Do periods have to be a pain?
The quick answer is, NO!
The ideal female period comes regularly (every 26-31 days) and lasts 4-7 days. It is pain free, and with minimum discomfort or symptoms both pre-menstrually and during the period. The menstrual blood is fresh red in colour, the amount is not too heavy and not too light, and there are no clots.
That’s the ideal. However, the reality looks and feels quite different to many women. Women suffer from all sorts of menstrual irregularities, pain, emotional instability, and discomfort of various kinds and to various degrees, month after month, and year after year.
In Chinese medicine the history and presentation of a woman’s menstrual cycle and periods and her associated symptoms tell us a lot about her overall health and balance (or imbalances…!). Even when a female client seeks advice and treatment for other health issues from a Chinese medicine practitioner she is likely to be asked details about her periods, pregnancies, and any other gynecological matters. Treatments for other health issues will often also indirectly help any menstrual issues in women as systemic balance is sought and achieved in general. What a bonus!
Menstruation, gynecology and reproductive functions are related to the fluctuations of several different hormones. In Chinese medicine we acknowledge this but we also have our own terminology. In order for the smooth, pain-free, and regular flow of periods to happen the amounts and the flow of what we call the Yin and the Yang, the Qi and the Blood must all be right.
Hormones, Yin, Yang, Qi and Blood can all get out of balance either by being depleted, excessive, blocked or stagnated. This can happen due to one or a combination of factors including genetics, trauma (physical and/or psychological), surgery, illness, environmental exposure, diet, lifestyle, stresses and emotions.
Unfortunately too many women think it’s normal to have to suffer pain and discomfort in relation to their periods, and these beliefs are passed from generation to generation and amongst women and their peers.
The good news is that many period problems can be treated or minimized by awareness, by balancing the body, and by lifestyle choices.
Chinese medicine can do all that. In most cases there really is no need to suffer month after month and year after year.
Any disruption, irregularity or pain related to periods such as amenorrhea (no periods), oligomenorrhea (infrequent periods), menorrhagia (excessive menstrual bleeding), metorrhagia (bleeding outside the cycle), dysmenorrhea (painful periods), anovulation, period related migraines, indigestion, depression, insomnia or breast tenderness etc. all indicate some internal imbalance or obstruction.
One or more Chinese medicine treatment methods including acupuncture, herbal medicine, remedial massage, cupping and even heat (moxa) is usually recommended to treat period problems. Treatments are timed according to the woman’s cycle as different treatment principles are applied depending on the time of the cycle i.e. period time, ovulation time or pre-period time. Often it is necessary to promote flow pre-period to reduce pain and pre-menstrual symptoms, and then nourish post period when blood has been lost.
Acupuncture can work wonders in reducing acute period pain, and can help rebalance the body with regular treatments. Chinese herbs are generally needed for at least few months to regulate the menstrual cycle and to make significant changes to ongoing period issues. As a rule of thumb the longer the problem has existed the longer it may also take to treat.
Gynecology is an area where Chinese medicine works closely with Western medicine and treatments are often integrated with improved success rate. Blood tests, scans and pap-smears can show and confirm disorders such as endometriosis, polycystic ovaries syndrome (PCOS), fibroids, abnormal cervical cell changes and of course pregnancy, just to mention a few. Sometimes surgery is necessary and Chinese medicine then takes the role of aiding recovery post surgery. Preventative medicine is always preferable and Chinese medicine can be very good at preventing serious gynecological issues from developing if the initial imbalance is picked up early enough and treated appropriately.
The average woman menstruates from the approximate age of 13 to the age of 52. That’s a lot of years, a lot of periods and potentially a lot of hours and days of discomfort! By addressing period problems no matter how mild or severe women not only improve their quality of life month-by-month and year-by-year, but also increase their chances of avoiding fertility problems, as well as minimizing any menopausal problems in the future. Periods are a natural part of life and do NOT have to a pain!
Chinese Medicine Practitioner