Acupuncture for Menstrual Problems
Many women regard their periods as normal even though they may experience pain, excessive bleeding, an irregular cycle or pre-menstrual tension. The term ‘menstrual problems’ covers a wide range of conditions, such as painful periods, heavy or scanty periods, flooding or trickling periods, irregular periods, early or late periods and bleeding between periods.
In orthodox medicine, women are often prescribed the contraceptive pill or coil for heavy periods. Whilst these may help the immediate symptoms in some cases, they act as a suppressant on the overall system and there is some evidence that they are linked to serious diseases such as cancer. If these suppressants are discontinued, symptoms may return, and can do so even more strongly than before.
Menstrual Problems and TCM
In TCM, diagnosis and treatment of menstrual problems and related conditions is based upon an in-depth consultation which involves identifying the causative factors of the condition. Treatment is based upon a number of factors including physical and emotional signs and symptoms. During a treatment, the practitioner will work with the patient to balance their body and mind. For example, much attention is given to the detail of the patient’s lifestyle, diet, exercise and previous history. Other practices, such as Chi Kung and T’ai Chi, flowing forms of exercise that are designed to strengthen and regulate the circulation of Qi throughout the body by harmonising the body, mind and breath, may also be recommended to enable the patient to relieve their pain and enable them to manage their health in a constructive way.
Menstrual problems may be caused by overwork, emotional stress, excessive physical work, exposure to cold, too many children too close together, surgery etc. When diagnosing the cause of menstruation problems, the clinician will discuss a wide variety of symptoms with the patient, including how regular the cycle is, the amount of bleeding, the colour of the blood and so on. Factors such as the use of contraception (contraceptive pill or coil) will also be taken into account as they can significantly alter how the period manifests itself.
Is Acupuncture Helpful in the treatment of Menstrual Problems?
1Witt et al (2008) demonstrated that acupuncture could alleviate pain in patients with painful periods (dysmenorrhea); the patients also experienced a better quality of life. In an earlier study, 2Cai et al found a 97% improvement in women treated for dysmenorrhea with acupuncture plus auricular (ear) acupuncture.
The use of Chinese herbs in treatment is also successful.
1Witt, C, Reinhold, T, Brinkhaus, B., Roll, S., Jena, S, Willich, S (2008) Acupuncture in patients with dysmenorrhea: a randomized study on clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness in usual care American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vol 198, No 2, pp166.e1-168 e8
2 Cai, Z, Li, F, Lu, M (2004) Treatment of dysmenorrhea with acupuncture plus auricular acupuncture Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science, Vol 2, No 6, pp 45-46
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