Premenstrual syndrome has a vast landscape of symptoms, which encompass both physical and emotional discomforts. While they are unique to every woman, some of the more commonly occurring symptoms include abdominal cramps, bloating, fatigue, breast swelling and sensitivity, headaches or migraines, food cravings, insomnia, night sweats, mood swings, anxiety, depression, and poor concentration.
The severity and duration can really vary, and often women report as much as 7-14 days of these discomforts starting to arise. While we know that in western medicine the causes relate to shifts in hormones at that time of the cycle, such as irregularities with estrogen and progesterone levels, the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) point of view sees these disruptions to be caused by imbalance and blockage of energy flow.
Though each case is specifically analyzed for its nuances, there is a central theme to this issue that relates closely to the flow of Liver Qi. In TCM theory the Liver is responsible for the free flow of energy in the body and for the regulation of hormones. It tends to get quite stagnant based on our stress load, poor dietary habits, and either lack of or excessive exercise. We often say that the level of PMS you’re feeling each particular month is a clear indicator of how stressful the previous weeks of life have been.
Clinical evidence shows that acupuncture treatment can effectively, and often quite quickly, lead to resolution of all the varied presentations of PMS. In my experience women start to notice an improvement within the first cycle and increasingly with each following one. In many cases some changes in diet and lifestyle, and the addition of Chinese herbs is key.
There are an overly abundant number of women out there who suffer from dysmenorrhea or painful menstruation. Pain can manifest in the lower abdomen but also radiate to the low back and down the legs, sometime with the addition of nausea, diarrhea, headache, fatigue and dizziness. The cause of pain may be due to known disorders such as uterine fibroids or endometriosis, but often there is no apparent physiological reason. Unfortunately most women, like myself, grew up believing that all this monthly discomfort is normal. Sadly, it is not considered normal, most especially in TCM. But the good news is that it can be better!
Similarly to how we look at PMS in the blockage of energy flow, when it relates to menstrual pain that blockage is far more intense and often involves aspects of cold or heat that magnify the severity. Examination of all the relevant and contributing health and lifestyle factors helps get to the root and diagnose the specific causes of this issue for each woman. Acupuncture treatment is then tailored to meet those unique indications and aims to clear away the blockages involved, often with the incorporation of Chinese herbs to strongly support improvement and outcomes.
It is normal for a woman to have hormonal shifts throughout her lifetime with major transitions such as the onset of menarche, to pregnancy, birth, and then menopause. When fluctuations happen in the absence of such causative factors we see signs of periods that are too long, too short, irregular or absent, which are large indicators of hormonal imbalance in the body.
Estrogen dominance is a common issue today due to so many women having been on birth control, with symptoms such as PMS, irregular menses, amenorrhea, mood swings, and sleep issues.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a safe and effective way to address these concerns in order to help the body reset and find equilibrium. The theory of Yin and Yang relates to the functions of estrogen and progesterone in the hormonal cycle, and it is within this dynamic interplay that focus lies. Though they are in opposition, Yin and Yang depend on one another to function properly, and hormonal balance occurs when they interchange smoothly, much like estrogen and progesterone.
Regular acupuncture treatment, stress management, healthy dietary habits, and regular exercise help to create the key pillars of health, which will restore and support hormonal stability.
Read about Menopause here.
One of the most commonly asked questions is whether acupuncture is safe during pregnancy. The answer is a wholehearted yes! When in the hands of a skilled practitioner experienced in working with pregnancy, there are endless benefits throughout the 40 weeks of growth and transformation. In general, acupuncture is very supportive for a healthy pregnancy by way of energy and immune boosting, and stress reduction.
The first trimester often presents with a host of uncomfortable symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, fatigue, anxiety, and insomnia. While acupuncture may not completely resolve these discomforts, it really does help take the edge off. Nausea levels can be significantly reduced with specific acupuncture protocols that have shown clinical efficacy. Patients regularly experience relief of headaches and insomnia, as well as the reduction of anxiety levels since the first several weeks can feel worrisome.
Some of the usual pregnancy related issues acupuncture can safely and effectively address include:
· urinary tract infection
· musculoskeletal pain
Take a look at my vitamin and supplement resource for Common Pregnancy Issues.
Breech position may come up as a pressing issue during the third trimester for which the use of acupuncture and moxibustion treatment has shown great success. Starting treatment at week 35 is highly recommended to allow for time to encourage the baby to turn, though I have seen later presentations show effectiveness as well.
Utilizing acupuncture as a routine prebirth treatment is a very helpful way to prepare the body for labor, with the hope of ensuring a smooth delivery by the due date. Starting at 36 weeks, acupuncture sessions start to incorporate points that help ripen the cervix and encourage the baby to descend into the pelvis. Research and the feedback of midwives has suggested a range of positive effects that go beyond the reduction of time in labor but also less medical intervention and significant improvement in delivery outcomes.
A baby’s arrival is such a precious time of learning and assimilating into a new life, and all the months of readying still can’t truly prepare a woman for the vital role she will now have. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to carry through birth, no matter what form that takes. There is natural depletion that ensues from normal blood loss during delivery, the lack of consistent sleep, and endless feedings.
The best offerings that loved ones can make are those of assistance and food. But there is another form of support that is tremendously nourishing through the use of acupuncture. Taking into account the natural depletion, acupuncture aims to restore and rebuild the lost Qi and Blood of the body, thus having a re-energizing effect.
Treatment can also address any common postpartum issues of diminished milk supply, blocked milk ducts or mastitis, carpal tunnel, back or hip pain, insomnia, fatigue, prolonged bleeding, night sweats, hemorrhoids, lowered immunity, healing from surgery, and mood imbalances such as anxiety and depression.
Some women choose to have home visits the first few weeks so they can quickly start to reboot as they settle into a new life and schedule. Contact me for inquiries into concierge services.
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