Acupuncture Alleviates Painful Periods - Upper East Side, New York City
Updated: Apr 17
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for that awful time of the month for some women, menstrual cramping. During this time the uterus contracts to shed it's lining. Unfortunately it can be very severe for some women. In addition to cramping, there may be digestive issues such as nausea, constipation or diarrhea.
In Chinese medicine menstruation is related to the liver channel. The classical understanding is that the liver stores, clarifies, and releases blood in Chinese medicine. The liver is related with the sinews and muscles, both the uterus and cervix are muscular structures in the body being able to change shape as needed. If the liver system is not functioning properly the functions of the liver are impaired and may result in pain during menstruation. This pain is termed blood stagnation which may also present with clots in the menstrual blood.
The liver in Chinese medicine maintains the free flow of circulation. It keeps the channel pathways open to enable circulation to flow unencumbered. If a person is under stress, as many people in New York City are, we know that the blood vessels constrict as a result. This makes the liver work harder to maintain circulation which over a period of time results in channel stagnation as the liver cannot continue to function optimally. In contrast, when a person is relaxed blood vessels dilate, which makes it easier for the liver to maintain channel pathways.
As the liver prepares to release blood during menstruation, some women may experience pre-menstrual tension including symptoms of anxiety, anger, irritability, and mood swings. Anger and irritability are the emotions of the liver when it is out of balance. The emotional swings indicate the liver is experiencing channel stagnation and cannot maintain circulation. When the liver functions normally and circulation is maintained, the mood is more even and a person is able to handle stress with much more ease.
Since the liver is involved with circulation and movement, we say the best thing you can do for your liver is to exercise, which will help tremendously with menstrual cramping. I'm sure many agree that when they exercise they feel better overall. The mood enhancing benefit of exercise is explained in Chinese medicine by improving systemic blood flow. Research also confirms that beta-endorphins are released during exercise. Beta-endorphins are natural pain killers produced by the body which help us feel good. The second best thing you can do is to limit alcohol intake. Alcohol does help with opening channel pathways as well, that's why we feel good when we drink it. However, if alcohol is used frequently, the liver in a sense gets "lazy" and fails to open the channel pathways because it relies on the alcohol to do it.
If the liver channel is impaired leading to painful periods, we would observe stagnation along the liver course. The liver course starts on the big toe and passes through the genitals, which includes the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Stagnation is generally observed along the medial border of the shin in cases where the liver is primary channel involved. In addition we would check the in flow and out flow tracts of the abdomen.
In these pictures we see the common iliac artery as the main vessel that supplies the pelvic region. From the common iliac, there is a branch that descends called the uterine artery, which supplies the uterus. Checking for impingements along the course of the common iliac should free up obstructions to the uterus. Application of warm herbal soaks and herbal compresses will soothe cramps and prepare the body for acupuncture treatment. Releasing these regions with acupuncture will improve blood circulation and alleviate dysmenorrhea.
Case Study 1:
I recently treated a colleague with acupuncture in her 20's who was having pre-menstrual abdominal cramping for the past 6 months. She would get the cramps for a few days to 1 week prior to her period. She states this episode was rather severe as it had been lasting for 3 days. She mentioned feeling dizzy and wanting to keel over during work because of the extreme pain. We examined the upper and lower liver courses in addition to point regions which have direct effects on menstrual cramps. She also had slower digestion with incomplete bowel movements. We found pathology in the courses of the pancreas and liver regions in both the upper and lower channels. After treating these areas, there was an immediate effect on her cramps with noticeable movement in the lower abdomen. She was excited to report that day the cramps left and have not returned since.
Case Study 2:
A female in her 30's came to our New York City acupuncture clinic because she experiences severe menstrual cramping, which radiates to the low back during days 1 and 2 of her periods. She mentioned taking 6 Ibuprofen during these times to alleviate the cramps. In addition she has neck pain and tightness with weekly headaches. We examined the channels along back and found restrictions along the midline spine and sacrum. We treated her a few days before her period and she was in shock that she had absolutely no pain during her period.
Being able to help people live pain free is the most rewarding part of study and practice. I would love to help anyone who experiences discomfort during their periods. Please call (917) 243-4947.