue and more. In these instances, removing the cyst with a laparoscopic procedure may be the best option.
Doctors often prescribe medication consisting of birth control or other hormonal therapy for ovarian cysts. Hormonal therapy can prevent the formation of new cysts.
However, there is no widespread evidence that hormonal therapy either resolves or shrinks existing ovarian cysts. In addition, hormonal management can increase pain and bleeding and ultimately jeopardize the quality of your eggs, making it inappropriate if you desire fertility.
Alternative Therapies and At-Home Treatments
Alternative or holistic therapies and at-home remedies for ovarian cysts are mostly targeted toward pain relief, as well as minimizing stress and anxiety that can accompany physical discomfort.
Acupuncture. Many studies have confirmed that this ancient component of Eastern medicine can reduce certain kinds of pain — including pelvic pain — and anxiety. In addition to the insertion of thin needles at strategic points in the body, the therapy may include other elements of Chinese medicine, including acupressure massage, breathing instruction, meditation and herbal and nutritional therapy.
Physical therapy. Massage to loosen tense muscles, heat therapy to increase blood flow and transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation (TENS) to alter how the body reacts to pain are some of the physical therapy treatments that can ease ovarian cyst-related pain. Using a heating pad at home can offer relief as well.
Exercise and stretching. Women have reported improvement in ovarian cyst pain from both running and gentle movement like yoga and stretching. (Strenuous exercise is not recommended.)
Diet and supplements. Reducing inflammation — which is what over-the-counter pain medications do — can be achieved by consuming more vegetables and fruits, as well as increasing your intake of ginger, turmeric (curcumin in supplement form) and omega-3 fatty acids, found primarily in fish and fish oil supplements. Chamomile tea also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Flaxseeds, in addition to being an anti-inflammatory, may help with ovarian cysts by regulating hormone function. Vitamin B6 may also help with hormone regulation.
Magnesium has been shown to reduce pain in people with a variety of acute and chronic conditions, and so might ease ovarian cyst pain. Biotin may reduce cramping.
It’s important to note that not everyone responds to these measures.
A holistic health care plan tailored by a specialist to your individual condition may prove beneficial. Talk to a patient advocate today.
Frequently Asked Questions About Nonsurgical Treatment for Ovarian Cysts
Simple follicular cysts related to ovulation tend to resolve without treatment, but other kinds can grow and put you at risk for serious complications. This is why it’s important to have your condition evaluated by a GYN specialist rather than a physician who only advises observation for a period of time (called “watch and wait”) to see if the cyst goes away.
Also, watch and wait is not appropriate for patients who have entered menopause due to the higher chance that the cyst and/or the ovary might be cancerous. Surgery to remove the cyst may be recommended in this case and is again best determined by a specialist.
Mild ovarian cyst and period pain should respond to over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. These include ibuprofen, found in Advil, and naproxen, the active ingredient in Aleve. (Acetaminophen, the active drug in Tylenol, is not an NSAID.) If these prove ineffective, your doctor may prescribe a different kind of medication.
Applying heat at home using an electric or microwave heating pad, or a hot water bottle wrapped in cloth to protect your skin, can also alleviate ovarian cyst pain. Limit each session to 20 minutes; repeat as needed.
Alternative health care providers like those at The CIGC Wellness Center offer integrative treatments for GYN-related pain relief, including pain from ovarian cysts. A physical therapist can use massage and transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation (TENS), while a pelvic floor physical therapist can teach you exercises and movements to ease pelvic discomfort. An acupuncture specialist can insert ultra-thin needles at points in the body that may diminish abdominal pain and relieve stress and anxiety, which can exacerbate pain. And a physical trainer can lead you in aerobic exercise such as running and calmer exercise such as yoga, depending on what your body responds to.
One caveat to ovarian cysts and pain: Severe or sharp pain can be a sign of a ruptured cyst or an ovary that has twisted, possibly due to the weight of a large cyst. Seek emergency care.
While there are no foods or supplements that have been proven to be sure-fire ways to treat or prevent ovarian cysts on their own, there are those that may contribute to easing pain from a cyst and discouraging the formation of new ones.
Inflammation, for example — one of the primary causes of pain — can be addressed by consuming more foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, including whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and foods with omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, nuts and seeds. Others, such as flaxseeds, may benefit you by playing a role in regulating hormones.
A nutritionist with experience treating patients with GYN conditions like ovarian cysts can devise a plan for foods and supplements tailored to your specific needs.
Endometriomas (en-doe-me-tree-O-muhs) are cysts caused by endometriosis, a condition in which the tissue normally lining your uterus (endometrium) grows outside the uterus. Endometriomas are associated with fertility problems.
Ovarian cysts resulting from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition that results in hormone irregularities and numerous small ovarian cysts at once, are seen in patients who don’t ovulate regularly. Infrequent ovulation can interfere with fertility.
A GYN specialist highly experienced with treating conditions that cause infertility can remove not only ovarian cysts but also fertility-blocking endometriosis and fibroids.
Speak with an Expert
Before starting a treatment regimen on your own, consult a specialist to make sure the cyst does not pose an immediate threat to your health. Treatment options your physician may recommend will depend on the size and type of your cyst, your age and fertility goals and any symptoms you may be experiencing.
The minimally invasive surgical specialists at The Center for Innovative GYN Care have treated hundreds of women with persistent ovarian cysts that raised significant concerns during pelvic exams and on imaging or other diagnostic tests. When an ovarian cyst or pelvic mass must be removed, our experts perform cystectomies — procedures to remove the cyst while preserving the otherwise healthy ovary — and unilateral or bilateral oophorectomies, in which one or both ovaries are removed along with the cyst when medically necessary.
At The CIGC Wellness Center, a team of alternative health care providers with experience treating GYN-based symptoms can help you learn how to manage symptoms of ovarian cysts as well as improve your overall physical and emotional well-being.