Saturday, September 5, 2009

Relieving Menstrual Cramps

By Joshua Herr, L.Ac.

Many women experience uterine cramping with their menstrual cycle. For some, these are mild cramps that can be alleviated by having an herbal remedy on hand such as the Seven Forest herbal pill called Corydalis 5, which relaxes the uterus and relieves pain. For others, the uterine cramping can be so severe that it limits normal activity. This type of relentless, severe menstrual cramping is a medical condition called dysmenorrhea.

The conventional treatment for dysmenorrhea includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS such as aleve or ibuprofen) and hormonal therapies like the birth control pill. These medicines can be effective, but have side effects such as stomach bleeding, nausea, weight gain, and mood changes. Acupuncture can provide effective lasting relief of dysmenorrhea without side effects.

In 1987, Dr. Helms published a study titled Acupuncture for the Management of Primary Dysmenorrhea . The study compared a true acupuncture group, a sham acupuncture group and two control groups of patients who received treatment for three months. Ninety percent of the patients who received true acupuncture showed improvement compared to 10% and 18% in the two control groups. In addition, there was a 41% reduction in analgesic medicine in the women who received real acupuncture compared to no change or an increase use of analgesic medicines in the other treatment groups. Chinese Medicine understands that the symptom of menstrual cramping indicates that the mind, body, spirit is out of balance. There are several different patterns of imbalance that can be identified.

The Chinese Medicine doctor’s role is to simplify the myriad of symptoms and understand them in simple terms such as excess, deficiency, hot or cold. By identifying the pattern the doctor can formulate an acupuncture therapy, differentiate the most beneficial herbs, and most importantly educate the patient on preventative self-care strategies. When the patient understands her Chinese medicine diagnosis, she can make diet and lifestyle choices that create internal harmony and eradicate the symptom of menstrual pain.

Obstetrics and Gynecology. "Acupuncture for the management of primary dysmenorrhea." Helms JM. 1987 Jan;69(1):51-6.