Even men know that a mainstay of painful periods is the notorious cramps. What most women experiencing painful periods don’t know is that it is unhealthy and very much abnormal. Women should not experience cramping with their periods. Allow me to say that again. There shouldn’t be cramping with the period at all!
Just like with PMS it is important when diagnosing the reason for the cramps to figure out when they start. Cramping before the period starts is usually stagnation whether blood or qi based and as soon as the bleeding begins the cramping is relieved. This is the easiest and fastest to treat, even though this is usually very severe pain.
Severe cramping that appears with the blood
If the cramping is on again off again during the first couple of days and you notice a big surge of blood or clotting after a set of cramps than this is uterine blood stagnation. Usually the cramps are fixed in one very specific location and the pain is brutal. This is a serious condition and needs to be treated. There may be cysts or fibroids blocking the regular flow of blood. That being said you do not need to go on birth control to prevent these from developing. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs can help smooth the flow of blood in the body to keep the cysts/fibroids from forming.
Mild cramping with onset of bleeding
Very low level, achy, churning cramps in the low back and abdomen that start with bleeding are due to a lack of blood or lack of heat in the body. Usually there is a great desire to curl up and put a heating pad on the front or back body. If it is very difficult to get warm and the body feels chilled to the bone there is obviously a lack of heat or yang in the body. To start bleeding the body utilizes a significant amount of yang or metabolic power and if there isn’t enough already the body will show signs of depletion of yang. In addition to feeling cold, other symptoms may be low back weakness, knee pain, loss of urinary control or pelvic floor prolapse.
However if the body is sweaty with mild cramping and showing signs of breathlessness or dizziness this may be due to blood deficiency. The body has lost so much blood that the blood doesn’t flow smoothly out of the body. There is usually accompanied by significant fatigue for the time of bleeding and periods are quite short and light.
One of the worst myths is that as we age our periods become more manageable until menopause. This myth makes it okay for teenagers to deal with absurd amounts of menstrual pain and okay for peri-menopausal women to feel like teenagers with their first period. No one at any age needs to put in their time for the cycle to regulate. The body wants to regulate itself and is telling you it is in an unhealthy state. I strongly encourage teenagers to try acupuncture or herbs before going on the pill and peri-menopausal women to use acupuncture as a means of smoothing out the transition of menopause. If acupuncture and herbs don’t work for your condition then try hormones, but utilizing hormones only masks the underlying issue allowing it to worsen with time or remain latent for the day you come off the hormones. Chinese medicine allows you to solve the problem and go about the rest of your life without being chained to a monthly prescription.
Endometriosis and PCOS
Here are two fabulous articles about Endometriosis and PCOS with information about acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Both of these conditions cause painful periods and irregular periods and are treated in Western Medicine almost exclusively with birth control pills until a woman is ready to get pregnant and then fertility medications when she wants to. The symptoms of both conditions can be controlled or significantly lessened with Chinese herbs without side effects and without surgery.
My one plea to menstruating women out there is stop dealing with cramps. You don’t have to any more. You don’t have to be on the pill if you don’t want to be, you don’t have to be on prescription level pain meds for the first two days of bleeding. There are other options.
Chinese Medicine is very good at cramps and very fast. Imagine the brutal cramps you are having this month halved in intensity by next month and gone by the following cycle. Imagine taking one dose of ibuprofen every three or four periods instead of the first three days every month. Do I have your attention now?
Other posts in this series
Image credit: iko / 123RF Stock Photo