A woman’s menstrual cycle is a good indicator of her general health. PMS and irregular menstruation are early signs of potentially serious reproductive system disorders such as endometriosis, fibroids, cysts and infertility. PMS can disrupt a woman’s life in many ways including her relationships, self-esteem, work productivity, exercise routine, sleep and the way she feels about her own body. Month after month millions of women suffer aimlessly with symptoms that could be eliminated or reduced with acupuncture and lifestyle changes. Acupuncture is a natural, low cost form of treatment with virtually no side effects. PMS is not a normal monthly occurrence as many women accept it to be. With acupuncture and a balanced lifestyle, Qi (energy) and blood can flow smoothly and strongly within a woman’s body and she can move through her cycle with ease and regularity.
How does acupuncture work to treated PMS and irregular menstrual cycles?
Qi, or energy, runs through the body through specific meridians or channels that innervate the organs and control the movement and production of blood and other vital substances. When Qi is not coursing smoothly and strongly through its pathways the organs cannot function to produce and move blood as they are meant to. Stagnant Qi causes stagnant blood which equals pain. Qi can be accessed and manipulated by using an acupuncture needle to stimulate specifically located acupuncture points along the meridians. Different combinations of acupuncture points are chosen from the hundreds of available points for treating a patient’s individual imbalance. Acupuncture has been shown to assist the endocrine system in keeping balanced levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body. Hormonal imbalances are thought to be the cause of menstrual irregularities from a western medical point of view. A November 2002 study in the medical journal Archives of Gynaecology and Obstetrics showed a 77.8% success rate in treating PMS with acupuncture as opposed to a 5.9% success rate in the placebo control group. Acupuncture treatment can also bring a deep sense of relaxation over the body allowing it to function at its highest level.
Menstrual disorders tend to respond quickly to treatment; patients will often notice a lessening of symptoms within the first month. As a general rule, we want to treat you twice a week for 4-6 weeks. Each individual situation is different however, and treatment requirements will vary.
How acupuncture help for menopause?
All these symptoms are related to ‘kidney deficiency’ because the kidney is the organ from which our primary energy originates. It stores essence that is closely related to our hormone system. It dominates the bones, hair and is in charge of development and reproduction. Therefore, the main treatment for menopause is to ‘boost the kidney’. Boosting the kidney not only helps to clear menopause symptoms but also slows down the aging process. Acupuncture can effectively ‘boost the kidneys’ to relieve menopause disturbances.
A treatment course is 6 months to a year or longer and are assessed on a case by case basis. Symptom relief often begins within one month of commencing treatments, which are typically once or twice a week in the beginning and gradually decrease in frequency as symptoms improve. Diet and lifestyle recommendations will also be part of the treatment.
Irregular periods may not be a concern for most women unless they are accompanied by period pain or perhaps when trying for a baby. Irregular periods do indicate that the menstrual cycle is out of balance and it may be a cause of infertility.
Within Chinese medicine there are three main reasons for irregular periods.
The first is stagnation of energy & blood in the uterus. Other signs of stagnation of Qi (energy) and blood are; period pains, lower abdominal bloating leading up to the period, irritability & mood swings, and blood clots in the menstrual bleed. When there is stagnation within the uterus, the menstrual cycle can become irregular as the smooth cyclic monthly flow is disrupted.
Irregular periods can also be caused by a condition called cold in the uterus. When cold lodges in the uterus it prevents the smooth movement of energy and blood and disrupts the menstrual cycle. With this condition the abdomen may feel cold leading up to the period, the woman may feel cold generally, and there may be intense period pain which is relieved by placing a hot water bottle on the lower abdomen. A hot water bottle may also bring relief for woman who suffer from Qi and blood stagnation since the warmth will move the energy and reduce pain. Since Cold causes the energy and blood of the uterus to stagnate there is often an overlap between this condition and the previous one.
Another common cause of irregular periods is due to a condition termed Liver Blood deficiency. In this case the Blood that goes to the uterus is reduced in quantity. In this condition the woman may miss periods all together, or the periods may be irregular, but the blood flow is very small. It can also be that the woman may miss one, two or more periods and then there is a heavy bleed. This category of irregular bleeds is very different from the previous two, since it is not based on stagnation but rather on a deficiency i.e. a lack of menstrual blood. There may be associated symptoms such as dizziness and tiredness that are notably worse after the menstrual bleed.
There are many different reasons why a women’s period can be painful. The symptoms will vary a great deal according to the underlying energetic imbalance. For example, if the Kidney Qi becomes depleted, the symptoms will include fatigue, lower back pain and weakness. On the other hand, if the Liver Qi is depleted a very different set of symptoms manifest. These will include irritability, insomnia, headache and a fixed stabbing pain in the abdomen. These symptoms occur because the Liver Qi, which is responsible for the smooth flowing of the Qi throughout the body, is not strong enough to facilitate the menstrual flow. Because our treatment is directed to the needs of each individual, great care is taken to thoroughly understand the unique set of symptoms that each patient experiences. In every case a thorough case history is taken and additional insight is gained by taking the pulses and by palpating the abdomen.
By inserting very fine needles the balance and flow of the energy can be re-established. The Qi can be moved from one area to another which is depleted. The needles are inserted into specific points that lie on meridians or the pathways along which the Qi flows. When a patient’s symptoms include Coldness, an herb called Moxa may also be used to help warm and strengthen the Qi. A small cone of the herb is placed on the acupuncture point and lit. The Moxa gradually warms the point and is removed once it is hot