Many women experience some kind of pain with their periods, but period pain (or dysmenorhea) is definitely not normal in Chinese medicine. Statistics vary widely around the world but show that a significant number of women suffer from regular pain with their periods. It is so common that many women assume painful periods are normal because their friends have it too. Period pain is something that a lot of women just put up and manage with painkillers, heat packs or other medications every month.
Even when period pain is affecting their quality of life, many women do not seek help from a doctor or other health professional.
Pain is your body’s way of letting you know that there is a problem, it is a symptom of an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. While medication may be helpful for temporary pain relief, it does not address the underlying issues causing the period pain.
Types of period pain
Period pain, or dysmenorrhea, can be caused by many factors. Clinically it is classified as either primary or secondary depending on whether or not there are structural abnormalities in the pelvis. Primary dysmenorrhea is menstrual pain with no identified organic cause. It can vary from mild to severe and affects as many as 50% of girls and women, often beginning soon after a girl starts having periods. In many cases periods become less painful as time goes on, and this kind of dysmenorrhea may improve after giving birth. Secondary dysmenorrhea has a known cause such as endometriosis, adenomyosis or fibroids. It tends to begin later in life than primary dysmenorrhea and often becomes worse over time.
Chinese medicine and period pain
Chinese medicine has a long history of treating gynaecological conditions including period pain. There are many Chinese medicine texts, some written as far back as 1000BC, containing detailed analysis and understanding of the menstrual cycle with recommendations for self-care and specific Chinese herbal medicine formulas to address symptoms such as pain.
What does a normal healthy period look like?
According to Chinese medicine a normal healthy period is regular (ideally around 28 days each cycle). There should be minimal or no discomfort, and definitely no pain. The flow of blood should be smooth (not interrupted), bright red in colour, and free of clots. It should be not too heavy or too light. The blood should not be too thick or too watery, and the entire period should last between 4-6 days.
In Chinese medicine, period pain is seen as abnormal and a symptom of an underlying imbalance in the body which is blocking the smooth flow of menstrual blood. This blockage can be caused by many factors and an experienced practitioner will know whether your period pain is due to Qi (energy), blood, cold or dampness blocking the flow in your body, or whether the flow is obstructed because your Qi, Blood, Liver or Kidney energy is depleted. Often there is a combination of underlying patterns that need to be untangled and addressed. Each of these dynamics require a different approach. An experienced Chinese medicine practitioner will be able to assess what is out of balance and use acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine to assist in supporting your body towards a pain free and healthy menstrual cycle.
If you would like support for your painful periods with Traditional Chinese Medicine please book an appointment with Tanya Newton by calling our friendly reception team on 02 9211 3811 or book online.