Women are so accustomed to hearing the words period pain that it comes as a surprise for many to hear that periods are not supposed to be painful or cause suffering. Isn’t that just how periods are meant to be, they ask? Not according to Chinese Medicine.
Chinese Medicine (which includes acupuncture and Chinese herbs) regards pain as a problem. If there is pain, something is out of balance.
When you go see an acupuncturist they will ask you detailed questions about your menstrual cycle. In Chinese medicine, a normal period should occur every 26 to 30 days and last for about 4 to 5 days. The bleeding should be bright red and flow evenly. There may be some mild discomfort as the uterus contracts to expel the blood but a woman shouldn’t have to take medication to deal with the pain or the cramps.
What is Causing this Pain And What Can Be Done to Help?
The medical term for period pain or menstrual cramps is dysmenorrhea. Each month your body builds up the lining on the wall of your womb (uterus) to prepare for pregnancy. If there is no pregnancy, the lining will begin to break down. The bleeding you experience each month is the lining being pushed out of your body. Hormones called prostaglandins are released towards the end of your cycle. These hormones cause the uterus to contract to remove the lining. If higher levels of these hormones present, they make the muscles in your uterus contract harder and faster, causing more pain. This also reduces the blood supply to the muscles of the womb, which also leads to more pain.
There may be other reasons for the pain such as endometriosis, fibroids or an infection. If you experience severe pain each month or if your periods become painful after years of no pain, you should go see your doctor to see if one of these conditions is causing the pain.
If There Is No Underlying Cause (endometriosis, Fibroids Or Infection) For Your Pain, What Can Help?
Doctors will suggest painkillers such as paracetamol (acetaminophen, Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) to help with the pain. The oral contraceptive pill is also often prescribed to women.
For those women who prefer a pill-free alternative, or those who are trying to get pregnant, acupuncture and Chinese medicine has a lot of success treating painful periods. Chinese medicine views pain as a problem, so even if there is no underlying diagnosis that is directly causing the pain, there are imbalances that need to be resolved. In my experience, period pain can be treated successfully with a regimen of weekly acupuncture and herbs in as little as three months.
In addition to acupuncture and Chinese herbs, supplements such as fish oils (omega 3s) and magnesium can also be helpful.
Foods that can also help include grapes, lemons, tomatoes, berries, beets, watercress, vinegar, dark greens, onions, scallions, cabbage, broccoli, chives, walnuts, chestnuts, mustard leaf.
Drinking red raspberry leaf tea can help ease menstrual cramps. Stop drinking this tea if you become pregnant. Also, women who suffer from bad period pain should avoid eating cold foods right out of refrigerator or putting ice in their drinks.
Don’t suffer every month. Get the help you need.