This refers to the symptoms of painful periods and period cramping. This can last for just the first day of a woman’s menstruation or can go on for days. Many young women experience this at menarche, and it can often go on for many years. Many associated symptoms can develop as well such as acne due to the changes in hormones. The primary form of treatment in Western Medicine is to artificially regulate the cycle by use of the Oral Contraceptive Pill.
Often this can provide symptomatic relief, other times women can still have breakthrough bleeding and pain around their period.
The severity of this pain can vary greatly, I see many women complaining of being bed ridden for almost a week. Some can experience pain around ovulation also. Other symptoms can occur around the commencement of menstruation like back pain, headaches and changes to their bowel movements.
The ‘ideal’ menstrual cycle should occur every 28 days, the bleed should last 3-5 days. There will often be some discomfort but the pain should not be debilitating. Likewise the bleed should not be overly heavy, only a small amount of clotting should occur and the blood should be red.
If the bleed is extremely painful, large clots are passed and the blood is a dark red or purple in colour, then Chinese Medicine describes this as ‘blood stagnation’.
Acupuncture Theory of Period Pain
Acupuncture has a long detailed history of treating women’s health problems. There are several ancient texts dedicated to this subject alone. Irregularities in menstruation are unfortunately very common these days, largely caused by emotional stress, poor diet or sleep and exposure to extreme weather. Pain is a result of Qi and Blood not moving, depending on how impeded their flow is, dictates the severity of the pain. Aching pains are described as Qi stagnation, whereas sharp/fixed pains are Blood stagnation. Often you can have pain that alternates. So what impedes their flow? Environmental elements such as cold, pathogens such as damp (which can come from humidity or poor diet) can impede their flow. Stress and a lack of sleep are 2 very common internal causes of disruption. Often there is a constitutional element to this also.
These disruptions can also affect other systems around menstruation and ovulation, this is how we explain symptoms such as: back pain, headaches, loose stools, bloating, irritability etc.
In Chinese Medicine the menstrual cycle is a direct reflection of a woman’s overall health, if there are irregularities and problems, then her health is not at 100%.
A research paper published in 2015, comparing the Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill (COC) to acupuncture for treating dysmenorrhea came to this conclusion: “Response rates following both interventions at the end of the study were not statistically different. Acupuncture commonly caused minimal local side effects but did not cause any hormone-related side effects as did COC. In conclusion, acupuncture is an alternative option for relieving dysmenorrhea, especially when COC is not a favorable choice.”
A Meta-analysis of recent research came to this conclusion in 2017: “The available evidence suggests that acupuncture may be effective for Primary Dysmenorrhea and justifies future high-quality studies.”
Neither of these studies provide conclusive evidence of effectiveness, but they hopefully lay the groundwork for further scientific investigation.
Irregular Periods and Amenorrhoea
The menstrual cycle should be 28 days, give or take a few days. When a cycle drops below 24 days or over 33 days it is considered irregular. An irregular cycle won’t necessarily be painful when it does arrive, but it can make falling pregnant difficult as ovulation can become erratic. It also shows that the flow of Qi within the body is not smooth as the cycle length keeps changing. These can be caused by emotions or a build up of cold or heat in the body which can lengthen or shorten the cycle respectively. If a women has had poor diet, or become underweight as a teenager, it can lead to periods which are over 90 days apart, or the period stops flowing all together. This is a critical sign that she has become blood deficient (according to Chinese Medicine), as her body doesn’t have enough surplus blood to have a flow. Often their nails and hair are brittle showing lack of Liver blood. In Western Medicine this can occur due to hormonal imbalances, possibly caused by PCOS and other health issues. It is always best to have these symptoms properly investigated by your GP.
In a similar approach, I use Acupuncture to try and regulate the flow of Qi and Blood, and remove the obstructions which may be stopping the period from arriving. This may help bring about a regular menstrual cycle. There is currently no high quality scientific research done on Acupuncture and Amenorrhea, so there is no scientific evidence of effectiveness at this time.
If you would like to discuss this further, or any other health concerns, feel free to call the clinic on 9796 2388