How Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Treats Period Pain so Effectively
In honour of endometriosis awareness month, I thought I would share how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese medicine can be so helpful in endo symptoms and period pain and give a few recent case studies. In Traditional Chinese medicine, we look at the whole picture of health to see what we can bring into balance to achieve your health goals. Often with hormone health and fertility, we look very closely at the menstrual cycle. Anything out of the ordinary (period cramps, PMS, heavy and clotty flow, dark-coloured menstrual blood) points us in the direction of what we can improve upon.
Period pain is typically due to high levels of inflammation, hormone balance (estrogen dominance or low progesterone), or poor blood flow. Acupuncture is wonderful for reducing inflammatory molecules (prostaglandins) in the pelvic cavity to reduce cramping, balances hormones by activating the HPO (hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis - how your brain communicates with your ovaries and tells them when to ovulate and menstruate), improves blood circulation to your reproductive organs, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxed state of your nervous system) to reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Chinese herbs can also be a helpful tool to reduce inflammation, balance hormones, and invigorate blood flow.
Rachel is a woman in her 30’s who is coming in for preconception care to conceive baby #2. Having been diagnosed with endometriosis in her teens, Rachel knew some work needed to be done to best prepare her eggs and pelvic environment for another conception. We did combination treatments of acupuncture and laser (my favourite combo for endometriosis) weekly throughout her menstrual cycle. After just four treatments Rachel had her first-ever pain free period. We believe a combination of acupuncture, low-level laser therapy, supplementation, and monitoring her thyroid has made all the difference. Rachel feels like she is finally in good shape to start to try to conceive later this Spring.
Mandy is a young woman in her 20’s who sought us out to help manage her endometriosis symptoms. She was diagnosed with a 4cm endometrioma on her right ovary a year prior and struggled with debilitating period pain, random pelvic pain throughout the month, painful intercourse, painful bowel movements, and brutal PMS symptoms. We put her on a few supplements, suggested an endometriosis-friendly anti-inflammatory diet, and treated her 1-2x per week with acupuncture. It took a couple of menstrual cycles but Mandy finally had her first pain-free period in years. She no longer struggles with painful bowel movements or painful intercourse and has fewer PMS symptoms before her period starts.
I started seeing Jane, a woman in her early 30’s, in December for period cramps and infertility. She had been trying to conceive for 2 years without success. She was in generally great health but one of the things that stood out to me was her period pain. Every time on the first day of her cycle, she would get severe period cramps that would be so painful it would cause her to vomit. We worked on some diet and lifestyle factors that I believe were increasing her inflammation levels (alcohol, going to bed too late, eating irregular meals) as well as weekly acupuncture. Her first period after 4 acupuncture sessions was the first one she had in years where she didn’t have any vomiting. Two cycles after that her period pain was reduced to the point where she forgot to take any painkillers. Although Jane has yet to have her first positive pregnancy test, we are both confident that we are closer than ever before.
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