Clinical Insights: Treating Painful Periods (Dysmenorrhea) with Acupuncture Part 1 - New York City
Chinese Medicine has a rich history of treating gynecological issues including painful periods, excessive menstrual bleeding, and infertility by regulating the menstrual cycle. Much has been written on women's health in the classics from the Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor's Canon, Shang Han Lun (Discussion on Cold Damage), and in the 100 Questions on Gynecology in the Song Dynasty. However, much of the discussion has been about the utilization of herbal formulas to treat women's health conditions.
I have always considered myself an acupuncturist first and foremost who uses herbal formulas to enhance the effect of acupuncture. In fact, most cases of infertility or dysmennorhea that I have seen rarely involve the use of herbs. I have found acupuncture to be very strong in regulating menstrual conditions in and of itself. Thankfully over the past 15 years of practice, I have had the opportunity to treat these conditions and have found similarities in all three conditions in terms of dysfunctional anatomical regions. Understanding and identifying these regions will result in great clinical outcomes.
Everything always goes back to the basics i.e. the channel. Most of the time when a Chinese medicine practitioner treats women's health issue, they focus on 2 systems, the liver and the kidney systems. These systems are very important and influence the menstrual cycle to a great degree. In the Huang Di Nei Jing, there is discussion about the kidney's role in woman's development starting from the age of 7 and continuing on in 7 year cycles. This discussion is the foundation for the use of kidney treatment strategies in gynecology. In chapter 10, there is discussion about the liver channel entering into the genitals, this includes both external and internal with branches passing through the ovaries.
The gallbladder channel is the yang pair of the liver, which passes through the pubic hair and sacrum. Then there is discussion of the urinary bladder channel which passes along the lumbar vertebrae, it enters into the kidney and joins the bladder then goes onto mention a branch from waist center (sacrum) passes along the gluteal regions and enters into the back of the knee. This branch from waist center is very important because it shows a circulatory pattern flowing from the bladder back through the sacrum.
What lies between the bladder and the sacrum? It is the UTERUS! This is why acupuncture point regions UB 28-34 have important uses for infertility and menstrual pain, but there are other ways to treat this area. Once again the principles of Nei Jing acupuncture treats more than acupuncture points and realizes the body as a three dimensional system which includes the 5 tissue planes stemming from their associated Zang (yin) organs. These are the skin as it relates to the lungs, vessels (heart), subcutaneous tissue (pancreas/spleen), muscles and connective tissue (liver), and finally bones (kidney). Each of these regions has a specific technique to promote blood flow and restore function to one of the five tissue planes mentioned. Understanding the appropriate treatment of the anatomical region around the sacrum will produce amazing results in the treatment of menstrual pain. So, what is this region and how do we treat it? This will be the discussion of future posts. Stay tuned.