Painful menstruation, also known as dysmenorrhea, is one of the most common gynecological problem in women. The pain is a result of the uterus contracting strongly during menstruation. It has been said that women who feel this pain have increased levels of the hormones prostaglandin, which is the chemical responsible for the contraction of the uterus. The pain can last for anywhere from several hours to days in more severe cases.
In Western medicine, doctors would usually prescribe some type of anti-inflammatory medications and hormonal supplements, like oral contraceptives for menstrual pain. But in Chinese medicine, we believe that the human body acts as a complete unit rather than in separate parts, meaning dysfunction of a certain part of body will also have an effect on another part of body. Everything therefore is interdepend on each other. Diagnosis and treatment principles will take a more holistic approach including looking at a person’s facial expressions, appearance, tongue, pulse, and other bodily symptoms that the patient is manifesting.
There are also various ways acupuncture can help alleviate dysmenorrhea including the use of thin needles to stimulate certain points to unlock stagnated qi, to dredge the meridians, so that the blood flow can run smoothly. Let us take a look at some of the common acupuncture points for dysmenorrhea includes:
Guanyuan (CV4), Zhongji (CV3), Sanyinjiao (SP6), Zusanli (ST36), Qihai (CV6)
For syndromes that are more excess in nature, the following are usually prescribed:
Taichong (LR3), Diji (SP8)
For syndromes that includes blood stasis, the following are usually prescribed:
Xuehai (SP10), Geshu (BL17)
Depending on the syndrome of the patient, a reinforcing and reducing needle manipulation technique will be used in conjunction with moxibustion. The needles can be retained anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes. The treatment course duration can take from 1-2 days per week for 2-3 weeks followed by a re-assessment of the patient’s condition to evaluate the efficacy of treatment. During the course of treatment, patients are advised to keep warm, keep a light diet, and avoid spicy, fatty, sweet, and cold food.
You may be wondering, how effective is acupuncture at treating dysmenorrhea? According to a 2017 study that was done at The National Institute of Complementary Medicine at Western Sydney University in Australia, acupuncture led to a significant reduction in the intensity and duration of menstrual pain after three months of treatment, patients were able to sustain results after one year from the treatments.
Chinese Medicine Prescriptions
Now let’s take a look at some of the most commonly prescribed Chinese herbal formulas and over-the-counter drugs for dealing with menstrual pain.
- Aifu Nuangong pill – similar to but not equal to Wenjing Decoction in the treatment of dysmenorrhea of deficiency cold type. It is suitable for dysmenorrhea patients with pale or dull complexion, medium or thin body constitution, and has aversion of cold. It is also effective for secondary dysmenorrhea caused by endometriosis.
- Compound motherwort ointment – the famous modified formula of Siwu Decoction, is suitable for patients with dull complexion, dry skin, and irregular menstruation, less menstruation, dysmenorrhea before menstruation or on the first day of menstruation. It is often effective for postpartum dysmenorrhea such as incomplete uterine involution. It is not suitable for patients with weak spleen and stomach functions.
- Suxiao Jiuxin Pill – Its power of relieving pain and promoting blood circulation can be used not only for coronary heart disease, but also for dysmenorrhea emergency treatment.
- Guizhi Fuling pill (capsule) – For blood stasis dysmenorrhea conditions, this prescription is suitable for those with a strong body constitution. Some of the symptoms are the color of lips and tongue is easy to be purple, the chin is easy to have acne, premenstrual or menstrual abdominal pain, especially the tingling pain, especially the left lower abdominal pain, the menstrual blood is often dark, there are many blood clots, and it is easy to delay, Especially in the case of endometrial thickness, the application probability will increase.
- Xuefu Zhuyu Granule- stasis and qi stagnation type of dysmenorrhea, is suitable for middle or thin stature, normal personality is also nervous and angry, hands and feet are easy to get cold, accompanied by stasis symptoms as described in Guizhi Fuling pill.
The above are just several kinds of commonly seen Chinese herbal medicine that are often used to treat or relieve the pain from dysmenorrhea. Take them as a general reference. Of course prescription will be different for each person and the syndrome must be correctly diagnosed by a practitioner to determine which prescription works best for you. The beauty of Chinese medicine is in its ability to deliver highly personalized treatment plans!
For more information on how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help with your menstrual pain or dysmenorrhea, feel free to give our Markham acupuncture clinic a call to speak with a licensed practitioner.