Treating Period Pain with Natural Therapies

Relieving period painWhy do some women suffer badly from period pain and others not at all? Many women consider their menstrual pain to be ‘normal’, however pain is really the body’s way of saying ‘something isn’t right and needs attention’.

The medical term for painful menstrual periods is dysmenorrhea, and the pain is believed to be caused by uterine contractions. Period pain can last for just the first day of a woman’s menstruation or can go on for days. Many other symptoms can occur as well, such as PMS, bloating, acne, etc. due to fluctuations in the hormone levels. The primary regular medical treatment is to artificially regulate the cycle by use of the Oral Contraceptive Pill. Often this can provide symptomatic relief, however sometimes women can still have breakthrough bleeding and pain around their period.

The severity of the pain can vary greatly; we have seen many women who were bed-ridden for 5 days, and some even longer. Sometimes women experience pain around their ovulation as well. As well as abdominal pain, some experience pain in other areas around the start of their periods, such as lower back pain or headaches.

The ‘ideal’ menstrual cycle should occur every 28 days, with only mild or no pain. Bleeding should occur for 5 days, not be heavy or light, with no clotting, and be a healthy red colour.

Just before the start of a period, the levels of a hormone called prostaglandin rise. This triggers the muscle contractions in the uterus which expels the lining. If not working correctly, these contractions are believed to cause pain and inflammation.

Treatment Options

Each person’s body works slightly differently, so there is no one solution for everyone. In fact, often a combination of several of the approaches below will work best.

Supplements- high potency, practitioner-level supplements can be used to

  • Balance the hormones- after carefully checking the woman’s hormonal cycles, supplements can be used to increase the oestrogen levels, decrease oestrogen levels, increase progesterone levels, or decrease progesterone levels
  • Specific supplements can also be prescribed to decrease prostaglandin levels, to reduce inflammation, or to relieve cramping

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is well-known for its ability to relieve pain. One of the common causes of period pain from an acupuncture point of view is poor blood flow in the uterus. Prior to a period there is a natural increase in blood volume in the woman’s body, and this goes down to normal levels by the end of her period. However, if there are any areas in her body where the blood flow is restricted for some reason, the blood will build-up in that area, just like city traffic at peak-hour. The blood will not be able to move properly, which will cause pain, irritation, and inflammation.

Some of the symptoms of this ‘blood stagnation’ include extremely painful periods, clots, heavy or irregular periods, a heavy sensation in the abdomen or legs, and menstrual blood that is a dark red (or even purple) in colour. Period pain caused by poor blood flow in the uterus is often relieved by heat, such as a hot water bottle.

If there are other areas of the body where the blood flow is poor, pain can occur in these areas as well when the blood volume increases before a period. The pressure, irritation and inflammation caused by the congested blood flow could result in lower back pain, headaches or breast tenderness.

Some research on Acupuncture for Period Pain

  • A 2017 research paper involving the Western Sydney University and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Auckland found that acupuncture treatment reduced menstrual pain intensity and duration after three months of treatment, and this was sustained for up to a year.
  • Another research study published in 2015 compared the Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill (COC) to acupuncture for the treatment of dysmenorrhea, and the conclusion was that “Response rates following both interventions at the end of the study were not statistically different. Acupuncture commonly caused minimal local side effects but did not cause any hormone-related side effects as did COC. In conclusion, acupuncture is an alternative option for relieving dysmenorrhea, especially when COC is not a favorable choice.”
  • A 2017 Meta-analysis of research found that “The available evidence suggests that acupuncture may be effective for Primary Dysmenorrhea and justifies future high-quality studies.”

(None of these studies provide conclusive evidence of effectiveness, but they hopefully lay the groundwork for further scientific investigation.)

Other Factors

Diet, alcohol consumption, various everyday chemicals, and the Oral Contraceptive Pill can cause imbalances in women's hormones.

The human body is incredibly complex and sometimes may not work correctly. Natural therapies aim to correct any problems with the way it is working to provide a long-term solution to the problem, rather than just treat the symptoms. (If you have a body that is working well, it is fair to say that you will have a happier and better life.)

Free Comprehensive Assessment

Pain and other period symptoms are very common but are definitely not ‘normal’. If you would like to find out if a natural approach to you period problem is likely to work for you, consider booking in for a free Comprehensive Assessment at our clinic. We can then check what is going on in your body, what is causing any problems, and the best way to sort it out. (Terms and conditions- the Assessment is a completely free service, with no obligations whatsoever.) Have a great life!

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