Can Chinese medicine be an answer for menstrual pain, referred to in medical circles as "dysmenorrhea"? The answer is a resounding "YES!"
What is dysmenorrhea?
Dysmenorrhea occurs when a women experiences irregularly intense and sometimes debilitating pelvic pain, low back pain, abdominal cramping, fever, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting during or close to the beginning of her period. The menstrual pain can last anywhere from hours to several days and can affect a woman's work, sleep, and overall quality of life, making it extremely difficult to function.
Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common form of menstrual pain and can be attributed to factors such as lifestyle, nutrition, and stress. Secondary dysmenorrhea is less common and related to underlying physical conditions in or around the uterus. According to the Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CCAM) up to half of all American women suffer from irregularly intense and debilitating menstruation, particularly prevalent in younger ages.
Which factors contribute to Dysmenorrhea?
What's my Chinese Pattern with Dysmenorrhea?
In Chinese Medicine identifying bodily patterns is the start of any diagnosis to determine the cause of symptoms. Menstrual pain and reproductive issues could be caused by disruptions of blood flow, qi movement, and organ health. Common Chinese diagnoses include:
• Liver Qi Stagnation
• Spleen Qi deficiency
• Blood Stagnation
What's in the Research?
Multiple studies involving 3000 women at the Oriental Hospital at Kyung Hee University Medical Center in South Korea found that acupuncture may be more effective than drugs or herbal medicine for menstrual pain. Acupuncture was found to stimulate endorphins and release serotonin which helps the nervous system, and subjects reported a reduction in pain associated with menses as well as an increase in their overall feeling of well-being. To read more, click here.
How can I Prevent & Treat Menstrual Issues?
A combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas are very effective for managing menstrual pain, including both primary and secondary dysmenorrhea and their associated symptoms. Initially weekly acupuncture is advised, with an increase in treatment in the second half of the menstrual cycle leading to menstruation. As symptoms subside, usually a monthly treatment in the week approaching menstruation is all that is necessary. With continued acupuncture treatments, menstrual pain should subside completely within a few to several months, depending on the severity. Adding in Chinese herbal formulas both increases the effectiveness of acupuncture, and can dramatically minimize treatment time.
Chinese medical practitioners also discuss dietary changes, including specific foods that are relevant to the symptom pattern of the patient. This may include foods that promote better blood circulation and reduce clotting, foods that build blood and prevent anemia, as well as foods that will support strong digestion and liver function. Exercising a couple times a week can also assist in keeping the qi and blood flowing freely, promoting a healthier menstrual flow.