Traditional Chinese medicine
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), menstrual pain is explained in terms of the proper flow and quantity of qi (energy) and blood. In order to determine the underlying cause, specific questions must be answered as to the timing, location, and character of the pain—whether or not it is aggravated or relieved by heat, cold, and pressure—as well as the quality and quantity of the menstrual blood itself.
Keeping in mind that each person is unique in terms of underlying cause, most often menstrual pain can be due to stagnation of qi or blood in the body, so the goal of treatment is to relieve stagnation and promote their smooth flow. This can be done through the use of Chinese herbal formulas as well as acupuncture. Check with your health care practitioner for the herbal formulas that will work best for you.
Acupuncture treatments involve inserting small needles into the skin at certain points, known as energy meridians, in order to relieve pain. From a Western perspective, acupuncture stimulates the release of various chemicals such as endorphins that act as natural painkillers, and therefore it is effective in menstrual pain management.
Studies have shown that homeopathy can be an effective treatment for relieving painful periods; however, it is essential to find the homeopathic remedy whose description most closely matches your overall symptom picture. A homeopath or naturopathic doctor can help you find the best remedy for you. Here are a couple of useful remedies they may consider.
Indications for this remedy include painful, late, or suppressed menstruation, sometimes with a feeling that the pelvic floor is weak or as if the uterus is sagging. The woman may feel irritable and sad, losing interest temporarily in marital and family interactions and wanting to be left alone.
Painful cramps and pain in the pelvic region that are relieved by pressure and warmth often respond to this remedy. Pain is usually worse from cold and worse on the right side of the body.
Traditionally, many herbs have been used to treat dysmenorrhea.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger is best known for its anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have shown that when taken during the first three days of menses, ginger was as effective as ibuprofen in relieving menstrual pain. Dysmenorrhea can also be associated with nausea and vomiting, and ginger also works to reduce these symptoms.
Studies have found a significant association between stress and the incidence of dysmenorrhea. One in particular found that the risk of dysmenorrhea was more than twice as great among women with high stress compared with low stress in the preceding menstrual cycle.
It has been proposed that stress-related hormones such as cortisol can increase the production of inflammatory prostaglandins within the uterine wall, which can then lead to the development of symptoms of dysmenorrhea.
Stress-reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing can be beneficial in not only dealing with menstrual pain itself but also decreasing the likelihood of it occurring during the next cycle.
For many women, menstrual pain can be effectively managed through the use of safe, non-drug alternatives. Simple dietary changes, supplementation with specific nutrients and/or herbs, and acupuncture can often bring about relief during this painful time of the month.
Find out how Dr. Lesley can help with menstrual pain!