A woman’s period and the pain that’s associated with it are like Yin and Yang: it seems you can’t have one without the other! The pain experienced with menses is different for every woman; some experience very mild cramps while others are curled up on their bathroom floor calling in sick for work. Does the latter sound familiar? If it does you may suffer from dysmenorrhea, so what can you do about it?
What exactly is Dysmenorrhea?
Dysmenorrhea, (or Painful Periods), is defined as extreme pain that radiates throughout the abdomen and low back around the time of menses, and is accompanied by headaches, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and even fainting. Dysmenorrhea affects between 20-90% of the female population, which is an odd statistic but that’s because it is the most common menstrual disorder (Osayande, A.S, Mehulic, S. 2014, pg. 89). Heavy duty pain killers are most commonly prescribed, while others are prescribed birth control at a very early age. These medications can come with a lot of side effects, but that discussion is for another blog!
What causes Dysmenorrhea?
Primary Dysmenorrhea is a result of uterine contractions and ischemia (lack of blood supply to tissues). Contributing factors may include:
- Passage of menstrual tissue through the cervix
- A narrow cervix
- Malpositioned uterus
- Lack of exercise
Secondary Dysmenorrhea is caused by pelvic abnormalities, such as:
- Fibroids, cysts, tumours
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Congenital malformations
Be sure to see your doctor to determine the exact cause of your symptoms, and to rule out anything more serious. See your doctor right away if your symptoms worsen.
So what solutions are available?
Acupuncture helps to ease pain through direct stimulation of muscle tissue. Sensory neurons then send signals to the brain to release endorphins (the body’s natural painkiller) thus inhibiting pain perception. An added bonus is that acupuncture also stimulates the brain to release serotonin, a brain chemical involved with mood. This means that along with pain relief, patients may also experience:
- Improved mood
- Increase in energy
- Better sleep
Chinese herbs help to reduce pain by correcting organ imbalances and clearing toxins which may be causing pain.
Moxibustion is an herb that Acupuncturists burn over top of acupuncture points to push heat deep into the body to clear cold out of the uterus-this is a known cause of pain in Chinese Medicine.
Diet is crucial to a healthy cycle in women; too much cold, raw food can cause pain by creating stagnation in the body. This is especially true in the winter months, so warm foods such as soups, stews, or spices like cinnamon and turmeric are encouraged to warm the body and ensure movement in blood and body fluids.
Sleep is another valuable element to ensuring a smooth cycle in women. Our bodies repair overnight so by getting a full 8 hours, our bodies can heal, rest, and continue serving us daily.
Regulating emotions is something we all must strive for, as stress degrades the body just like lack of sleep, and over a long period of time can have detrimental effects. Exercise, sleep and proper diet are key to regulating emotions.
Call, email, or visit our website today to see how we can help you with pain management!
Osayande, A.S., Mehulic, S. (2014, March). Diagnosis and initial management of dysmenorrhea. American Family Physician, 89. Retrieved from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysmenorrhea
Pinkerton, J. V. (2017, September). Dysmenorrhea. Retrieved from https://www.merckmanuals.com/en-ca/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/menstrual-abnormalities/dysmenorrhea
by Jennifer Kowerchuk