Through the eyes of Classical Chinese Medicine
Richard McMahon, BHSc (Acupuncture), Dip Remedial Massage
Dysmenorrhea or painful menses is unfortunately a very common condition and one that some women often come to accept as a normal occurrence in their lives. However anything beyond very mild discomfort at the onset of the cycle is a sign some aspect of the cycle needs to be addressed and Chinese Medicine has many tools to assist in this area.
There is an old saying in Chinese which translates as "Where there is free flow there is no pain and where there is pain there is no free flow". Basically stating that wherever we have pain there is something restricting the optimal flow of blood and nutrients into an area. Common causes include; excessive tension causing sluggish flow, lack of warmth which allows the build up of cold in the tissues and subsequent contraction or can be due to blood deficiency not adequately nourishing the involved tissues.
When symptoms are worse in the days leading up the cycle and improve after the flow starts in earnest this is due to an excessive amount of tension in the system; often due to chronic mental stress and irritation or can be due to a blockage in the downward descent of Blood through the channels linked to the uterus . Treatment is targeted towards re-establishing healthy movement of Blood and Qi throughout the body mainly by working on the relationship between the Liver/GallBladder and the Spleen meridians.
Another common contributing factor is the accumulation of cold in the tissues of the lower abdomen. This can be due to environmental factors which lead to direct exposure such as; leaving the mid rift exposed during cooler weather, swimming in cold water during the menses, sitting on cold floors or excessive intake of iced products. This accumulation can also arise from internal reasons. This can be due to lifestyle factors or convalescence from an illness that has led to the gradual exhaustion of the bodies Yang. This exhaustion then allows the body temperature to drop and blood to stagnate and the tissues to contract manifesting with pain and inhibited menstrual flow.
When discomfort increases towards the end of menstruation this shows an underlying deficient condition in the body that has been exacerbated by the further loss of blood. Treatment then aims to build up and strengthen the body focusing on the quality and volume of the blood and the underlying organ deficiencies or lifestyle patterns that have contributed to the development of the condition. Excessive mental activity, worry or anxiety, heavy exercise or work schedule, chronic illness or dietary imbalances may all contribute to this condition.
If you are interested in further reading on this topic you may like to follow the link to the article below.
The following are research studies that have shown the positive benefits of acupuncture treatment of dysmenorrhea. They may be viewed online by following the link attached.
Acupuncture vs. NSAID in the treatment of Dysmenorrhea
• Kiran et. al, "A Randomized Pilot Study of Acupuncture Treatment for Primary Dysmenorrhea", European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynaecology, Reproductive Biology, 2013 July, 169(2):292-295
• Iorno et. al, "Acupuncture Treatment of Dysmenorrhea Resistant to Conventional Medical Treatment", Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine, 2008, June; 5(2): 227-230
If you are interested in adding acupuncture into your health regime please feel free to contact the clinic and we will develop a treatment plan for your unique situation.