Painful menstruation is a common complaint, and one that causes many women to seek treatment with Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine – both acupuncture and Chinese herbs – effectively treats painful menstruation.
There are myriad pathomechanisms that result in painful menstruation. There will by definition always be Qi and possibly Blood stasis, according to the Chinese medical dictum “Bu tong ze tong, tong ze bu tong.” This phrase comes from the Huang di Nei Jing, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, a Chinese medical text that was compiled between 475-221 BC . It translates as: “When there is no free flow there is pain, when there is free flow there is no pain.” The “free flow” referred to here is the free flow of Qi, and also of Blood. See my post What Exactly is Qi to read more about this fundamental concept in Chinese medicine.
The clinical logic of Chinese medicine is to then work backwards to arrive at identifying causal factors. For example, if menstrual pain in a particular woman is caused by lack of freely flowing Qi, what then are the reasons why the Qi is not flowing freely? There may be other physiological pathomechanisms such as Phlegm or Cold obstruction. How do these occur? They may occur as a result of the primary causes of disease according to Chinese medicine – the internal negative emotions, the external climactic factors, and the neither internal nor external factors of diet, lifestyle, and injury.
Continuing along the lines of reasoning, Cold obstruction may have arisen from exposure to and penetration of cold directly into the uterus, resulting in Qi stagnation and thus pain. Phlegm may have arisen from overconsumption of ice cream, for instance, resulting in Qi stagnation and thus pain. Blood stagnation may have arisen from the Liver not freely circulating the Blood, a potential result of too much anger. In these examples, climate, diet, and emotion can be seen as the primary and initiating causes of disease, which then lead to a subsequent physiological imbalance that ultimately leads to Qi and / or Blood stagnation that results in pain.
Painful menstruation may be immediately reduced or eliminated with acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatment. Herbal treatment may be planned in advance if symptoms are consistent each cycle. Further, acupuncture treatment over time will reduce menstrual cramps in the future, but can be immediately effective when administered at the time of pain.
In the West, we are accustomed to scheduling appointments and then waiting for that appointment to arrive, regardless of what is going on in the meantime. Chinese medicine is not intended to work in this way. When symptoms arise or change, patients should immediately contact their acupuncturist and come for treatment. By treating symptoms when they arise, there is benefit with regard to long-term resolution. The best way to treat lack of freely flowing Qi is to address it when it manifests. If you are sick or in pain, don’t wait; contact your acupuncturist.