Irregular or Painful periods

Some women, from onset of puberty, experience hormonal headaches, nausea or vomiting, severe PMS symptoms, heavy bleeding, constipation, diarrhoea or fatigue on or before every period. Many women feel that it is normal to take six or eight Paracetamol or Neurofen (Ibuprofen) at the onset of cramps just to get through the pain of the day.

On questioning women as to whether their cycle is “normal”, the usual response is “Yes…, other than the customary PMS, irritability, fatigue, headache, poor sleep and heavy cramping the first day!” Other women have long 35-40 day cycles, short 20 day cycles, prolonged menstrual bleeding or scanty menstruation. Pharmacologic treatment to control problematic menstrual cycles is with the use of oral contraceptive birth control pills; and while this may control the symptoms of many gynaecological disorders, it never treats the root.

Painful Periods (dysmenorrhoea)

Menstrual pain (dysmenorrhoea) is a condition that afflicts many women, and it is not managed well by Western medicine. Taking birth control pills is helpful for some women, but they are not an option for a woman trying to conceive. Ibuprofen and related medications like Neurofen are harmful for kidney function and they are not adequate for pain relief for women with severe menstrual pain.

Acupuncture is a safe and effective non-pharmaceutical treatment for dysmenorrhea that is without adverse side effects. Research demonstrates the effectiveness of acupuncture for reducing menstrual pain: within the first month of treatment the pain can be dramatically decreased and with regular acupuncture treatments in combination with Chinese herbs over a period of several months the pain can be eliminated. Rectifying the cause of a woman’s menstrual pain will improve her fertility by improving the overall health and function of her reproductive system.

Painful periods in Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the cause of menstrual pain is stagnation of Qi and blood. Blood stasis and Qii stagnation cause pain and also are an inhibitor to implantation for women trying to conceive. The liver meridian is always involved in this pattern, but other meridians such as the conception channel, kidney channel and stomach channel are also involved. There can be underlying conditions of yin deficiency, spleen Qi deficiency, or blood deficiency that are contributing factors to the stagnation of the qii and blood resulting in menstrual pain.

Your practitioner will treat the symptom of pain by moving stagnant Qi and blood with acupuncture, and may also address the root-cause of the pain with herbs, which may be a combination of the factors listed above. An acupuncturist who is experienced working with gynaecology can explain to you your exact diagnosis and how many menstrual cycles you should undergo treatment. If you have had menstrual pain for many years, then you will derive the best results if you receive acupuncture treatments for several months.

The symptoms that accompany menstrual pain will also improve with acupuncture treatment. This includes PMS, menstrual-migraines, breast pain, bloating, sugar cravings, low back pain, fatigue, unexplained infertility, irritability and mood swings. Endometriosis can be treated with acupuncture in combination with Chinese herbs and if the patient is willing to undergo treatment for many months it can be cured without surgery.

In TCM the constitutional imbalances that make a woman suffer from menstrual pain also make her more likely to suffer from fertility challenges when she is in her childbearing years and menopause-related problems when she is older. When a woman shifts her constitution and eliminates the cause of her menstrual pain with acupuncture and herbal treatment, she is also preventing menopausal hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, frequent urination and helping to preserve her fertility should she decide to have children later in life.

Irregular Periods

From a TCM perspective , irregular menstruation is caused by stress, overwork, trauma, exposure to cold, heat or damp, lifestyle or poor dietary choices, the seven emotions, sexual abuse or excessive sexual activity.
There are many types of irregularities that can occur during the menstrual cycle and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) differentiates them in order to create effective treatment strategies. A normal period would occur approximately every 28 days and last 3-5 days. Emotional stress is often part of the causes of all of these menstrual problems. Additionally, other disease patterns will include aspects of irregular periods such as PCOS, endometriosis, PMS, and uterine fibroids.

Heavy Periods in Chinese Medicine

Women often experience abnormally heavy periods are hemorrhaging during menopause, but flooding menstruation can happen throughout the reproductive years. There are three main causes of heavy bleeding during menstruation according to TCM and more than one cause can be responsible:

  • Blood Stagnation – It sounds counter-intuitive that stagnation could cause heavy bleeding; it would seem as if stagnation would stop the flow of Blood; however, Blood and Qi must flow freely throughout the body to maintain good health. Symptoms may include sharp abdominal pain, blood clots, and pain that is intensified with pressure to the abdomen..
  • Spleen Qi Deficiency – One of the many functional jobs of the Spleen energetic organ system is to contain the Blood. Flooding due to Qi Deficiency would be marked by fatigue and other symptoms of Spleen Qi imbalances.
  • Blood Heat – Ongoing Liver Qi Stagnation can result in Blood Heat and Reckless Blood according to TCM. Symptoms would include irritability, restlessness, or headaches..

Haemorrhaging during menstruation can vary in severity and can result in Blood Deficiency or Anemia; always consult with your local health care provider if you are experiencing heavy bleeding.

Long Periods in Chinese Medicine

Periods that last longer than normal (6-10 days) do not necessarily have heavy bleeding and can be caused by two main imbalances:

  • Liver Qi Stagnation – The Liver energetic organ system (TCM) stores and manages menstrual Blood. Ongoing stress in woman’s life can create Liver Qi and Liver Blood Stagnation with symptoms of dark blood clots, frustration, headaches, or depression.
  • Kidney Yin Deficiency – Long periods of scanty bleeding with indications of night or afternoon sweats, feeling of fever, or hot flashes are most common in peri-menopausal women.

Early Periods in Chinese Medicine

Spleen Qi Deficiency, Blood-Heat, or Kidney Yin Deficiency as discussed above can cause a cycle that is shorter than 26 days.

Bleeding Between Periods in Chinese Medicine

This bleeding would occur mid-cycle near ovulation and is often associated with causes of infertility. The causes can include Kidney Yin Deficiency or Blood Stasis as described above, but is generally considered a Yin Yang imbalance in TCM; if a woman is Yang Deficient, she will not have the motivational force necessary to ovulate.

Scanty Short Periods in Chinese Medicine

This would refer to very light bleeding and can include elements of early periods or short cycles. Blood Deficiency, Kidney Yang Deficiency, Kidney Yin Deficiency, or Spleen Qi Deficiency with Internal Dampness can all contribute to short periods and scanty bleeding in TCM.

Late Periods in Chinese Medicine

Cycles longer than 30 days can be due to exhaustion form overwork or chronic bleeding, but a more common cause in Chinese medicine is internal Cold-Damp conditions from Spleen Qi Deficiency which can develops by eating too many raw foods, poor dietary habits, or environmental exposure to damp conditions over an extended period of time.

Amenorrhea (No Periods) in Chinese Medicine

Pregnancy is the most common cause of cessation of the menstrual cycle, but it can also be caused by the onset of menopause, over exercising, breast feeding, birth control medicines, certain pharmaceuticals, diabetes, IBS, or having many pregnancies close together. In Chinese medicine, causes can include Blood Deficiency, Spleen Qi Deficiency, Yin Deficiency, or Yang Deficiency.