You wake up, covered in a cold sweat and reaching for your ibuprofen. That all too familiar, but unwelcome pain starts to emerge from your lower abdomen, and you know you're headed for a long day of cramps, bloating and exhaustion. If you're one of the many women out there struggling with debilitating menstrual cramps, you’re not alone. While these symptoms may seem common, that doesn’t mean you have to deal with them month after month.
How do your monthly maladies measure up? It shouldn't be "normal" to experience gut-wrenching pain and other life-hindering symptoms during your monthly cycle. There aren't many mainstream resources out there that offer lasting, healing options for the menstruating masses; but there should be. Your only options don’t have to be limited to, “take pain meds, grab a heating pad and bite a stick." In fact, there is incredible new research in the field of alternative medicine and Acupuncture, backed by life-changing results. Before you grab a bulk package of Midol from Costco and sail into another year of missing work once every month, isn't it worth exploring healthy treatments that last? I use a combination of three magic weapons: Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, and herbal pain patches.
Ancient Chinese Secret:
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been used for thousands of years to naturally and effectively treat pain conditions, including menstrual cramps. For many women, dealing with cramps on a monthly basis is normal. While cramps may very well be common, that doesn’t necessarily make them “normal.” A normal menstrual cycle actually means that you should get your period roughly every 28 to 30 days, and the flow should be moderate, meaning not too light and not too heavy. Most importantly, cramps should be minimal if at all. Menstrual cramps can also be indicative of other women’s health issues as well, which TCM can often treat very effectively.
The Stress of PMS:
Some women diagnosed with conditions like endometriosis or fibroids can experience very painful cramping every month, in addition to the typical PMS symptoms such as moodiness and breast tenderness. Furthermore, many women who have a history of these conditions, tend to have a more difficult time conceiving as well. I have treated so many women who go on to have healthy pregnancies after addressing the underlying menstrual irregularities. According to TCM, the menstrual cycle needs to be optimal before conception should take place. This means minimal cramping, PMS, and a moderate flow.
Fortunately, there are many Chinese herbal formulas that can be incredibly helpful with regulating the menstrual cycle, and easing pain and irritability. From a TCM perspective, when a woman experiences menstrual cramping and PMS, there is typically a “blockage” or “stagnation” in the natural flow of energy in the body. When this flow becomes stagnant or disrupted, this can cause pain and irritability. Here's where Acupuncture and TCM comes in- we regulate and smooth that natural flow, restoring balance to the body which then eases pain.
From a western medical view, cramps are caused by uterine contractions, and are often triggered by a rise in prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances. Prostaglandins are involved with pain and inflammation, and higher levels of these inflammatory substances in the body are often associated with more severe menstrual cramps. Both Acupuncture and herbs can help to regulate this natural flow, and restore balance to the body. In terms that may be more familiar to us westerners, herbs for menstrual cramps can act as an antispasmodic to relieve cramping, as well as provide anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties to help relieve inflammation and pain.
From Bed-Ridden to Driven: Michelle’s Case Study:
Michelle came into our clinic seeking Acupuncture for menstrual cramps due to endometriosis. Michelle is a 32 year old female, and has had debilitating menstrual cramps since she was a teenager. Her pain levels during the first couple days of menstruation were about 8-9/10, and the pain was very sharp and stabbing in nature. She tended to have a heavy flow with menstruation, along with PMS.
In order to manage her pain levels, she typically needed to take 800 mg’s of ibuprofen. The pain would on occasion cause her to feel very nauseous, and she sometimes missed work from it as well. Michelle had Acupuncture once a week for several weeks, and while some of her symptoms improved, I felt she really needed an herbal formula to better address her symptoms. I prescribed her a Chinese herbal formula, and she began taking it before the onset of her next menstrual cycle.
A few days later, I got an email from Michelle exclaiming, “we have success!” She experienced only minimal cramping that came and went in a few hours, and she did not need to take any ibuprofen at all to control the pain. Her period lasted only three days with much less heavy bleeding, and she noticed that her PMS was much more mild and manageable as well. In addition to the herbal formula, I strongly advised that Michelle apply an herbal pain patch to her abdomen as well, to help ease inflammation and pain with the onset of her cycle. She reported loving the patches, and the mild cramps she did have were gone afterwards. Additionally, Michelle is hoping to conceive within the next year, and since she has experienced good results so far managing her menstrual cycle and cramps, I believe she will have much better chances of having a natural and healthy conception.
If you’ve been struggling with menstrual cramps, you may want to consider trying Acupuncture and TCM to help alleviate pain, stress, and to get your body and mind into a better state of balance. Please feel free to contact our office with any questions you may have about Acupuncture and TCM for women’s health issues. Many insurance companies also cover Acupuncture for pain-related conditions, including menstrual cramps. Please contact your insurance company directly to see if your plan may cover Acupuncture for menstrual cramps, specifically when performed by a Licensed Acupuncturist.